What does a Personal Bankruptcy Lawyer do?

C. Mitchell

A personal bankruptcy lawyer is a lawyer who specializes in walking clients through the legal process of declaring bankruptcy. The bankruptcy codes of most countries are complicated, and determining whether and how to file for personal bankruptcy can be difficult. Most jurisdictions allow individuals to file for bankruptcy without representation, but hiring a lawyer can simplify the process. Lawyers who know the local rules can help clients identify the most advantageous filings, can determine applicable tax exemptions, and can ensure that all filings are correct.

Personal bankruptcy lawyers assist clients with preparing a court petition.
Personal bankruptcy lawyers assist clients with preparing a court petition.

Declaring bankruptcy can be an effective way to manage debts and get relief from bills that simply cannot be paid, but the process is rarely as simple as it sounds. The bankruptcy codes of most counties are dense, with different processes and filing requirements depending on individual circumstances. A personal bankruptcy lawyer who is familiar with the governing regulations and their contours is often able to prepare bankruptcy filings that allow people to retain more of their assets and protect their credit better than if those people tried to interpret the regulations on their own.

Personal bankruptcy lawyers help clients going through bankruptcy.
Personal bankruptcy lawyers help clients going through bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy in the United States is governed by the federal Bankruptcy Code, which applies nationwide. The code is supplemented by various state bankruptcy codes. The United Kingdom Insolvency Law, the Canadian Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, and the Australian Bankruptcy Act of 1966 serve similar roles. Each law sets out restrictions on who can file for personal bankruptcy, what that person must do to satisfy outstanding debts, tax law consequences of bankruptcy, and how filers must conduct themselves and their finances after a bankruptcy petition has been granted.

Bankruptcy under any code is a legal declaration of insolvency, and as such is handled by the courts. The primary role of a personal bankruptcy lawyer is to represent a bankrupt client’s interests in the bankruptcy hearing, and to help the client receive a favorable bankruptcy settlement. The lawyer advocates for the client, and helps the client manage all of the details involved in the filing, the hearing, and the outcome.

One of the most important roles that the personal bankruptcy lawyer plays is helping the client assess how to structure the bankruptcy filing. Most countries’ codes offer several ways to file for bankruptcy. Filers can choose to liquidate their assets to pay bills, for instance, or can petition to have their debts consolidated; they can request debt reorganization, tax relief, or discharge of debts outright. The options vary by jurisdiction, and are not available to all debtors. A personal bankruptcy lawyer will tell a client which options are available in his specific situation, and will generally offer counsel on which course to choose. The lawyer will usually handle all of the filings, and will represent the client before the bankruptcy court.

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Discussion Comments


My uncle declared bankruptcy last year and hired a lawyer. At first he claimed he could do it himself and attempted to self represent while filing. He quickly realized how time consuming and how much red tape there was. He soon after hired a lawyer to assist.

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