No. You have every right to represent yourself in federal courts, unless you are a corporation or other business entity. The owner of a business entity cannot “represent” their business in court unless they are a lawyer. So you have the right to do it on your own. But should you? Never.
Bankruptcy is one of the most complex and technical areas of law. It is also extremely dangerous — you are risking literally everything you own. It is very easy under the 2005 law to get it wrong and be thrown out for failing to do something that seems unnecessary or pointless, but required nevertheless. And if your case is thrown out, it is possible you cannot refile another case to get it right. Or you will have made too many mistakes for even the best bankruptcy lawyer to fix.
Think about your job for a minute: How many things do you know how to do that no one taught you and most people wouldn’t know if they didn’t do your job for a long time? That’s the way bankruptcy is, only with the risk of losing all your property and going to jail if you really get it wrong. It’s what you don’t know — or what you think is true but isn’t — that is dangerous. Yes, we make a living from folks like you hiring us to file their cases and get them through those cases successfully. So no doubt we want to discourage people from doing this without our help.
But here’s a little secret: We make a lot more money cleaning up after people try to do this on their own and get into trouble. It usually costs a lot more to clean up a disaster — if it can be cleaned up — then it would have cost to do it from scratch. Of course in many cases the situation cannot be completely fixed anyway. If you are tempted, or you have heard about petition preparation services, please ask a lawyer about them first. Contact the Better Business Bureau. Check the Internet for the experience others have had with the company.
Our office is licensed and governed by the Supreme Court of Minnesota and Wisconsin and the federal courts. We answer to judges and we carry insurance in case we make a mistake. Ask the petition preparers who they answer to. Yvonne Michaud Novak is a local attorney who works with individuals and small businesses who need help with their debt problems. As a federally designated debt relief agency her office helps people file for bankruptcy.