Can you file bankruptcy without an attorney?

man in bankruptcy court hearing


By:Michael A. Cibik

Can you file for bankruptcy in Philadelphia without hiring a lawyer?  The answer is yes, for individuals, but it is not always advised.  There are many complicated issues that may come up in a bankruptcy case, individuals may wish to hire an attorney who is allowed to practice in this bankruptcy court.

Individuals Filing Documents Without an Attorney


Definition of Pro Se: “(proh say) Latin for “for himself”. The legal term for an individual who is not represented by an attorney is “pro se.”

The purpose of these pro se web pages is to provide the pro se filer, (someone who represents himself or herself without a lawyer), with access to some information about the bankruptcy process and information about local procedures that you must know. Individuals appearing as debtors (including husbands and wives filing jointly), creditors or other interested parties before this court do not have to be represented by an attorney.

An individual may represent him or herself in bankruptcy court without an attorney. But a corporate entity or partnership may not appear in bankruptcy court without an attorney, and if a corporate entity or partnership attempts to file a bankruptcy case without an attorney, the case may be dismissed. A proof of claim may be filed by an individual, corporate entity, or partnership with or without an attorney.

The judges, judges’ staff, clerk, or clerk’s staff are not permitted to provide legal advice.

For example, they cannot:

  • Explain the meaning of a particular statutory provision or rule
  • Give an interpretation of case law
  • Explain the result of taking or not taking action in a case
  • Help you complete forms, or advise you regarding what is legally required
  • when a form elicits information from you.
  • Tell you whether jurisdiction is proper in a case
  • Tell you whether a complaint properly presents a claim
  • Provide advice on the best procedure to accomplish a particular goal
  • Apply a rule or statute
  • Explain who should receive proper notice or service.



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