Where Do You Get Your Bankruptcy Advice?

This just in, lawyers are expensive. Useful legal advice from a licensed attorney costs. No attorney who values his law license is going to give a free, off-the-cuff opinion that may be used against him in a court proceeding (especially a pro se case). Lawyers are also busy (mostly talking on the phone to relatives and friends who want free legal advice). So where do you get a quick and free legal opinion on a bankruptcy issue?

Internet

Google just about any bankruptcy topic and you will get back thousands of hits. The internet is a wealth of information, and misinformation. The Bankruptcy Code, Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, and loads of bankruptcy case law are all free and searchable on the internet. Unfortunately, relying on internet bankruptcy information is like giving a person with a bullet wound a scalpel, a mirror, and a copy of Gray’s Anatomy. Without training and experience, tools are little use and may make things worse.

There are also many bankruptcy message boards where anyone can ask a legal question and get “good advice” (from a know-it-all non-lawyer or paralegal who has never represented a bankruptcy debtor), or the “right answer” (for the wrong jurisdiction). Even asking a licensed attorney a legal question on the internet has serious limitations; the poster must frame the question properly. The old computer adage rings true on internet legal advice, “garbage in, garbage out.”

Books

Publishing companies have sprung up offering legal advice for lay people. These books contain general advice that may or may not apply in your specific situation. Bankruptcy books are a great overview of the bankruptcy process, but books are no substitute for the experience of a seasoned bankruptcy attorney.

Friends

Your friend, family member, or co-worker who successfully completed a bankruptcy may have practical advice for you, but what worked in that case may not apply to your own. Every case is different and small differences, such as differences in payments, ownership, or income sources, can mean very different results.

Legal Insurance Plan

Legal insurance plans are known by a variety of names, but all plans provide the same promise: the availability of a licensed attorney at a free or reduced charge. These plans are very popular with struggling attorneys and law firms, especially newly licensed attorneys. Many legal plan attorneys follow the rules of the plan and try to provide honest services. Others will pull a “bait and switch” and try to talk the plan holder into spending more than the plan allows.

If you are struggling with debt, seek professional advice from an experienced bankruptcy attorney in your own area. Your attorney can guide you through the process and help you avoid creating problems for your case. The benefits of paying for quality legal advice specifically tailored for your financial situation far outweighs any savings from cheap or free secondary sources.