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The Importance of Having an Attorney in Bankruptcy Proceedings

Can I represent myself in Bankruptcy Court?

While representing oneself in Bankruptcy Court is permissible, it is not recommended. Self representation is known by lawyers as “pro se.” There are several reasons why representing oneself is inadvisable.

One reason is that the opposing parties will undoubtedly be represented by experienced counsel. It is all but guaranteed that the opposing counsel will have a greater understanding of the procedure and substance, and will use such understanding as an advantage. Opposing counsel is not obligated to be fair to the pro se litigant. Therefore, being represented by an experienced attorney is essential.

Another reason is that court staff, court officers, judges and opposing counsel are forbidden to  assist a pro se litigant. No accommodations can be made. Therefore, in the courtroom, there is nobody who can answer a pro se litigant’s questions about the conduct of the case, and outside of the courtroom, there is nobody to counsel the pro se litigant about the consequences of any proposed actions. Unfortunately, many pro se litigants may not understand these components of  our adversarial system — that the judge and any court personnel must remain neutral, and that opposing counsel must remain loyal to her or his client. This is another important reason to have an experienced attorney on one’s side.

Perhaps the best reason why not to proceed pro se is that the major questions involved in the bankruptcy process are very difficult to answer without knowledge and experience. Should you file for bankruptcy in the first place? What chapter should you file under? Should you stop paying your creditors? Will you be able to discharge all of your debts in bankruptcy? These are preliminary questions that should be answered by an expert.

The federal courts make resources available to those litigants who wish to handle their own cases on their website at: http://www.uscourts.gov/services-forms/bankruptcy/filing-without-attorney. Here, pro se litigants can view the United States Bankruptcy Code and the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure. The local court rules are available on the individual court websites. Pro Se litigants can also access Bankruptcy petitions and find out about non-attorney petition preparers.

In spite of the fact that resources are available to assist pro se litigants, in most cases, you are wise to consult with, and avail yourself of, the services of a competent bankruptcy attorney. If you are convinced that proceeding with an experienced attorney is the best course of action for you, call Miami Valley Bankruptcy today at 937-502-1040.

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