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How to Become a Bankruptcy Attorney

If you are an attorney looking for a solid career opportunity, specializing as a bankruptcy attorney is a great avenue to pursue. A bankruptcy attorney specializes in helping clients reduce or eliminate debt, file for bankruptcy, or seek unpaid debts. A bankruptcy attorney needs to have an in-depth knowledge of federal and state bankruptcy laws, as well as excellent litigation, math, and negotiation skills.  

As a bankruptcy attorney, you might work with individuals or businesses, and can represent debtors, creditors, creditors’ committees, or bankruptcy trustees. You will work in and out of the courtroom, either creating debt restructuring plans to help debtors relieve debts or working to help creditors get as much of the money owed to them as possible from debtors.

Sample job description

Our company is hiring a bankruptcy attorney to handle Chapter 7, 11, and 13 bankruptcies. The ideal candidate will have experience in consumer bankruptcy and will be able to work with clients to develop a plan that meets their financial needs. Bankruptcy attorneys are responsible for helping people who are unable to pay their debts get relief from those debts through the declaration of bankruptcy. They also represent and advise clients who wish to file for bankruptcy. Bankruptcy attorneys must have a degree in law and pass the state bar exam, as well as at least 3 years of experience practicing law.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Prepare and review court filings
  • Draft responses to motions and other filings
  • Participate in telephone conferences with clients and adversaries to discuss pending motions and try to resolve disputes
  • Engage in discovery for cases
  • Strategize with co-counsel or colleagues
  • Guide clients through the bankruptcy process
  • Present debt restructuring plans in court

Education and experience

This position requires a Juris Doctorate as well as a license to practice law in the state where you will work.

A background in finance, bankruptcy proceedings, tax law, or related fields is preferred.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Written and verbal communication skills
  • Knowledge of federal and state bankruptcy laws and regulations
  • Ability to handle sensitive financial issues with empathy and discretion
  • Research skills
  • Analytical thinking
  • Negotiation skills

Preferred qualifications

  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Experience working in a fast-paced firm
  • Kind demeanor

Typical work environment

Bankruptcy attorneys typically work in law firms, though some may work for the government or in private practice.

Typical hours

The typical work hours in an office setting for a bankruptcy attorney are usually from 9 AM to 5 PM. However, many attorneys work more than 40 hours a week, especially when preparing for trials or nearing deadlines.

Available certifications

All lawyers have to pass the LSAT and have a J.D. from an accredited university. Without these things, you can not practice law. One must also be certified in the state that they are practicing, which means you’ll need to recertify in each state you are not currently certified in. Though there aren’t any additional certifications beyond that, it doesn’t hurt to continue your education. Here is a popular certification:

  • Certified Bankruptcy Law Specialist. The American Board of Certification is the premier legal specialty certification organization – certifying attorneys as specialists in business bankruptcy, consumer bankruptcy, and creditors’ rights law.

Career path

Bankruptcy attorneys are required to have a Juris Doctorate from an accredited law school and a license to practice law in the state where they work. A bachelor’s degree is necessary to pursue a J.D. degree. College course work in subjects like creditors’ rights, income taxation, negotiations, and other bankruptcy-specific courses are also recommended for students who know they want to specialize in bankruptcy law. There are also master’s of law programs in bankruptcy available for people who already have their Juris Doctorate and want to get even more specialized knowledge.

Most attorneys start in law firms as associates, then progress with either a partner or non-partner track, leading to positions as partners, senior attorneys, or of counsel.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 23-1011

2020 Employment804,200
Projected Employment in 2030875,700
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 9% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift71,500 increase

Bankruptcy law is ever-changing, and bankruptcy attorneys need to stay up-to-date on any changes to federal and state laws. 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.