Bankruptcy attorneys are technically “Debt Relief Agencies.” 11 U.S. Code § 101 – Definitions defines Debt Relief Agencies as:
(12A) The term “debt relief agency” means any person who provides any bankruptcy assistance to an assisted person in return for the payment of money or other valuable consideration, or who is a bankruptcy petition preparer under section 110, but does not include—
This is why every bankruptcy lawfirm has a notice that goes something along the lines of “We are a federally designated Debt Relief Agency, blah blah blah.” It looks like an exciting, accredited federal appointment, but it is actually just a law that gives us all this official-sounding title, whether or not we’re qualified or even good at what we do.
Debt Relief Agencies have some restrictions (things they are NOT allowed to do) under the bankruptcy code. One of them is a requirement that we NEVER advise a potential client to take out more debt in order to pay us to file bankruptcy.
So if the attorney you are meeting with recommends that you throw the bk on a credit card that you’ll then list in the bankruptcy, or recommends that you take out a payday loan to finance the bk, or anything of the like, then he/she is an attorney who is not interested in following federal law. This is a bad thing.
Borrowing money from your parents or grandparents isn’t prohibited, but run from the attorney who tells you to go out and borrow money to pay him. Selling your car or your grand piano to pay for the bankruptcy is not bad, but taking out a title loan on either of them is.
The actual bankruptcy code provision is listed below:
11 U.S. Code § 526 – Restrictions on debt relief agencies
(a) A debt relief agency shall not—
(1) fail to perform any service that such agency informed an assisted person or prospective assisted person it would provide in connection with a case or proceeding under this title;
(2) make any statement, or counsel or advise any assisted person or prospective assisted person to make a statement in a document filed in a case or proceeding under this title, that is untrue or misleading, or that upon the exercise of reasonable care, should have been known by such agency to be untrue or misleading;
(3) misrepresent to any assisted person or prospective assisted person, directly or indirectly, affirmatively or by material omission, with respect to—
(A) the services that such agency will provide to such person; or
(B) the benefits and risks that may result if such person becomes a debtor in a case under this title; or
(4) advise an assisted person or prospective assisted person to incur more debt in contemplation of such person filing a case under this title or to pay an attorney or bankruptcy petition preparer a fee or charge for services performed as part of preparing for or representing a debtor in a case under this title.
(b) Any waiver by any assisted person of any protection or right provided under this section shall not be enforceable against the debtor by any Federal or State court or any other person, but may be enforced against a debt relief agency.
(1) Any contract for bankruptcy assistance between a debt relief agency and an assisted person that does not comply with the material requirements of this section, section 527, orsection 528 shall be void and may not be enforced by any Federal or State court or by any other person, other than such assisted person.
(2) Any debt relief agency shall be liable to an assisted person in the amount of any fees or charges in connection with providing bankruptcy assistance to such person that such debt relief agency has received, for actual damages, and for reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs if such agency is found, after notice and a hearing, to have—
(A) intentionally or negligently failed to comply with any provision of this section, section 527, orsection 528 with respect to a case or proceeding under this title for such assisted person;
(B) provided bankruptcy assistance to an assisted person in a case or proceeding under this title that is dismissed or converted to a case under another chapter of this title because of such agency’s intentional or negligent failure to file any required document including those specified in section 521; or
(C) intentionally or negligently disregarded the material requirements of this title or the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure applicable to such agency.
(3) In addition to such other remedies as are provided under State law, whenever the chief law enforcement officer of a State, or an official or agency designated by a State, has reason to believe that any person has violated or is violating this section, the State—
(A) may bring an action to enjoin such violation;
(B) may bring an action on behalf of its residents to recover the actual damages of assisted persons arising from such violation, including any liability under paragraph (2); and
(C) in the case of any successful action under subparagraph (A) or (B), shall be awarded the costs of the action and reasonable attorneys’ fees as determined by the court.
(4) The district courts of the United States for districts located in the State shall have concurrent jurisdiction of any action under subparagraph (A) or (B) of paragraph (3).
(5) Notwithstanding any other provision of Federal law and in addition to any other remedy provided under Federal or State law, if the court, on its own motion or on the motion of the United States trustee or the debtor, finds that a person intentionally violated this section, or engaged in a clear and consistent pattern or practice of violating this section, the court may—
(A) enjoin the violation of such section; or
(B) impose an appropriate civil penalty against such person.
(d) No provision of this section, section 527, orsection 528 shall—
(1) annul, alter, affect, or exempt any person subject to such sections from complying with any law of any State except to the extent that such law is inconsistent with those sections, and then only to the extent of the inconsistency; or
(2) be deemed to limit or curtail the authority or ability—
(A) of a State or subdivision or instrumentality thereof, to determine and enforce qualifications for the practice of law under the laws of that State; or
(B) of a Federal court to determine and enforce the qualifications for the practice of law before that court.