Considering filing bankruptcy? If so, you’re probably wondering how much a bankruptcy lawyer will charge you for help. After all, you’re already skating on thin ice with your finances. Can you really afford to pay a bankruptcy lawyer on top of everything else? We’ll explain how much a bankruptcy lawyer typically charges for Chapter 7 as well as Chapter 13 cases. In addition, we’ll list other required costs and fees you must pay when declaring bankruptcy below.
Can You File On Your Own To Avoid Paying A Bankruptcy Lawyer?
First, realize that it’s virtually impossible to successfully file bankruptcy and navigate the court system on your own. Second, the courts charge you for everything from making copies of forms to filing and administrative fees. So, there’s no such thing as a free way to file bankruptcy. In 2012, judges discharged debts for just 1.4% of pro se Chapter 13 petitioners (i.e., people filing without a lawyer). If you decide to go this route to try and save money, it’s unlikely you will succeed. Federal law prevents bankruptcy judges and courthouse employees from giving you any legal advice or helping with your paperwork.
Average Bankruptcy Lawyer Fee Amounts & Payment Timeline
Bankruptcy lawyer fees can vary based on which state you live in and how much you owe to creditors. Find average attorney fees below, according to the 2016 United States Consumer Law Survey Report (Bankruptcy Edition):
- $1,528 is the average Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer fee for people with more than $50,000 in unsecured debt
- $1,337 is the average Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer fee for people that owe less than $50,000 in unsecured debt
- $3,888 is the average Chapter 13 bankruptcy lawyer fee for people that owe more than $50,000 in unsecured debt
- $4,400 is the average Chapter 13 bankruptcy lawyer fee for people with more than $50,000 in unsecured debt
Important: The amounts shown above are the total fee amount to hire a lawyer, on average, nationwide. These are not hourly rates and don’t include all other potential bankruptcy court costs you may owe.
Chapter 7 & Chapter 13 Legal Fee Payment Timelines
Now that you know the average legal fee amounts, let’s talk about payment timelines. Here’s how those break down:
- Chapter 7 – Usually, you must pay the whole fee amount before a lawyer will file your case. Can’t afford to pay that amount all at once? Ask your bankruptcy lawyer to discuss all possible options with you, such as a payment plan, etc.
- Chapter 13 – Since this case type requires setting up a structured debt repayment plan, you have more options. In many cases, your lawyer will let you schedule monthly installments to pay off your legal fees.
Other Fees You Must Pay When Filing Your Bankruptcy Case
In addition to your attorney, you must pay the following fees when you file:
- $335 in order to file Chapter 7 (includes all trustee surcharges, administrative and filing fees)
- $310 in order to file Chapter 13 (includes all filing and administrative fees)
For a full list of all possible costs and fees associated with filing bankruptcy, visit uscourts.gov.
Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as Match.com, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity, Mail.com, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.