Tools of the Trade

Top 10 Bankruptcy Tips for Paralegals
guest author: Heather Purnell

Preparing a bankruptcy petition is not as easy as you think. Every case is different; they are not all cut and dry.

Here are some tips to help you as you work in the bankruptcy field and prepare petitions.

  1. Be Thorough. 
    Make sure you have everything you need before you file. You don't want to have to file a lot of amendments.  You also want to make sure you have the full picture before you file.
  1. Ask Questions.
    This goes hand in hand with being thorough. But if the client left a question blank on your questionnaire or you don't understand something, ask the appropriate person.
  1. Understand the Different Chapters.
    There are options for clients. Make sure that you understand the different chapter and why they would be eligible for one versus the other. This is helpful when preparing the petition. You could notice something after preparing that may need a second look and you would have to bring it to the attention of the attorney.
  1. Understand the Software Your Office Uses.
    Every office is going to be different but there aren't too many choices when it comes to bankruptcy software to prepare the petition. Make sure you know how to use it and all the options and choices it has.
  1. Stay Educated.
    The law is ever changing and you should stay up to date. Make sure you understand why something changed. It's also good to try to attend a seminar or webinar every now and then on a topic you could use brushing up on.
  1. Get Involved in a Paralegal Organization.
    All states should have paralegal organizations that you can join. Once you join the organization, seek out other paralegals within your field and see if you can meet every now and then to stay up to speed.
  1. Read the Documents.
    It sounds easy, but make sure you are reading the documents the client drops off to you whether it's a mortgage, deed, tax return or bank statement. You need those documents for a reason and it is important to look for anything that stands out to you on any documents you are provided.
  1. Timelines.
    It is important to understand what goes on during the course of a bankruptcy, and how long it generally takes.  Clients usually ask how long until it is over. You want to be able to give them a general idea, but you also want to be able to tell them the issues that could cause delays or lengthen their time in bankruptcy.
  1. Why?
    Why did the client have to file bankruptcy?  Many people think it is just because they don't have any money. But that isn't the only reason. Someone could be facing a garnishment or they could have lost their job. It could be any number of things but it is important to understand ultimately why they filed.
  1. Benefits.
    Many people think that bankruptcy is just a negative thing that happens to people that mismanage money.  While there are many people out there that fall into this category, this is not always the case. There are benefits to filing such as stopping a foreclosure, garnishment or getting rid of personal liabilities.

Heather Purnell is a bankruptcy paralegal at DelCotto Law Group PLLC in Lexington, Kentucky. She earned her Bachelor's in Corporate Communication from the University of Kentucky. Later on she obtained her post-bachelor's certificate in Paralegal Studies from Boston University. She is an active member of the Greater Lexington Paralegal Association.

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