Self Help Program

Filing bankruptcy has serious consequences and may not be the best choice for you.   Only you can decide what is best for you. 


 

The self-help program is a free service for individuals considering filing for bankruptcy or who have recently filed a chapter 7 or chapter 13 bankruptcy case. To participate in the Court’s self-help program, you must first complete a confidential financial status questionnaire. It is important to complete the questionnaire so that the volunteer attorney can provide you with an initial assessment of your circumstances.

We also recommend you view the educational bankruptcy videos that provide important information about the bankruptcy process and your responsibilities as a debtor. The estimated time commitment prior to the private meeting with an attorney is approximately one hour (30 minutes to complete the questionnaire, 30 minutes to view the bankruptcy videos).

Your meeting with a volunteer attorney will be by telephone.  Your contact information will be emailed to a volunteer attorney. You will receive a confirming email from the volunteer attorney’s office to set up your appointment by phone. You can ask questions about the bankruptcy process and your personal situation. The volunteer attorney may be able to alert you to possible problems you could encounter if you decide to forego attorney representation or whether you may qualify for low cost or free legal assistance.  Please complete this financial status questionnaire that you will provide to the volunteer attorney before the telephone call.  

Disclaimer

Self-Help Center volunteer lawyers donate their time as members of the Middle District Bankruptcy Bar Association. The United States Bankruptcy Court does not supervise or monitor the volunteer lawyers. The information you receive cannot replace individual lawyer representation and is only intended to assist individuals in gathering information about the bankruptcy process.  The lawyer who will be helping you through the program has agreed to donate up to one hour of his or her time.  The lawyer will not be entering his or her appearance on your behalf unless you hire that lawyer.  Whether you hire that lawyer, and the rate that lawyer may or may not charge you, is strictly between you and the lawyer.

Even though the volunteer lawyer isn’t formally representing you, there are still the same rules about confidentiality that apply. The volunteer lawyer must keep your confidence as outlined in the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct. The volunteer lawyer does not report back to the Court other than to say whether the appointment occurred or not and the time the volunteer lawyer spent.  If you have questions about that, the volunteer lawyer can explain it to you in greater detail.  It is important to be honest with your lawyer so they can properly advise you.

The volunteer lawyer can assist you in understanding issues in your case, answering your questions about your rights, and the general rules about how to complete the paperwork.  The volunteer lawyer cannot prepare the paperwork for you, or give you step by step instructions on how to do that. The volunteer lawyer can complete the paperwork for you only if you hire that lawyer and they agree to represent you in the bankruptcy case.   In addition, since your time with the volunteer attorney is limited, it is not possible for the volunteer attorney to know all aspects about your case.  Instead, they will answer your questions and point out any issues they see that need to be addressed based on what you tell them.

Once the hour appointment ends, the involvement of the volunteer lawyer in your case also ends.  There is no option for a second appointment, or to pay the lawyer a smaller fee just to answer questions, as lawyers are not permitted to “unbundle” their services in Bankruptcy Court.  The only way for you to get further advice or assistance from the volunteer lawyer is to hire the volunteer lawyer to be your lawyer and pay any fees required by that lawyer. You are not obligated to hire the volunteer lawyer; you may do so or you may choose another lawyer. The PA Legal Aid Network’s attorney finder is a good starting point:  https://www.palawhelp.org/find-legal-help?subtopic=bankruptcy&topic=consumer.)  

 

 
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