Pro Bono Vs Pro Se Legal Representation


Veitengruber Law understands that many of our clients seek out our services precisely because they are financially strapped, or worse. In fact, it isn’t uncommon for us to meet people who are more than $20,000 in debt. By the time they’ve reached out to us, we can see the anxiety written all over their faces. One of the most pressing questions on our clients’ minds is: How much do we charge?

We’ve written about our fees regarding bankruptcy matters before, but let’s just reiterate this part of it first: We are not in this field because we want to make money off of other people’s problems. Our team does need to get paid, but first and foremost, we want you to know that our number one motivator is helping people – NOT getting rich.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about a few legal terms that you need to understand when discussing legal fees and low-cost legal representation.

Pro bono = Donating professional services without charging for them

Pro se = A person representing onesself in court

Naturally, it’s totally your prerogative if you decide that you want to represent yourself in court. Anyone is free to do so in any legal matter. Our opinion, however, is that you should never actually represent yourself in court anytime the outcome could significantly impact your life.

It may seem like a form of injustice that criminal defendants are appointed an attorney when they cannot afford one while civil litigants are almost never afforded the same favor. Criminal defendants are involved in a fight for their freedom (avoiding prison time) and/or their lives (avoiding the death sentence), which is why they will be assigned legal counsel at no cost.

People who are involved in civil cases like bankruptcy, foreclosure defense, landlord/tenant disputes and custody disputes are almost never granted the services of a court appointed lawyer if they can’t afford to hire one on their own. Although the details surrounding criminal cases quite obviously have the potential to be life-changing, the outcome of many civil matters can also have considerable consequences. Think: losing custody of a child, losing a home to foreclosure or having your bankruptcy petition denied.

For these reasons, anyone involved in a civil case deserves to have an attorney assigned to them if they can’t afford one. Since that isn’t public policy, you must look to other avenues that will allow you to have legal representation that you can afford.

For affordable legal representation in New Jersey, you can contact the Legal Aid Society located in your county. These groups work with low income residents to match them with an appropriate attorney who will work pro bono or at a reduced rate.

Another option is to select highly experienced attorney groups like Veitengruber Law who allow you to set up payment plans that you can actually afford. We will work with you to put together a unique payment plan that doesn’t impede your financial goals. We understand that even though you have a steady income, a lot of that money is tied up because you are so far in debt.

Our plan is to relieve you of much (if not all) of that debt. Not only will that ensure that you can easily make our monthly payments, but it will also allow you to get caught up on utilities, personal loans and any other living expenses that have been weighing you down for ages.

Lastly, Veitengruber Law doesn’t charge a consultation fee, so you have absolutely nothing to lose by talking with us on the phone and/or setting up an appointment to discuss your legal needs.

Locations/Contact Info:

Wall, NJ 732-852-7295
Marlton, NJ609-297-5226 or 856-318-2759

You can always fill out our online contact form, too!


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Divorce Attorney Fees: Can They be Discharged in Bankruptcy?


When some couples decide to split up, each party typically retains separate lawyers so that both spouse’s interests are protected. Sometimes, one party agrees to pay for both attorneys’ fees, typically because of a significant discrepancy in the spouses’ incomes. For example, a husband who makes $70,000/year may offer to pay for his own attorney and for the attorney of his spouse (who only makes $40,000/year).

Offering to pay for your (soon to be ex) spouse’s divorce attorney is a kind gesture that will undoubtedly be greatly appreciated by your spouse. Although you are moving toward a divorce, things can either end amicably or fraught with tension and anger. Choosing the latter is highly advisable.

Once your divorce has been finalized and you receive the official “Final Judgment of Divorce” from your family court, you will be expected to begin handling your end of the financial agreement. This agreement is commonly referred to as the PSA, or the Property Settlement Agreement.

Moving from a household with two incomes to a one income household can take awhile to get used to. What you thought you’d be able to afford may end up being beyond your means now that you’re on your own. This is especially true if you are now paying child support and/or alimony.

You’re now discovering what it’s like to pay all of the monthly expenses with no help from your ex-spouse. Add in the aforementioned support payments and attorney’s fees, and it’s quite possible that you are simply tapped out. Having been a great money manager in the past, suddenly being unable to stay on top of the monthly bills can be depressing.

Filing for bankruptcy after divorce is becoming more and more common. A divorce is often the cause of new and significant financial problems that didn’t exist during the marriage.

After your divorce is finalized and you’ve had a few months on your own financially, you may come to the conclusion that filing for bankruptcy is the best way for you to get out from under any unsecured debts you have. The simple act of getting divorced may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak.

If you file for bankruptcy after divorce in New Jersey, your two best options are chapter 7 and chapter 13. Filing for chapter 7 bankruptcy will allow you to discharge all (or at least most) of your unsecured debts (credit card debt, medical debt, past due utility bills), while chapter 13 will allow you to reorganize your unsecured debts into a more reasonable and attainable schedule.

You may be wondering if it’s also possible to discharge your divorce lawyer’s fees in a chapter 7 bankruptcy. Attorneys’ fees are the same type of debt as medical or credit card debt. Your unpaid divorce attorney’s fees, along with any fees owed to your spouse’s attorney, are unsecured debts and can be discharged in a chapter 7 bankruptcy.


(There’s always a disclaimer, isn’t there?)

If the payment of your ex-spouse’s divorce attorney’s fees is included as part of your spousal support agreement, then it will be considered non-dischargeable. Any child or spousal support that has been ordered via the court cannot be discharged through a chapter 7 bankruptcy. Your own divorce attorney’s fees, however, may be dischargeable.


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Bankruptcy Attorney Fees: Why They’re Worth Paying


One common misconception about filing for bankruptcy is that the entire process is simply filling out a bunch of forms. This erroneous information leads some people to believe that hiring a bankruptcy attorney is a waste of money.

“Why should I pay an attorney when I can easily do it myself?”

We’d like to help you better understand the New Jersey bankruptcy process and some of the things your bankruptcy attorney does that make their legal fees totally worth it.

First and foremost, a bankruptcy attorney will determine when is the best time for you to file for bankruptcy. Timing can be very important in some cases. Filing for bankruptcy does involve a significant amount of paperwork, much of which can be quite complicated and confusing, and everything must be filled out 100% correctly. If there are any errors anywhere in your bankruptcy papers, your case can be dismissed.

Your NJ bankruptcy attorney knows exactly what forms need to be filed and when. He will be able to consult with you about what type of bankruptcy would be best for your unique circumstances. Many people who file without an attorney end up filing for the wrong bankruptcy chapter.  Another thing you may not have considered is that there may be bankruptcy alternatives that would work for you. You might not even need to file for bankruptcy! Your attorney will educate you about all of your options so that you make the right choice.

A bankruptcy attorney knows bankruptcy laws inside and out. This means that you won’t have to worry about committing bankruptcy fraud accidentally. Understanding the definitions of exempt and non-exempt assets and how they relate to your case is imperative. There are different exemptions for each state as well as federal exemptions. Listing your assets incorrectly can result in significant property loss that you weren’t expecting.

As your case progresses, your attorney will constantly review things to make sure that nothing is missed. There are local bankruptcy procedures and rules, as well as trustee requirements, that must be followed. By working with an experienced bankruptcy attorney, you can rest assured knowing you won’t break any rules that could seriously delay or even ruin your entire case.

If one of your creditors feels that a particular debt shouldn’t qualify for a bankruptcy discharge, your attorney will defend you against any claims that they may file against you. Additionally, most bankruptcy attorneys try to stay on good terms with the local court employees, which means the court staff won’t give you a hard time. Without an attorney, you may not have such a pleasant experience, especially if you make any mistakes in your paperwork.

In addition to all that your bankruptcy lawyer will do for you throughout the duration of your case, he will also work with you after it has ended. After you’ve received a discharge of many of your debts, you’ll be able to start rebuilding your credit score. Your attorney will give you specific directions on how to keep your credit score moving in the right direction.

Last, but certainly not least, bankruptcy attorneys understand that you are struggling financially and they have made it their life’s work to help you. As a rule, you’ll be able to  pay your attorney’s fees on a payment plan that works for you. To learn more about this New Jersey bankruptcy attorney’s fees, schedule a free consultation. We’re confident that you will be pleasantly surprised.

Image credit: Got Credit