When you represent yourself in a legal matter you are said to be pro se. This term applies to bankruptcy cases as well. When a debtor files their own bankruptcy case they are said to be a pro se debtor. To adequately represent a client in a bankruptcy case, an attorney must have knowledge of The Bankruptcy Code, which is the set of laws governing bankruptcy law in the United States. Additionally, the rules that set out the procedures for bankruptcy cases are set out in the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure and the local rules of the district and division in which the case is filed.
Bankruptcy is a very complex subject and minor mistakes such as not serving creditors properly, missing deadlines, and failing to provide documents to the trustee, can result in a case being dismissed or debts not being discharged at the end of the case. In Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases, mistakes made in applying exemptions to property can result in the trustee seizing the asset and liquidating it for the benefit of the creditors. Failing to list a cause of action in the schedules can result in loss of the asset. Pro se debtors have a very low rate of success in bankruptcy cases, and this is especially true of Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases during which there are many different hearings on a variety of different issues over the three to five year bankruptcy case. Hiring an attorney for representation in a bankruptcy case is very inexpensive compared to the risks involved in representing yourself in bankruptcy.