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Free Bankruptcy Lawyer in Miami, Florida

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In a Nutshell

Need to file bankruptcy but don't think you can afford an attorney? Learn how to get free legal help to get your fresh start in Miami, Florida.

Written by Upsolve Team
Updated October 15, 2020

Too often, people shy away from filing bankruptcy because they believe they can’t afford legal advice. It’s not easy to find a free bankruptcy lawyer beyond those that work and volunteer at legal aid societies. However, most members of low-income households can file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on their own, without hiring a bankruptcy attorney. If filing bankruptcy is the best option for your financial situation, don’t let legal expenses stand in the way of exploring your options.

Do I Need a Lawyer to File Bankruptcy?

If you’re just beginning to research the different types of bankruptcy, you may not yet be familiar with the two main consumer bankruptcy options: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. If you don’t own a small business, you’ll likely be filing for relief under one of these two chapters of the Bankruptcy Code. If you make a steady, reasonable income or you own lots of real estate and expensive property, you’ll probably want to file under Chapter 13. However, if you don’t earn much income, you’ll probably be better off filing under Chapter 7.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows low-income filers to have their eligible debts discharged in as little as 90 days. By contrast, Chapter 13 filers can only have their remaining eligible debts discharged after completing a 3-5 year repayment plan successfully. The Chapter 7 process is also far simpler than the Chapter 13 process is. In fact, most Chapter 7 filers can successfully prepare and file their bankruptcy cases without the assistance of a bankruptcy law firm. Unless your financial situation is unusually complex, you should be able to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy without help, if you’d like to save money on legal fees.

Are You Filing a Chapter 13 Reorganization Bankruptcy?

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a debt relief option exclusively available to individual and married consumers who earn very little income. If you want to file bankruptcy but your income exceeds the Chapter 7 eligibility limits, consider scheduling an initial consultation with a bankruptcy law office. Receiving a case evaluation (which most attorneys offer for free) will empower you to make an informed decision about whether filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a good alternative for you.

Don’t panic about affording fees associated with a Chapter 13 case. You can pay these fees back over 3-5 years through manageable bankruptcy repayment plan installments. Working with an attorney on a Chapter 13 case is a worthwhile investment. This process is very complex and, unlike Chapter 7 bankruptcy, is unlikely to be successful without professional assistance.  

If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of preparing your bankruptcy petition on your own, you may want to look into legal aid societies based in Miami. Especially if you earn very little money, you may be eligible for free or low-cost legal services through one of these civil nonprofit legal organizations.  

A staff or licensed volunteer legal aid lawyer can help you with your legal issues if you’re eligible for assistance through a legal aid society. If you’re accepted as a client, you’ll be paired with a lawyer who is knowledgeable about bankruptcy law. As you develop an attorney-client relationship in a one-on-one capacity, you’ll work together to prepare your case for success.

Be prepared to spend a little time on a waitlist, if you’re interested in becoming a legal aid client. These organizations tend to be underfunded, so they can’t always accommodate each client’s needs immediately. Once you’re screened for eligibility, make sure to ask how long it will take before you can begin the bankruptcy process with your legal aid lawyer.  

Every nonprofit organization, like every private business, approaches its daily operations in unique ways. Yes, most civil legal aid societies screen potential clients based on their income level, but this approach isn’t universal. For example, some legal aid societies offer services exclusively to immigrant and migrant communities. Others, like those who are partially funded by the Legal Services Corporation, screen potential clients based on annual household income relative to the federal poverty line. Each organization is different, so make sure to confirm eligibility criteria before scheduling a consultation.

Phone numbers and additional contact information for civil legal aid societies in and near Miami can be found below. Make sure to ask about both eligibility criteria and waitlist times when you contact any organization that you’re interested in working with.  

Bay Area Legal Services, Inc.
(813) 232-1343
1302 N. 19th Street, Suite 400, Tampa, FL 33605

Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida, Inc.
(954) 736-2400
491 North State Road 7, Plantation, FL 33317

Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida, Inc.
(386) 255-6573
128 Orange Avenue, Suite 300, Daytona Beach, FL 32114-4310

Florida Rural Legal Services, Inc.
(863) 688-7376
1321 E. Memorial Boulevard, Lakeland, FL 33801

Legal Services of North Florida, Inc.
(850) 385-9007
2119 Delta Boulevard, Tallahassee, FL 32303-4209

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Getting a Free Evaluation from a Bankruptcy Lawyer

If you’re not sure about whether you’d like to work with an attorney or file on your own, that’s okay. It’s also okay if you’re not sure about whether filing for bankruptcy is the best option for you. There are two resources you can take advantage of that will help you to make an informed decision about your options. First, you can schedule a free credit counseling session. This opportunity will allow a credit counselor to craft a personalized debt action plan for you, after reviewing the details of your financial situation.

Second, you can schedule a case evaluation with a bankruptcy attorney, even if you think you’ll probably file on your own. Find a consumer bankruptcy law firm that offers free consultations and set up a meeting with an attorney (not a paralegal). Attending this meeting is a no-risk situation, as you won’t be obligated to work with the firm moving forward if you don’t want to. If your friends and family don’t have an attorney recommendation for you, check out these websites to find a local bankruptcy law firm:

  • The Florida State Bar Association

  • Miami-area bar associations

  • The National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA)

Filing Without a Bankruptcy Attorney

If you decide that you don’t need to work with a lawyer to prepare your case successfully, know that you’ll still have access to knowledgeable information about the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process. There are many resources available that help “pro se” filers prepare their cases. A pro se filer is someone who prepares their case without an attorney’s help.  

Using Upsolve’s Free Web Tool to File Bankruptcy on Your Own

A great place to begin learning about how to prepare your Chapter 7 bankruptcy case on your own is the Upsolve website. Upsolve, which is a nonprofit organization funded by generous donors, like Harvard University, offers a few valuable resources for pro se filers. First, there’s the free Upsolve filing tool. This online resource allows filers to prepare their bankruptcy forms on a secure platform, as long as their cases are “simple.” This resource provides access to necessary bankruptcy forms, no matter where in the United States eligible filers live. Having easy access to necessary forms takes much of the work out of filing pro se.

Second, there’s the Upsolve Learning Center. This information hub features hundreds of articles and guides written by lawyers who are knowledgeable about the bankruptcy process. If you have a question about filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you can almost certainly find an answer here. This hub, which is available for free and without a login, also provides valuable information for anyone struggling with debt. From reporting debt collector harassment to consolidating credit card debt, you can learn how to respond to virtually any consumer debt situation you may be facing by exploring the Learning Center.

Self-help Resources at the Bankruptcy Court

You can also pick up printed information about bankruptcy at no cost if you stop by any local bankruptcy court during business hours. Even if you don’t swing by a bankruptcy court until you drop off your bankruptcy petition, you can still benefit from reading some of this information. Keep an eye out for guides related to preparing for your meeting of creditors and completing your second financial education requirement.

The Flagler Waterview Building

The Flagler Waterview Building
1515 North Flagler Drive West Palm Beach, FL 33401

Winston E. Arnow Federal Building

Winston E. Arnow Federal Building
100 North Palafox Street Pensacola, FL 32502

C. Clyde Atkins United States Courthouse

C. Clyde Atkins United States Courthouse
301 North Miami Avenue Miami, FL 33128

Bryan Simpson United States Courthouse

Bryan Simpson United States Courthouse
300 North Hogan Street Jacksonville, FL 32202

Sam M. Gibbons United States Courthouse

Sam M. Gibbons United States Courthouse
801 North Florida Avenue Tampa, FL 33602

George C. Young United States Courthouse

George C. Young United States Courthouse
400 West Washington Street Orlando, FL 32801

United States Courthouse and Federal Building

United States Courthouse and Federal Building
2110 First Street Fort Myers, FL 33901

Let’s Summarize

There is no “preferable” way to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you’ve decided that this is the best debt relief option for you and your family, you can navigate the process successfully with or without a lawyer’s help. Both approaches can help you to achieve the fresh financial start that you require. If you file pro se, there are many reputable resources available to help you achieve your goals. Ultimately, you should choose whichever option makes the most sense for your financial situation.

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Upsolve is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that started in 2016. Our mission is to help low-income families who cannot afford lawyers file bankruptcy for free, using an online web app. Spun out of Harvard Law School, our team includes lawyers, engineers, and judges. We have world-class funders that include the U.S. government, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and leading foundations. It's one of the greatest civil rights injustices of our time that low-income families can’t access their basic rights when they can’t afford to pay for help. Combining direct services and advocacy, we’re fighting this injustice.

To learn more, read why we started Upsolve in 2016, our reviews from past users, and our press coverage from places like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.