The short answer is you don’t absolutely need an attorney: There are forms for filing bankruptcy on the internet. You can file your own bankruptcy case with the clerk’s office. You can legally represent yourself at meeting and hearings. But you shouldn’t file without an attorney. Why? Because almost everyone who files their own bankruptcy case gets bad results. Without exception, I have seen unrepresented cases get into trouble with the clerk’s office or the trustee’s office which results in deficiency notices, re-scheduled meetings and ultimately results in either their cases being dismissed or else their trying to bring in an attorney later. It may be tempting to think that one can save the cost of hiring an attorney by doing it yourself, it is not.
A bankruptcy case is based on a combination of federal and state laws and requires extensive documentation and disclosures. It is just not possible to figure out what is required by reading the forms. The eligibility requirements of the Means Test are particularly problematic. Most importantly, the stakes are high for each person in need. It costs more to fix a case that has been messed up than it would have cost to file it correctly in the first place. Many attorneys will not take over a previously filed case.
I feel strongly that everyone who has serious financial problems that would lead them to consider bankruptcy should be represented by a attorney who handles bankruptcies as a significant part of his or her practice. An experienced attorney will understand what is required by the federal bankruptcy statutes as well as the local rules and customs of the district. Your attorney will add predictability to you case, as well as be there to handle problems should they arise.