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How to File for Bankruptcy When You Can’t Afford an Attorney

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While many bankruptcy issues involve significant complexity, not all cases require a bankruptcy attorney. A bankruptcy attorney is especially warranted when a case is complicated. Filing for bankruptcy, though not always easy, can be done even when you can’t afford an attorney.

What Does a Bankruptcy Attorney Do?


Attorneys who specialize in bankruptcy cases provide sound legal advice throughout the process and inform clients about specific risks. Those filing for bankruptcy should know what to expect from a bankruptcy lawyer and determine if they can handle these tasks on their own.

Upon submitting necessary paperwork, such as income, assets and expenses, an attorney will present the information to the courts before an established deadline. Missing a bankruptcy deadline could result in a dismissal of the case or delay the entire process.

All debtors are required to attend hearings, known as the 341 meeting of creditors. A bankruptcy lawyer represents the client at these hearings. Types of common hearings include Chapter 13 confirmation hearing, Chapter 7 reaffirmation hearing, and motions filed by the debtor or creditors.

When the debtor earns an income that is above the state median, owns a business or has significant assets, hiring a lawyer is advised. Situations like these complicate the case, and the debtor risks facing a lawsuit, his case dismissed in court or his assets seized and sold.

Complex bankruptcy cases occur when a debtor owns a small business, is involved in bankruptcy litigation, or files either a Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 case. In difficult cases, the abovementioned services provided by a bankruptcy lawyer are important to help the debtor reach his or her financial goals.

1. File Pro Se

A debtor can represent himself in court (aka pro se) in lieu of paying an attorney to do the same. However, circumstances determine if filing pro se is in the debtor’s best interests. A debtor must be willing to perform extensive research, have few assets and little income when filing.

A simple Chapter 7 bankruptcy case can be completed and discharged independent of an attorney. A pro se case may be successful if debtors comply with certain criteria, such as having a household income that is less than the state median; and, creditors must not allege fraud against the debtor.

The American Bankruptcy Institute offers innumerable bankruptcy resources. Debtors who visit the website learn about bankruptcy procedures, which is a critical step to proceeding with a pro se case properly, additional details about bankruptcy processes and information about the end of cases.

The Northern Illinois Bankruptcy Court, while posting local rules for filing pro se, recommends that debtors hire an attorney instead. Rules for filing are extremely technical. If handled improperly, the debtor may lose the right to file another case or lose protections in a subsequent case.

2. Get a Free Consultation


A debtor who accepts a lawyer’s free consultation gains legal insight. Alternately, attorney fees can be paid through a Chapter 13 repayment plan. Remember, filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy requires an understanding of extensive bankruptcy laws, necessitating the services of a lawyer.

Speaking with a lawyer can result in reduced attorney’s fees, especially if the debtor is low-income. A debtor may be able to negotiate a lesser fee with a lawyer and pay what is feasible. Debtors are also encouraged to obtain multiple quotes from various attorneys to compare fees.

3. Consider Legal Clinics

Upon failing to find a bankruptcy lawyer with acceptable fees or avoiding filing pro se, debtors might consider the services provided at free legal clinics or legal aid societies. These clinics have resources to serve the legal needs of low-income individuals.

Legal Aid Chicago works in partnership with volunteer attorneys to provide legal services to people throughout the city of Chicago. Free walk-in clinics are offered in various local areas. No appointment is necessary to speak to an attorney about legal issues.

4. Locate a Pro Bono Lawyer


Every year, many attorneys accept a certain number of pro bono cases, which means the lawyer either provides legal services for free or at a significantly reduced rate. The Illinois State Bar Association or Chicago Bar Association have resources to find a pro bono lawyer.

Pro bono services may also be found from local organizations like the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, the Chicago Volunteer Legal Services Foundation or Chicago Legal Clinic Pro Bono Program. Suburban programs include the DuPage Bar Legal Aid Service.

As mentioned, bankruptcy cases can be challenging to file on one’s own. Especially in Chapter 13 bankruptcy, debtors are required to complete a series of official paperwork and create a proposed repayment plan. The latter is difficult to complete without the pricey software attorneys use.

Be aware that the majority of Chapter 13 cases filed without legal representation are dismissed in court. Such cases are so complex that even some attorneys limit their practice to Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Debtors should strongly consider bringing on a lawyer when filing for bankruptcy.

Consult a Trusted Bankruptcy AttorneyBerry-K.-Tucker-Personal-Injury-Lawyer-Oak-Lawn-IL

Filing a bankruptcy case without a lawyer requires heavy research into the law, attending hearings and filling out detailed paperwork. For many debtors, the process is time-consuming and too intimidating to handle independently. Instead, consult a bankruptcy lawyer from Berry K. Tucker & Associates, Ltd.

With over 50 years of combined experience and expertise in all facets of bankruptcy law, the attorneys at Berry K. Tucker & Associates, Ltd. will guide you through your bankruptcy process from start to finish. We evaluate your unique circumstances, offer beneficial legal advice and let you know your options.

Berry K. Tucker & Associates, Ltd. has successfully handled both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases. Whether your situation involves car repossession, credit card debt or medical debt, we’ll represent your best financial interests in court. We’ll also help you set up a workable repayment plan.

Based in Oak Lawn, Illinois, Berry K. Tucker & Associates, Ltd. serves the bankruptcy needs of residents in the surrounding communities. Proceed prudently with your bankruptcy case by contacting a bankruptcy attorney from our reputable firm. We’ll help you navigate the complex bankruptcy process.

Get a Free Consultation

To schedule a free consultation with our bankruptcy attorneys in the Oak Lawn, IL area, please give us a call at (708) 425-9530.

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