Do I Need a Lawyer to File Bankruptcy in Georgia?

Individual debtors are not required to have a lawyer to file bankruptcy in Georgia, but it is probably not the best idea to file bankruptcy without a lawyer. By the time clients come into my Atlanta, Georgia office, they are already considering bankruptcy, and know that they want to hire an attorney to represent them in the proceeding. That said, in these financially-shaky times it only makes sense for people seeking bankruptcy protection to wonder if the additional expense of hiring a lawyer is absolutely necessary.

The technical answer is no. Surprised? While corporations and partnerships must be represented by an attorney in order to file for bankruptcy, an individual may represent himself or herself in bankruptcy court without an attorney. In legal jargon, this is referred to as “pro se.”

While a debtor is can file bankruptcy pro se, in this case, the classic adage about “can” and “should” could not be more true. When it comes to representing yourself in a bankruptcy proceeding, it can truly be said that only a fool has himself for a client. Representing oneself successfully in a bankruptcy proceeding is an extremely difficult task, and I would strongly caution anyone against it. If you represent yourself in the proceeding you will be required to be familiar with and understand the United States Bankruptcy Code, the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure and the local rules of the court in which the case is filed. Misunderstanding these highly technical rules or not knowing of a rule’s existence can lead to a misstep with serious consequences that can limit your rights and decrease the protection that bankruptcy can provide for you. For example, the judge can refuse to discharge a debt. Dishonesty or the perception of dishonesty in the bankruptcy proceeding can also have dire consequences for the person filing, since bankruptcy fraud is a crime and individual bankruptcy cases are subject to random audit. Due to the long-term financial and legal consequences of bankruptcy, I strongly recommend that anyone considering bankruptcy consult a qualified bankruptcy attorney. Even if you cannot afford an attorney to handle your bankruptcy matter, you should seek advice from local legal aid organizations, such as the Atlanta Legal Aid Society. If you ultimately decide to file pro se, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court provides some forms online: but use them at your own peril! For a free consultation please contact the Law Offices of Charles Clapp at (404) 585-0040 or email info@lawcmc.com for more information.