A recent post on the internet propagated one increasingly common myth – a blatant falsehood, many will probably say – about filing for bankruptcy, namely, that debtors can no longer even file cheap chapter 7 bankruptcy without a lawyer, let alone any type of bankruptcy. As the writer of this piece put it in the caption of his write-up, article reproduced in Verizon.com titled, “Sorry You Can No Longer File Bankruptcy Without a Lawyer.”
In these bad economic times when consumers show growing sensitivity about cost for bankruptcy, this is a common notion, or at least a close variation of it, which one hears increasingly among mainstream bankruptcy law practitioners these days. Apparently, there is a growing feeling among the bankruptcy lawyers and the swelling army of unemployed Americans who inquire about the bankruptcy process, that only largely by having bankruptcy without a lawyer, could a debtor file cheap chapter 7 bankruptcy. Usually, the mainstream bankruptcy lawyers’ argument about the supposed inability of the debtor to file bankruptcy without lawyer, is made along the same line argued by the writer in the above stated article, namely, that since the new “reform” bankruptcy or BAPCPA law implemented in October 2005, “the climate has drastically changed” in respect to the law and the procedures for filing bankruptcy, and that they have gotten so “complex” now that it is almost too difficulty, if not impossible, for a debtor to file chapter 7 bankruptcy without lawyer. Or for him or her to file Chapter 13, or any bankruptcy of any kind.
BUT IS THE NEW LAW REALLY THAT COMPLEX?
This view could not be more false or erroneous, however. In fact, nothing – absolutely NOTHING – could be farther from the truth in the entire current administration of the bankruptcy system! Actually, what is really TRUE, is that objective experts and knowledgeable persons from all spectra in the bankruptcy industry, including lawyers, court trustees and judges, who specialize in bankruptcy, have it quite amply on the record that most personal bankruptcies are really simple. So much so, in fact, they say, that such work really don’t need the services of a lawyer to handle since they are generally very elementary and largely clerical in nature, and so generally easy and simple to undertake. Most of such experts say that at least, with respect to Chapter 7, if not Chapter 13, debtors can easily file Chapter 7 bankruptcy without lawyer.
They generally cite two basic reasons upon which they rest their basis for saying this: (1) that an overwhelming majority of personal bankruptcy cases are so-called “no asset” or “minimum asset” cases – meaning, cases in which the owing debtors literally have or own absolutely NOTHING that the creditors can claim or attach, let alone any money for paying the lawyer’s hefty fees, and so have no basis to hire lawyers since they lack any worthy property or asset for a lawyer to protect from the creditors if they filed for bankruptcy; and (2) the FACT that bankruptcy, they say (contrary to the layman’s common belief that bankruptcy is a complicated procedure), is really a relatively simple matter which often involves the mere completion of simple routine forms and submitting them to the local bankruptcy court.
Janice Kosel, Professor of law at Golden State University, San Francisco, and a recognized author and expert on personal bankruptcy issues, explains:
“Do you need a lawyer in order to file a Chapter 13 (bankruptcy) repayment plan? No. [Even] Filing a Chapter 13 plan is often easier than preparing your income tax return. If you can do that, you can probably handle your… [bankruptcy] yourself…There is no requirement (under the law) that you have to have a lawyer (in order to file for bankruptcy)…You can choose to represent yourself.”
Stephen Elias, California Attorney, prominent author and specialist in bankruptcy law, most recently summed it up this way:
“There is seldom a good reason to use an attorney بهترین وکیل تهران in a consumer Chapter 7 bankruptcy case. The procedures are almost exclusively administrative – that is, there is no appearance before a judge…The forms are all (with very few exceptions) pre-printed in plain English….[But, in spite of that fact], What’s tragic is that people actually think they have to have attorney representation [to be able to do it].”
BUT LARGE NUMBERS OF DEBTORS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN FILING PRO SE, ALREADY, EVEN WITH THE RESTRICTIVE 2005 LAW
But, in all of this, there’s probably one piece of evidence which remains as the strongest proof, the clearest demonstration, and most incontrovertible, of the utter fallacy of the claim that bankruptcy is “complex” and beyond the capability of the average debtor to comprehend or to undertake. And that is this: THE CHEER STATISTICS!
Independent survey studies by this writer and others, as well as bankruptcy court statistics, show that in several parts of the United States, but more particularly in urban jurisdictions like New York, Arizona and Los Angeles, both before as well as AFTER the draconian 2005 “reform” law, a significant number of the debtors who file bankruptcy, particularly Chapter 7, still file Chapter 7 bankruptcy without lawyer. Such debtors are referred to as pro se filers, meaning, without the use of a lawyer! And, while their numbers may have been larger in the years before the BAPCPA law was implemented, that number remains significantly high even today and is now growing incrementally in the current condition of national economic recession.