What is a bankruptcy attorney?
A bankruptcy attorney is a legal professional who specializes in helping individuals and businesses navigate bankruptcy. These attorneys assist clients in filing for bankruptcy, negotiating with creditors, and creating a plan to manage or discharge debts.
The role requires a deep understanding of bankruptcy laws and regulations and excellent communication and negotiation skills. These professionals must be able to assess clients’ financial situations, determine which bankruptcy chapter is appropriate, and develop a plan to protect their client’s assets and help them achieve financial stability.
Duties and responsibilities
A bankruptcy attorney’s primary duties and responsibilities include advising clients on their bankruptcy options, preparing and filing bankruptcy petitions, representing clients in court proceedings, and negotiating with creditors. This involves assessing clients’ financial situations, analyzing debt and assets, and determining the most appropriate bankruptcy chapter to file.
Professionals in this role must also be skilled negotiators who negotiate with creditors to reduce or eliminate debts, arrange payment plans, or restructure debt. They must keep their clients informed throughout the process, including attending court hearings, preparing legal documents, and responding to inquiries from clients or opposing counsel.
In addition to these tasks, they may also be responsible for educating clients about bankruptcy laws and regulations, helping clients develop a plan to rebuild their credit, and ensuring that all legal procedures are followed correctly.
Bankruptcy attorneys typically work in law firms, government agencies, or as solo practitioners. They spend much of their time working in an office environment, conducting research, drafting legal documents, and communicating with clients and colleagues. Their work can be deadline-driven, requiring the ability to multitask and manage multiple cases simultaneously. These attorneys may also be required to travel to court hearings or client meetings, depending on the specific requirements of their job.
Typical work hours
The typical work hours for a bankruptcy attorney can vary depending on the employer and the job’s specific requirements. Many professionals in this role work a standard 40-hour workweek, Monday through Friday.
However, they may occasionally need to work evenings or weekends to accommodate court schedules or client needs. Additionally, their workload can be unpredictable and may require working beyond regular business hours to meet deadlines or handle emergencies.
How to become a bankruptcy attorney
This career path involves obtaining a law degree, passing the bar exam, and gaining specialized knowledge in bankruptcy law. The following steps will guide you through acquiring the necessary education and experience to become a successful bankruptcy attorney.
Step 1: Complete a bachelor’s degree
A bachelor’s degree is required for admission to law school. While no specific major is mandated, aspiring bankruptcy lawyers should consider focusing on subjects such as economics, finance, business, or accounting to build a solid foundation in financial concepts and terminology.
Step 2: Take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT)
The LSAT is a standardized test used by law schools to assess applicants’ aptitude for legal studies. Prepare for the test by reviewing LSAT preparation materials, taking practice exams, and considering enrolling in a prep course to maximize your score.
Step 3: Attend law school and earn a Juris Doctor (JD) degree
Apply to law schools accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA) and complete a three-year J.D. program. During law school, focus on courses related to bankruptcy law, such as debtor-creditor relations, secured transactions, and commercial law. Participating in moot court competitions or working on a law journal can also help develop your legal skills.
Step 4: Gain practical experience
Seek internships, externships, or part-time positions with law firms specializing in bankruptcy law or organizations dealing with financial issues. Gaining practical experience will enhance your resume and help you develop a deeper understanding of the complexities of bankruptcy cases.
Step 5: Pass the bar exam
To practice law in the United States, you must pass the bar exam in the jurisdiction where you plan to work. The bar exam tests your knowledge of general legal principles and state-specific laws. Prepare for the exam by enrolling in a bar review course and taking practice tests.
Step 6: Obtain a license to practice law
After passing the bar exam, apply for a license to practice law in your jurisdiction. This process typically involves a character and fitness evaluation, which assesses your moral character and suitability to practice law.
Step 7: Gain experience and specialize in bankruptcy law
Begin your legal career by working for a law firm or organization specializing in bankruptcy law. This hands-on experience will help you develop the skills and knowledge necessary to represent clients in bankruptcy cases effectively. Over time, consider pursuing certification as a specialist in bankruptcy law through organizations like the American Board of Certification, which requires a combination of education, experience, and successful completion of a comprehensive exam.
Step 8: Take online courses
There are many skills in addition to having strong knowledge of the law that will help you as a bankruptcy attorney. Online courses are a great way to learn power skills and enhance your professional abilities.
- Coursera offers an online class from Yale that nearly half a million people have enrolled in to learn How to Become a Persuasive Negotiator.
- This Udemy class is 7 Communication Courses in 1. You’ll learn about persuasion, negotiation, body language, and more.
- You may also be interested in learning Essential Communication Skills for Professionals via Skillshare.
Step 9: Network and continue professional development
Join professional organizations, such as the American Bankruptcy Institute or the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, to network with other professionals and stay up-to-date with the latest developments in bankruptcy law. Attend conferences, workshops, and seminars to further your education and maintain your legal knowledge. Continually developing your expertise will help you excel in your career.
How much do bankruptcy attorneys make?
Salaries for bankruptcy attorneys can vary widely depending on numerous factors. One primary consideration is geographic location, with higher costs of living often translating to higher compensation. Another significant variable is their individual level of education and years of experience in the field. Those who have specialized in bankruptcy law and have a significant history in the field are likely to command higher pay.
The specific industry in which they work can also have a substantial impact on their salary. For example, those working in large law firms or in corporate settings may earn more than those working in government positions or for non-profit organizations. Commission or bonuses may also influence the overall compensation for these professionals. 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
Types of bankruptcy attorneys
In this role, you can specialize in various areas of bankruptcy law, including individual or business bankruptcy, creditor or debtor representation, and bankruptcy litigation. These specializations can be tied to specific types of bankruptcy, such as Chapter 7, Chapter 11, or Chapter 13. In this section, we will explore the different types of bankruptcy attorneys, shedding light on their unique responsibilities and areas of focus.
Consumer bankruptcy attorney
A consumer bankruptcy attorney represents individuals filing for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. These professionals may assist clients with determining eligibility, preparing and filing bankruptcy petitions, and negotiating with creditors. One of their key responsibilities is ensuring clients understand their rights and options and that their interests are protected throughout the bankruptcy process.
Business bankruptcy attorney
An attorney in this role represents businesses filing for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 7 or Chapter 11. These professionals may assist clients with restructuring debt, negotiating with creditors, and developing and implementing a bankruptcy plan. They ensure their clients understand their options and protect their interests throughout the bankruptcy process.
Creditor rights attorney
A creditor rights attorney represents creditors in bankruptcy proceedings, including filing proofs of claim, challenging bankruptcy petitions, and negotiating with debtors. Their duties may include assisting clients with protecting their rights and interests throughout the bankruptcy process, including recovering assets and collections.
Debtor rights attorney
These professionals represent debtors in bankruptcy proceedings. Their tasks include filing bankruptcy petitions, negotiating with creditors, and developing and implementing a bankruptcy plan. Debtor rights attorneys may assist clients with protecting their rights and interests throughout the bankruptcy process, including protecting assets and discharging debts.
Bankruptcy litigation attorney
A bankruptcy litigation attorney represents clients in bankruptcy-related litigation, including disputes over the discharge of debts, fraudulent transfers, and preference claims. Professionals in this role may represent debtors, creditors, or other parties involved in bankruptcy proceedings.
Top skills for bankruptcy attorneys
This section outlines the primary skills and traits needed for career success as a bankruptcy attorney. The following descriptions provide insights into the abilities anyone aspiring to this role should focus on developing.
Strong legal knowledge
Attorneys in this role must be knowledgeable about federal and state bankruptcy laws, court procedures, and legal precedents. They should also be familiar with related areas of law, such as contracts, taxation, and property law.
Analytical thinking skills
These professionals analyze complex financial and legal information and develop effective legal strategies for their clients. Identifying key issues, anticipating potential obstacles, and evaluating the risks and benefits of different courses of action are all components of their work.
Effective communication skills
They frequently communicate with clients, creditors, and other stakeholders throughout the bankruptcy process. Professionals in this role should be able to explain legal concepts and procedures clearly and concisely and listen to and incorporate feedback from clients and other parties.
Attention to detail
Attorneys should ensure that all required documents are filed correctly and on time and that all legal and procedural requirements are met. They must be meticulous in their work and strive for accuracy in all aspects of their job.
These professionals may need to negotiate with creditors, trustees, or other parties to reach a favorable outcome for their clients. Conflict resolution skills and the ability to develop creative solutions to complex legal and financial problems will benefit attorneys in this role.
Bankruptcy attorney career path
The career path of a bankruptcy attorney typically begins with education and training in law, often through a J.D. degree program from an accredited law school. Those who aspire to this profession can gain hands-on experience in bankruptcy law, litigation, and negotiation by starting as associates, law clerks, or legal interns in law firms or government agencies.
As they gain experience and demonstrate strong performance, these professionals may advance to more senior roles, such as partner. In these positions, they will take on more complex tasks and responsibilities in managing client relationships, overseeing legal teams, and representing clients in complex bankruptcy cases.
With a solid track record of success and experience, they may progress into leadership roles, such as managing partner, overseeing the entire legal practice of a law firm, managing staff, and ensuring the firm’s overall profitability, client satisfaction, and regulatory compliance.
Additionally, some professionals in this field may choose to specialize in specific areas of bankruptcy law, such as Chapter 7, Chapter 11, or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Some attorneys may also transition into related fields, such as corporate restructuring, financial advisory, or legal compliance.
Similar job titles
Bankruptcy attorney position trends and outlook
Bankruptcy law is ever-changing, and professionals in this role must stay current on federal and state laws changes. The number of bankruptcy filings and proceedings tends to track with, but slightly behind, the economy.
When the economy is good, fewer people get behind on debt payments, and there are fewer filings. When the economy reverses course, bankruptcy filings eventually go up, though probably not immediately. As the economy continues to fluctuate, the demand for skilled bankruptcy attorneys is expected to remain steady.
Technology has impacted the field of law in various ways, with the adoption of digital tools, such as e-filing and virtual hearings, improving the efficiency and accessibility of legal services. Attorneys in this role must stay informed about the latest trends in legal technology and be adaptable to new methods and tools to ensure precision and efficiency in their work.
Employment projections for bankruptcy attorneys
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for lawyers is projected to grow by 10% through 2031, faster than the average for all occupations. Various factors drive this growth, including the increasing demand for legal services in various industries, such as healthcare, intellectual property, and environmental law.
Bankruptcy attorney career tips
Obtain relevant education and credentials
You’ll need to earn a Juris Doctor degree from an accredited law school and pass the bar exam in your state. Specializing in bankruptcy law during your law school education is beneficial but optional. Once you become a licensed attorney, you can seek further certification in bankruptcy law.
Develop strong legal and analytical skills
In this profession, you’ll need to have a strong understanding of bankruptcy laws – specifically Chapters 7, 11, and 13. Additionally, you must have excellent legal research and analytical skills to understand complex bankruptcy cases.
Hone negotiation and communication skills
Stellar negotiation and communication skills are essential for professionals in this field. You’ll need to communicate effectively with clients, other attorneys, and bankruptcy trustees. You must also be able to negotiate settlements, including payment plans and bankruptcy discharge agreements, with creditors and other stakeholders.
Gain practical experience
Practical experience is vital for developing professional skills and confidence. Consider volunteering at a legal aid clinic or nonprofit organization that provides bankruptcy services to low-income individuals. Additionally, consider taking an internship or clerkship at a law firm specializing in bankruptcy law.
Build a strong reputation
Building a strong reputation in the legal community is crucial. Focus on providing high-quality legal services and building solid relationships with clients. Additionally, maintain a positive online reputation by having a professional website, actively engaging in social media, and managing your online reviews.
Stay current on bankruptcy laws and regulations
Bankruptcy laws and regulations are constantly changing, so staying current with new developments is crucial. Attend relevant seminars and conferences and participate in continuing legal education (CLE) courses to keep up to date with changes to the law.
Develop a professional network
Networking is important for career growth and staying informed about job opportunities and industry trends. Connect with other bankruptcy attorneys, judges, and industry experts by attending conferences, seminars, and local meetups. Join professional associations, such as:
- 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
- Badgley Law Group
- Bogin, Munns, & Munns
- Agentis Law
- Akerman LLP
- Baker & McKenzie
- District of Columbia
- New York
Top job sites
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.