I’m not the kind of person to toot my own horn and talk up just how important by job is to helping people navigate the complicate bankruptcy legal system. However, last month, the Administrative Office of the United States Court released news of an alarming trend in bankruptcies. More and more people are opting to represent themselves in court rather than hire a bankruptcy attorney.

If you’re thinking about filing on your own, you might not see this as a big deal since not only do you get to have a good story to tell, but you’ll also save money on attorney fees. Well, it’s not really as simple as that. As I’ve discussed at length in other posts, there are so many things that can go wrong when you file for bankruptcy on your own. It’s not a risk worth taking.

Let’s get back to the numbers from the AO. You might think that the reason for the jump in cases where people are opting to represent themselves is due to the increased number of bankruptcy petitions. That’s a wrong assumption. Here’s what the AO said about that:

Research found that, while non-pro se bankruptcy petitions increased 98 percent over the last five years, pro se bankruptcy petitions grew 187 percent over the same time frame.

Even more notable is that the Western states are seeing the biggest jumps with Arizona courts having the third most pro se filings. In fact, pro se filings represent a little more than 20% of the total filings in Arizona, which is a whopping chunk of the filings.

So, what does this mean? Well, it means a few things. Firstly, it means that more people are reading into and using their constitutional rights. If you’re looking to find out if you can file your own bankruptcy petition, the answer is absolutely yes. It’s a constitutional right found in the Sixth Amendment in the Bill of Rights. However, when most people ask whether they should file themselves, the answer is an astounding no!

Another reason people might want to file themselves is to avoid fees. That’s good in theory, but it could end up costing you even more if you do things the wrong way or forget to add something. Filing on your own will also pile on loads of unnecessary stress and frustration.

You don’t have to commit to anything, but I highly recommend you speak to an experienced Phoenix bankruptcy lawyer regarding your best options before filing a bankruptcy petition alone.