Which Bankruptcy Software Should You Purchase?

I understand that there is a great deal of confusion over which bankruptcy software program a law firm should buy and which one a virtual bankruptcy assistant should buy.  In order to help address these concerns, I am writing this article to help you.

From 1990 to about 2006, it did not matter if you were an attorney or a non-attorney; you could purchase just about any bankruptcy software program you wanted.  Back then, bankruptcy petition preparers were alive and well in almost every state.  In case you were not around back then, bankruptcy petition preparers were people who filled out the forms of the bankruptcy petition and worked directly with the debtor; no attorney was involved. They charged a really low fee and normally did a poor job.  Their inefficiency cost debtors and courts millions of dollars. In fact, many debtors lost homes and other assets due to the poor skills of bankruptcy petition preparers.  This is one reason I had for developing Colorado Bankruptcy Training.Com.  I wanted to stop the madness and bring professional level skills to the law firms.

What eventually happened to bankruptcy petition preparers?  When the bankruptcy law changed in 2005, many bankruptcy petition preparers were out of business by 2006.  Under the new bankruptcy law, a Means Test had to be filed with the petition and the Means Test calculations could only be done by an attorney.  Bankruptcy petition preparers were often singled out by the court and fined large fees when they tried to prepare the Means Test or select exemptions on Schedule C.  In fact, one lady called and said she was fined $40,000 in the state of Oregon for unauthorized practice of law.  She then tried to file bankruptcy to get the debt discharged but the court demanded it be classified as a Schedule E Priority debt that had to be repaid 100%.

It was around this time that some of the bankruptcy software companies became more selective about who purchased their software.  And they had good cause to take these precautions.  However, where the problem comes in today, is when an independent virtual bankruptcy assistant, working under the direction of a bankruptcy attorney, is not permitted to purchase the software they need to legally work for their attorney.  For example, in many instances, attorneys may not purchase bankruptcy software but depend on their virtual bankruptcy assistant to prepare and file all their cases.  This means the virtual bankruptcy assistant is left to purchase his or her own software.  If the software companies will not sell to them, what are they supposed to do?

To confuse the matter even more, some bankruptcy software programs allow non-attorneys to purchase their software but they are prevented from electronically filing a bankruptcy petition.  The only way they can electronically file a petition for their attorney is to operate under the software license of the attorney.  But this can cause a problem if the virtual bankruptcy assistant is using EZFiling but the attorney is using Collier Top Form.

Still there are other variances with software companies: some will not even sell you a copy of their software unless you are a law firm or licensed attorney.  The non-attorney can download free versions of their software but the attorney is the one that must purchased the software license.  Then, the attorney can turn around and grant a free license to anyone who works for him or her.

Where Does the Madness End?

Personally, I think the software companies have developed an unnecessary mess.  Who cares who purchases their software?  They are in business to make a profit, right?  What is the big deal anyway?  To date, I have talked to people in charge at many different software companies and I have yet to get an answer to this specific question that makes any sense.

However, since I do not own these bankruptcy software companies and I do not have the power to tell them what to do, I have to suffer just like you do.  Here are three options you may want to consider:

1.   Frederick Rogovy is the software developer for New Hope Software.  New Hope Software is the only software company that provides special services to virtual bankruptcy assistants.  To view the features available to help virtual bankruptcy assistants who use New Hope Software, visit:
http://bankruptcysoftware.com/virtualassistantfeatures.shtml

However, as of this date, New Hope will not sell a copy of their software to a non-attorney. The attorney must make the purchase and then provide the virtual bankruptcy assistant with the registration information to unlock their non-attorney version.  (Unnecessary complication?  I think so.)

2.  If you are just getting started as a virtual bankruptcy assistant, you may not need to spend any money buying bankruptcy software right now.  You can continue using demo versions of the different software programs.  Then, when you start working for an attorney, use the software the attorney is using.

3.  Learn the old-fashioned way:  Download the Federal and Local Forms from the bankruptcy court website within your jurisdiction and fill them out.  When you download them, they are free and they come as a form-fillable PDF.  A link to all the US Bankruptcy Courts, local rules and forms, is at:
http://coloradobankruptcytraining.com/links_chapter13plans.html
Also check out the other bankruptcy links at:
http://www.coloradobankruptcytraining.com/links.html

I realize this method will take the most time to prepare a bankruptcy petition, but there is no cost whatsoever in purchasing bankruptcy software.  Electronic filing will be done entirely through PACER.

Summary

Although in my training materials, I use Best Case to train with, it is because this software has shown to reduce the learning curve and make training easier to comprehend.  However, just because students train with Best Case, after they learn the basic skills; they can use ANY software program they want.  I know one Certified VBA (Linda Rantz at www.rantz.biz) who uses all the bankruptcy software programs out there.  She said it is the only way she can be assured to be compatible with any attorney she works for.  Sounds good to me.

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