While you don’t have to hire a lawyer to file a bankruptcy case, you may want legal assistance. If so, there are several resources you can use to find an affordable bankruptcy attorney, including your state bar association’s website, the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, or a local legal aid organization. Many bankruptcy lawyers also offer a free consultation for prospective clients. You can get free legal advice during the consultation and learn more about the lawyer’s fees and options for paying them.
If you're struggling to pay your debts and living expenses, you may be considering filing bankruptcy to get debt relief. If so, you may wonder how you’re supposed to afford the bankruptcy filing fee and pay a bankruptcy attorney to help you file bankruptcy. If this is you, you're not alone. Many filers can’t afford to pay bankruptcy attorney fees because even an affordable bankruptcy attorney can cost between $1,200 and $2,500, depending on the specifics of the case.
The good news is that you don’t have to hire a bankruptcy attorney to file bankruptcy. If you have a straightforward Chapter 7 case, you may be able to use Upsolve’s free filing tool. But if your case is more complicated or you just want legal help, read on to learn how to find an affordable bankruptcy attorney near you.
Where To Find a Bankruptcy Lawyer in Your Area
You don’t have to hire an attorney to file bankruptcy, but having an attorney on your side to give you legal advice and handle creditors’ phone calls may be helpful. It may also be helpful if you have a complicated bankruptcy case with many non-dischargeable debts or lots of assets that aren’t covered by exemptions. If you want to hire a bankruptcy lawyer to help with your case, you have a few options:
Look at your state bar association. These are professional organizations for lawyers that also provide resources for individuals seeking legal help. You can search your state bar association’s website to find contact information for bankruptcy lawyers in your area. You can also visit the website for the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA). NACBA is a national organization for consumer bankruptcy lawyers handling Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases for individual filers and small businesses.
Seek assistance from a local legal aid organization that will represent you in your Chapter 7 bankruptcy case. Legal aid organizations are nonprofits that help low-income individuals with civil legal matters like bankruptcy. Depending on your eligibility, you may be able to get free or low-cost legal help.
Have a free consultation with a bankruptcy attorney or law office. You may be able to find a bankruptcy attorney who will let you make payments to cover the attorney fees. You can ask about their fee and payment expectations, as well as what legal services they can provide, in your free initial consultation. This also gives you a chance to see if you’d work well with this attorney to get some free legal insight into your case.
If you hire a law firm, avoid bankruptcy mills. It's hard to establish a meaningful attorney-client relationship when working with a bankruptcy mill, as you may not see the same person twice. Also, avoid hiring a paralegal to help you with your case. They can't give you legal advice, and the state bar or bankruptcy court may not even allow them to assist with your bankruptcy filing. Don’t hesitate to schedule consultations with a few attorneys and to ask questions about how they can help. You want to choose the right bankruptcy attorney for you.
What Are Some Options for Hiring an Affordable Bankruptcy Attorney?
Say you’ve found an attorney you’d like to hire to help with your bankruptcy case. Now, how can you afford to pay them? Here are some common options filers use and their pros and cons:
Borrow the money to hire a bankruptcy lawyer from a trusted friend or family member. If you take this route, make sure that your friend or family member knows that you can't repay the money until after your bankruptcy case is closed. Also, be clear about how and when you’ll repay the loan, so you don’t risk damaging your relationship.
Stop paying your unsecured debts that will be discharged in the bankruptcy case, and use that money to pay for an attorney. While this will free up some funds, it may lead to negative consequences. For example, before you file your bankruptcy, your creditors could file a debt collection lawsuit against you and win a judgment to garnish your wages. Also, any debts payments you miss will show up on your credit report and hurt your credit score.
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Filing a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Case Without an Attorney
As mentioned before, hiring a lawyer can be helpful, but it’s not legally required. In fact, many people file bankruptcy successfully without one every day. The Bankruptcy Code, which lays out bankruptcy laws, allows you to file your case on your own. This is also called filing pro se. If you want to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy to deal with overwhelming credit card debt and medical bills, we encourage you to see if you're eligible to use Upsolve's free filing tool. It will help you navigate thebankruptcy process without a lawyer.
How Upsolve Can Help With Your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
If you can't pay an attorney to file your bankruptcy case, your first step is to see if you qualify to file a Chapter 7 case. Upsolve’s online tool takes you through the Chapter 7 means test, which helps you determine if your income is below the median level to file for Chapter 7 relief.
If you pass the means test, the app walks you through the steps to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case including:
Completing the credit counseling course,
Filling out and filing the bankruptcy forms,
Completing your debtor education course, and
Attending the meeting of creditors.
Hiring an attorney for your bankruptcy may seem like a luxury you can’t afford. The good news is that most bankruptcy attorneys offer a free consultation for potential new clients. This will provide you with an overview specific to your situation. If your case is complicated and you have non-exempt assets you don’t want to lose, hiring an attorney can be a good investment in your financial future.