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Kill all the Lawyers – Can you file bankruptcy without a lawyer? (apologies to Shakespeare)

One of the ironies about bankruptcy is that the people who need bankruptcy typically don't have much money to afford a bankruptcy attorney. They are barely about to make ends meet and pays their bills. Typically something has happened in their life like job loss, illness, divorce, and they are struggling. Many will try to file bankruptcies without an attorney as a way to save money. Congress actually requires bankruptcy attorneys to give all potential clients notice that they don't have to hire an attorney to file their bankruptcy. They can do it themselves. But is it a realistic goal if you want a successful bankruptcy?

In 2005, Congress made radical changes to the bankruptcy code. When I was recently at the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorney's (www.nacba.org) convention in San Antonio, I attended a session which discussed if debtors can file bankruptcy without an attorney and be successful. Unfortunately, statistics show that it is next to impossible to be successful in a bankruptcy without an attorney since the 2005 amendments regardless of which type of bankruptcy you file. (See Littwin, Angela K., The Affordability Paradox: How Consumer Bankruptcy’s Greatest Weakness May Account for Its Surprising Success (2011). William & Mary Law Review, Vol. 52, pp. 1933-2023, 2011. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1867566) Quite frankly I see evidence of the fact that it is extremely difficult if not impossible to be successful in bankruptcy without an attorney at the courthouse and in my office frequently.

The reason I wanted to talk about this issue today is because I just attended the Waco-McLennan County Bar Association monthly meeting. Today's speaker was the Honorable Fred Biery, Chief U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Texas. He focused on the freedoms we have in our country and that most of those freedoms are due in part to the court system. Our courts are the guardians of freedom. They ensure that our Constitution and laws are upheld for all. And lawyers are the instruments which ensure the courts fulfill their obligations.

His speech reminded me of my first day of Baylor law school. Associate Dean Leah Jackson quoted from Shakespeare's King Henry VI stating, “The first thing we must do is kill all lawyers.” Society tends to view lawyers as greedy, money hungry individuals who take advantage of the system to buy fancy houses and cars. This quote seems to support this idea. Society would be better if lawyers didn't exist. These types of comments get throw at lawyers all the time. It is one of the reasons that before I told anyone I was going to law school, I looked up some good lawyer jokes for my arsenal. However, contrary to what society teaches us about lawyers, this quote from Shakespeare is about protecting people and freedom. The speakers are plotting ensure chaos and tyranny and take away people's freedoms. Since lawyers are the guardians of freedom, it would easier to eliminate freedom if you kill all the lawyers.

Our bankruptcy laws are remarkable in this country. We allow individuals and families who are struggling for whatever reason to find freedom to move on with their lives. My clients are not deadbeats who ran up credit card bills buying large screen LED TVs and pool tables and now want to get out of their obligations like Homer Simpson from The Simpsons. My clients are individuals and families who are trying to live and, due to some change in their circumstances, divorce, lay off, medical problems, they just can't do it anymore. They are drowning and the last place they want to be is in my office. They need relief and due to the complexity of the bankruptcy laws, without an attorney, they will most likely not get the relief they desperately need. Helping them obtain that relief is my responsibility as a guardian of freedom. To make sure I meet that responsibility, I have affordable rates than most of my competition and I offer a payment plan most families can meet. Because people need bankruptcy relief and they need attorneys to help them obtain it. I hope that my attempts to help people meet with Dean Jackson's hopes for us when we started law school.

If you are drowning, call us at 254-633-2876 today for a free, no-obligation consultation and explore your options. Let my family help yours!

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