Nearly a year into the federal government's overhaul of the nation's bankruptcy laws, attorneys say the changes have done more harm than good.
   In a survey of 700 members of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA), respondents state that bankruptcy filings have increased since the law was adopted.
   More than two thirds, 68.5%, say their bankruptcy filings were up in the third quarter compared to the first half of the year.
   More than half of the attorneys, 57.5%, expect filings to reach their pre-reform levels by the time the one-year anniversary of the measure arrived October 17.
   Attorneys indicated that the bankruptcy law changes have made it harder for consumers by increasing expenses and paperwork involved with bankruptcy filings.
   More than three quarters of bankruptcy attorneys say the time involved in preparing a bankruptcy filing has gone up by 50% or more.
An overwhelming majority of respondents, 92.8%, say that bankruptcy reform has mostly increased costs, compared to 0.7% who say it has mostly improved results.
   Among the other survey findings:
    Less than a third of bankruptcy attorneys are seeing an increase in forced Chapter 13 repayment filings, which is contrary to what proponents of the changes projected.
    More than 60% of bankruptcy attorneys report a jump in consumer inquiries about bankruptcy.
    Attorneys indicate that the "vast majority" of bankruptcy cases involve unforeseen expenses rather than wasteful spending. Among the most common causes of bankruptcy filings, they say, are medical expenses, unemployment, home-related debt and increased credit card interest rates.
   "In practice, the new bankruptcy law changes have proven to be a nearly total bust in terms of what the proponents of the changes forecast," says NACBA Officer Ike Shulman, a bankruptcy attorney in San Jose, Calif. "The only good news here is that the law is so flawed and has been interpreted in such a way that some of the dire consequences many of us feared fortunately have not come to pass."