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Bankruptcy Attorney Career Guide

What is a bankruptcy attorney?

A bankruptcy attorney is a lawyer who helps people and businesses when they’re too deep in debt and need to declare bankruptcy. They work with their clients to sort out their debts, deal with people they owe money to (creditors), and try to get some financial relief.

Duties and responsibilities

Their main job is to give advice on the best way to handle bankruptcy, prepare and file the necessary paperwork, and stand up for their clients in court. They look into the client’s money matters, figure out how much debt there is and what assets they have, and choose the best type of bankruptcy to file. They also talk to creditors to try and lessen the debt, set up payment plans, or change how the debt is structured.

Work environment

These attorneys usually work at law firms, government agencies, or by themselves. Most of their work is done in an office where they write legal documents, research, and talk to clients and other lawyers. They might have to travel for court hearings or to meet clients. Their job can get really busy, especially when they have tight deadlines or have to handle sudden emergencies.

Typical work hours

Bankruptcy attorneys typically work about 40 hours a week, but they might need to stay late or work on weekends sometimes, especially if they need to meet court schedules or sort out urgent issues for their clients.

How to become a bankruptcy attorney

If you want to become a bankruptcy attorney, follow these steps:

Step 1: Get a bachelor’s degree

You need a college degree to go to law school. While you can major in anything, it’s smart to study subjects like economics, business, or finance since they deal a lot with money management and will help you understand many of the concepts you’ll use as a bankruptcy attorney.

Step 2: Ace the LSAT

The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a big test that law schools use to pick students. To do well, study hard, take lots of practice tests, and maybe even take a prep course.

Step 3: Go to law school and earn your JD

Apply to law schools that are approved by the American Bar Association and spend three years getting your Juris Doctor (JD) degree. Focus on learning about bankruptcy by taking classes on topics like debtor-creditor relations and commercial law. Getting involved in activities like moot court and law journals is also a great idea.

Step 4: Gain real-world experience

While in school, try to intern at law firms that specialize in bankruptcy. This experience is priceless and makes you more attractive to future employers.

Step 5: Pass the bar exam

After law school, you’ll need to pass the bar exam in the state where you want to work. Study hard for this using bar review courses and practice exams.

Once you pass the bar, you can apply for a license to officially be a lawyer. This usually involves proving you have good moral character.

Step 7: Work and specialize

Start working in a law firm that deals with bankruptcy to get hands-on experience. Over time, you might want to get certified as a bankruptcy specialist, which involves more studying and passing another test.

Step 8: Keep learning

To be the best, never stop learning. You can take online courses to get better at negotiating and communicating. There are classes on sites like Coursera, Udemy, and Skillshare that cover these skills.

Step 9: Network

Join groups like the American Bankruptcy Institute and go to their events. You’ll meet other lawyers and learn about the latest news in bankruptcy law. Keeping up with your education and connections is key to a successful career.

How much do bankruptcy attorneys make?

Salaries for bankruptcy attorneys can vary widely depending on their location, education, experience, and industry. Commission or bonuses may also influence their overall compensation. The size of the company or law firm, the complexity of the cases handled, and whether they work in private practice or public service can also affect earnings.

Highest paying industries

  • Legal Services: $145,300
  • Federal Government: $144,300
  • Management of Companies and Enterprises: $166,100

Highest paying states

  • California: $173,970
  • New York: $167,110
  • Massachusetts: $165,610
  • Connecticut: $153,640
  • District of Columbia: $135,608

Browse bankruptcy attorney salary data by market

Types of bankruptcy attorneys

Bankruptcy attorneys can specialize in different areas, depending on who they represent and the type of bankruptcy involved. Here are some common types:

  • Consumer bankruptcy attorney: These attorneys help individuals who need to file for bankruptcy. They work with two main types: Chapter 7, where you liquidate some assets to pay off debts, and Chapter 13, where you rearrange your debts to pay them over time.
  • Business bankruptcy attorney: This type of attorney works with businesses that need to file for bankruptcy. They usually deal with Chapter 7 (shutting down the business and liquidating assets) or Chapter 11 (reorganizing the business to keep it running while paying off debts). 
  • Creditor rights attorney: Creditor rights attorneys represent the people or businesses that are owed money when someone else declares bankruptcy. They work to make sure the creditor’s claims are considered in the bankruptcy process, help recover assets, and deal with legal challenges related to the bankruptcy.
  • Debtor rights attorney: These attorneys represent the person or business filing for bankruptcy. Their main goal is to protect their clients’ assets and ensure their rights are secured during the bankruptcy.
  • Bankruptcy litigation attorney: These lawyers handle court cases related to bankruptcy. They could represent debtors, creditors, or other parties involved in the bankruptcy proceedings.

Top skills for bankruptcy attorneys

  • Strong legal knowledge: You’ve got to know the laws inside out, not just the bankruptcy laws but also other related areas like contracts, taxes, and property laws. You need to be good at studying and understanding complex legal documents and rules.
  • Analytical thinking: This job requires you to look at detailed financial and legal info and figure out the best move for your clients. You’ll need to be sharp at spotting important details, foreseeing possible problems, and weighing the pros and cons of different decisions.
  • Effective communication: Bankruptcy attorneys talk a lot — with clients, people they owe money to (creditors), and other important figures in the bankruptcy process. You must be able to break down tricky legal stuff into simple terms everyone can understand. 
  • Attention to detail: Filing documents, following legal procedures, and meeting deadlines—all of these require you to be careful and precise. Even a small mistake can mess things up big time, so being meticulous and thorough is a must.
  • Negotiation skills: A big part of this job is negotiating—whether it’s trying to get a better deal from creditors or working out a payment plan. You’ll need to be good at persuading others, handling disagreements, and coming up with creative solutions to tough problems.

Bankruptcy attorney career path

Gain early experience

After law school, start working in places like law firms or government agencies where you can deal with bankruptcy cases. You might start as a law clerk, legal intern, or associate. This is your chance to get your feet wet and see how bankruptcy law works in real life.

Move up the ladder

As you get better at your job and show you can handle bigger responsibilities, you can move up to roles like partner in a law firm. Here, you’ll manage more complex cases and take care of clients’ needs while leading a team.

Reach leadership positions

If you keep doing well, you might become a managing partner. That’s a big deal because you’d oversee the whole law practice, make sure the firm is profitable, keeps clients happy, and follows all the rules.

Specialize or branch out

Throughout your career, you might decide to focus on particular types of bankruptcy cases, like Chapter 7, Chapter 11, or Chapter 13. Or, you could switch things up and work in areas related to bankruptcy, like corporate restructuring or legal compliance.

  • Economic factors: The need for bankruptcy attorneys often follows what’s happening in the economy; when times are good and the economy is strong, there are fewer bankruptcy cases. Because the economy always has its ups and downs, there will consistently be a need for these skilled lawyers.
  • Technology’s role: Now, many legal documents can be filed electronically, and some court hearings can even happen online, making the process faster and more accessible. They must keep up with these tech changes to work efficiently and accurately.

Employment projections

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job market for lawyers, including bankruptcy attorneys, is expected to grow by 10% by 2031, which is faster than many other jobs. This growth is driven by an overall increase in the need for legal services in healthcare, intellectual property, and environmental law.

Bankruptcy attorney career tips

Get the right education and credentials

You’ll need a JD degree from a law school that’s recognized by the authorities. After that, pass the bar exam in your state to practice law officially. While in law school, it helps to focus on bankruptcy law, though it’s not a must. Later on, you can get additional certifications in bankruptcy law to boost your expertise.

Understanding the ins and outs of bankruptcy laws, especially Chapters 7, 11, and 13, is crucial. You must also be good at legal research and analyzing complex cases to determine the best approaches for your clients.

Improve your negotiation and communication abilities

Being great at talking things through and reaching agreements is key in this job. You’ll be dealing with clients, other lawyers, and court officials, so clear communication is essential. Negotiation skills come in handy when settling things like payment plans and terms of bankruptcy with creditors.

Get hands-on experience

Real-world experience counts a lot. Try getting involved with legal aid clinics or nonprofits that help with bankruptcy issues, or snag an internship or clerkship at a law firm specializing in bankruptcy. This is how you’ll learn the ropes and gain confidence.

Build a strong reputation

Your reputation can make or break your career. Always aim to provide top-notch services and maintain good relationships with your clients. Keep your online presence professional with a solid website and active social media accounts, and manage your online reviews well.

Keep up with the law

Bankruptcy laws change often, so you need to stay updated. Attend seminars, take part in continuing legal education (CLE) courses, and go to conferences focused on bankruptcy to keep your knowledge fresh.

Network, network, network

Making connections is super important. Network with other bankruptcy attorneys, judges, and experts in the field by joining groups and attending events. Consider becoming a member of professional organizations like:

  • National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA)
  • American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI)
  • National Association of Chapter 13 Trustees (NACTT)
  • National Association of Bankruptcy Trustees (NABT)

Where the bankruptcy attorney jobs are

Top companies

  • Badgley Law Group
  • Bogin, Munns, & Munns
  • Agentis Law
  • Akerman LLP
  • Baker & McKenzie

Top states

  • District of Columbia
  • California
  • New York
  • Massachusetts
  • Connecticut

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • LinkedIn
  • Dice
  • Careerbuilder
  • Monster


What qualifications are required to become a bankruptcy attorney?

You must first complete a bachelor’s degree and then attend law school to obtain J.D. degree. After graduating from law school, you must pass the bar exam in the jurisdiction where you plan to practice. 

Some attorneys may also choose to pursue a Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree in bankruptcy or a related field to gain specialized knowledge. Additionally, obtaining certification from the American Board of Certification can help you demonstrate expertise in bankruptcy law.

What are the primary responsibilities of a bankruptcy attorney?

Professionals in this field represent individuals or businesses in financial distress, advising clients on their options for debt relief and guiding them through the bankruptcy process. These lawyers prepare and file bankruptcy petitions, attend hearings and meetings with creditors, negotiate with creditors, and handle any litigation that may arise during the bankruptcy case. They also help clients understand the implications of bankruptcy and may assist them in rebuilding credit after a bankruptcy discharge.

What are the different types of bankruptcy cases a bankruptcy attorney may handle?

These attorneys handle various types of bankruptcy cases, including Chapter 7 (liquidation), Chapter 11 (reorganization for businesses), and Chapter 13 (individual debt adjustment). Each type of bankruptcy has unique procedures and requirements, and attorneys may specialize in one or more areas of bankruptcy law.

What are the challenges faced by bankruptcy attorneys?

Professionals in this field often deal with clients experiencing significant financial and emotional stress, making empathy and understanding essential. The complexity of bankruptcy law and the ever-changing legal landscape can also present challenges, requiring attorneys to stay current with new developments and regulations. Additionally, they may face high-pressure situations, tight deadlines, and complex negotiations with creditors.

What is the role of a bankruptcy attorney in a Chapter 7 case?

In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, the attorney advises the client on eligibility requirements, assists with preparing and filing the bankruptcy petition, and represents the client at the meeting of creditors. They may also handle any objections or litigation during the case and help the client understand the implications of the bankruptcy discharge.

What is the role of a bankruptcy attorney in a Chapter 11 case?

In this type of case, the attorney helps the business debtor develop a reorganization plan, negotiate with creditors, and obtain court approval. They may also represent the debtor in adversary proceedings, manage the sale of assets, and advise on issues related to taxes, contracts, and employee benefits.

What is the role of a bankruptcy attorney in a Chapter 13 case?

In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, the attorney assists the client in developing a repayment plan that allows them to repay a portion of their debts over three to five years. They help prepare and file the bankruptcy petition and repayment plan, represent the client at the meeting of creditors and confirmation hearing, and handle any objections or litigation that may arise during the case. They also communicate with the Chapter 13 trustee, monitor the client’s progress through the repayment plan, and ensure the client fulfills their obligations.