Last updated on
Posted by: Erik Clark
Last updated Feb. 28, 2018.
Every month, there up to 1 million online monthly searches for the term “bankruptcy” on Google. Why?
It’s not just the struggling economy. In fact, most bankruptcy lawyers will tell you that a weak economy actually brings bankruptcy filings down because consumers can’t afford legal fees when times are tight. Make no mistake, people go online for bankruptcy information when they are going through tough times and don’t want to broadcast it to the world. Bankruptcy still carries a certain stigma and most people prefer not to air their dirty laundry in public. They turn to Google for confidential answers to their questions about debt. After all, most consumers don’t have a bankruptcy firm on speed dial, but they do use search engines on a daily basis. The internet provides an opportunity to explore options in a confidential setting.
That’s why people look for bankruptcy information online, but can you file for bankruptcy online? Can you hire an attorney to file your case online?
Can you hire an attorney to file bankruptcy online?
For starters, all bankruptcy cases are ultimately filed online through the federal court system. Once you have prepared your bankruptcy paperwork with the help of your attorney (or by yourself if you’re filing pro se), he or she will file it with the court electronically and receive periodic email updates about your case from the court. For example, your lawyer will be the first to know when you receive a discharge because the court order will be delivered straight to their email inbox. The same is true for objections to exemptions, motions and 2004 exams.
However, despite the fact that bankruptcy courts utilize the PACER electronic filing system, it is usually not a good idea to handle a bankruptcy case entirely online. Although a bankruptcy petition can be prepared and filed through email correspondence with your lawyer’s office, there is no substitute for meeting your attorney in person. Filing bankruptcy is a big decision that will have a significant impact on your future. Unless you can’t leave your home for medical reasons, a trip to an attorney’s office is worth the inconvenience so you can go over your options in detail and gain a level of comfort with the person that will guide you through the bankruptcy system.
Things can go wrong in bankruptcy and not all attorneys are created equal. Be skeptical of any firm that offers to prepare your petition without meeting you first, and by all means, sign your paperwork before you agree to have it filed. When you file bankruptcy, you swear under penalty of perjury that the schedules are accurate.
But can I find a bankruptcy lawyer online?
The short answer is yes. As a general rule, you can find good bankruptcy attorneys online but be careful about where you look. It is important to understand what you’re seeing in the search engine results pages (SERPs) when you search for a bankruptcy lawyer. Results at the very top and right of the page are paid advertisements — best to ignore those. The organic results lower down on the SERP are generally more trustworthy as Google requires certain quality signals before advancing a site to prominence in these results.
This is not to say that every firm listed on the first page of Google will be a good firm or a good fit to handle your case, it is to say that digital marketing has become commonplace in the legal community and there is nothing wrong with investigating law firms via the internet. Trust, but verify.
What can I expect when I first meet my bankruptcy attorney?
Most bankruptcy firms will offer an initial consultation or debt evaluation for free. You may want to bring documents with you to your first meeting with your bankruptcy lawyer. Your conversation also may look a little something like this: What Happens at a Typical Bankruptcy Consultation: Fly on the Wall Access.
If you need help finding a reputable local bankruptcy lawyer near you, our National Bankruptcy Forum directory may be able to assist you. We can set you up with a free debt evaluation, 24/7. Contact us today.
Erik Clark is one of the leading bankruptcy attorneys in Southern California who has had the privilege of representing thousands of clients in chapter 7 and chapter 13 bankruptcy cases in the Los Angeles area. Erik has served as the past President of the National Consumer Bankruptcy Litigation Center (NCBLC) and the American Consumer Bankruptcy College (ACBC). His firm, Borowitz & Clark, is committed to using bankruptcy law as a tool for social justice and was one of the first consumer law firms to join the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance.