The short answer is ‘no’. Anyone can file his or her own bankruptcy. Perhaps the wiser question is ‘should I hire a bankruptcy attorney?’ The short answer is ‘yes’. Allow me to explain.
When I was in college I ran a mobile detailing business with a friend of mine. I borrowed my dad’s pressure washer, bought a truck, and bought the necessary equipment and I went out and found some clients. The business was successful while it lasted but in the end my friend and I ended up at different colleges and we gradually wound up the business.
A couple of years later my dad went to go use the pressure washer on our driveway. When he tried to use the washer, only a weak stream came out. Frustrated, he came to me since I had used the washer so much in the past.
Thinking I was up for the challenge, I decided to have a go at it. The engine seemed to be working just fine so I turned to the pump, a complex copper piece attached to the engine. I was a little nervous but I started taking the pump apart. Inside I found all kinds of pieces that somehow worked together. I tried my best to remember where everything went but there were just too many pieces and I started to forget how to reassemble the machine.
I sat there on the garage floor surrounded by various pieces. I couldn’t find the owner’s manual so I had to download a PDF from the Internet. I ran out of time that Saturday but I thought I had a pretty good idea of which piece needed to be replaced. I emailed the corporate headquarters of the company that made the actual pump and ordered a part from them.
A couple of Saturdays later I found sometime and I attempted to put the pump back together. Needless to say, it took much longer than I had expected. I ran into all kinds of weird mechanical hiccups. Finally, at the end of that Saturday, I was able to put everything back together and I decided to give the pressure washer a test run. I was really hoping the darn thing would work because I had just invested two Saturdays into fixing the washer and I had spent some of my dad’s money buying a new part. If it didn’t work, I was going to be ticked. The moment of truth was here. I fired up the engine and squeezed the trigger. A powerful stream came shooting out of the machine. I was relieved that I didn’t have to spend another Saturday troubleshooting that pressure washer.
Now you might be asking at this point, what does a pressure washer have to with the price of tea in China? More specifically, what does a pressure washer have to do with bankruptcy? I’ll tell you.
There are several repair shops near my house that know how to fix pressure washers. I could have easily taken the washer to one of those shops. It would have been easier. It would have saved me two Saturdays. True, it would have been more expensive. But most importantly, I would be more certain that the job would get done.
Sometimes people ask me if they need an attorney to file bankruptcy. Again, the answer is ‘no’. Generally you don’t need an attorney to represent yourself in legal matters. But I generally would not recommend going at it alone. When I was fixing that pressure washer, I decided to do it on my own because the risk was low. If I didn’t fix the washer, someone else could probably fix it. Even if I destroyed it, we could go buy another one for a couple hundred bucks.
You and your family’s economic well-being is a whole “nother” story. Can you really afford to lose your house or your car? Can you afford to have your wages garnished? Do you really want to roll the dice on these things? Of course you can always re-file should your case get dismissed but there are consequences to filing again. And if you have to file again, you have to pay the filing fee again. At this point, you aren’t really saving much money at all and you have to do all the work. The work takes you longer than it would an attorney because it is something you are new at and you don’t know if you are doing it right. The list goes on and on.
Do you have to hire a bankruptcy attorney? No. Should you hire a bankruptcy attorney? Yes.