Bankruptcy Lawyer: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a bankruptcy lawyer. Learn about job duties, education and licensure requirements to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Juris Doctor degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Bankruptcy Lawyer?

A bankruptcy lawyer is a lawyer who specializes in addressing an individual or business's financial matters. They may advise their client on bankruptcy proceedings and represent them in bankruptcy court. Like all lawyers, bankruptcy lawyers also meet with clients, assess their situation and needs, provide legal counsel, draft documents to be filed with the court and represent their client in hearings or mediation to resolve their issues. The following chart provides and overview of this profession:

Degree Required Juris Doctor (J.D.), Master of Laws (LL.M.) in bankruptcy law is optional
Key Responsibilities Provide legal advice to clients regarding bankruptcy matters; research the law, draft and file legal documents on behalf of clients; represent clients in court
Licensure or Certification All states require lawyers to be licensed
Job Growth (2014-2024) 6%* for all lawyers
Median Salary (2015) $115,820* for all lawyers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Does a Bankruptcy Lawyer Do?

As a bankruptcy lawyer, you represent creditors and debtors in bankruptcy courts. Your clients may be individuals, businesses or organizations. When representing a creditor, you work to recover the maximum amount of money possible from your client's debtor. When working with debtors, you work to relieve their debts by either liquidating or selling their assets, or organizing payment schedules so they can make timely payments to pay a portion of their debt over time.

What Education Do I Need?

To work as a bankruptcy lawyer, you must be a licensed attorney. To become a licensed lawyer, you need both a bachelor's degree and a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. You earn a J.D. by completing law school.

Many undergraduate institutions offer pre-law degree programs, allowing you to concentrate your studies on courses that provide a foundation for your future law school curriculum. To apply to law school, you must sit for the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), a test that gauges your logic and other skills.

Law school consists of three years of study. The first year of law school consists of basic law courses. In the final two years of study you may be able to take specific courses on bankruptcy and creditor/debtor relations. Many times, these courses are included in business and corporate law concentrations, thereby allowing you to complete a concentration within your law studies.

Some schools also have joint degree programs so you can obtain both your J.D. and business degree (MBA). These dual degree programs often have specific course requirements on bankruptcy topics, such as creditor rights, federal bankruptcy codes and debtor protections.

In addition to a J.D., to specialize in bankruptcy law, you can earn a Master of Laws (LL.M.) in bankruptcy law. These programs introduce you to the various facets of bankruptcy law and prepare you for a career in the field. Courses in the programs might include finance, accounting and tax.

What Are the Licensure Requirements?

Once you've obtained your J.D., you need to pass the bar examination and fulfill any other requirements in the state in which you intend to practice. The bar exam is generally a two-day exam covering state-specific and general laws. The first day of the New York State bar exam, for instance, consists of a test on New York state laws, and the second day the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), which tests basic, national law.

How Much Could I Earn?

According to a May 2015 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most lawyers earn between $55,870 and $174,280 annually (www.bls.gov). These statistics vary based on the type of law practiced, number of years of experience in the field and the state of practice.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you're interested in law but are unsure about a focusing on finance and bankruptcy, you could also consider other specializations, such as criminal law, family law, securities or litigation. You could also consider becoming a government counsel, public defense attorney or a prosecutor. This positions require the same education as a bankruptcy attorney. Judges, arbitrators and mediators are all similar professions to lawyers. Judges also need to have a J.D. degree, and they listen to disputes and make rulings in cases instead of representing clients as lawyers do. Arbitrators and mediators only need a bachelor's degree. They focus on trying to help opposing sides find a compromise and resolve their disagreement without going to court.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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