Cara O'Neill


Cara O'Neill is a legal editor at Nolo, focusing on bankruptcy and small claims. She also maintains a bankruptcy practice at the Law Office of Cara O’Neill and teaches criminal law and legal ethics as an adjunct professor. Cara has been quoted in bankruptcy, finance, small claims, and litigation articles by news outlets that include USA Today, CNBC, U.S. News & World Report, Nerd Wallet, and Yahoo Finance.

Cara received her law degree from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, where she graduated a member of the Order of the Barristers—a highly-selective honor society that gives national recognition to top law school graduates demonstrating excellent skills in trial advocacy, oral advocacy, and brief writing.

Working at Nolo. Cara started writing for Nolo as a freelancer in 2014 and became a full-time legal editor in 2016. She has authored a number of Nolo self-help legal books, including How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, The New Bankruptcy, Everybody's Guide to Small Claims (national version), and Everybody's Guide to Small Claims in California. She also co-authors and edits Solve Your Money Troubles and Credit Repair and has written hundreds of articles for,,, and

Early legal career. Before joining Nolo, Cara spent 20 years working as a trial attorney litigating criminal and civil cases. She also served as an administrative law judge mediating disputes between auto manufacturers and dealerships and began teaching law as an adjunct professor in 2004. She added bankruptcy to her practice after the 2008 financial downturn.

Origins of litigation and writing career. Thanks to her mother, Cara’s advocacy training began early and involuntarily. In junior high school, she took second place two years running in the local Optimist Club speaking competition. She also successfully competed on her high school speech and debate team for several years, eventually serving as president of the same. During law school, she competed on a nationally ranked ABA moot court team for two years (and was recruited for a third, but declined) and served as a law journal editor.

Articles By Cara O'Neill

Starting a New Business After Bankruptcy
There is nothing in the bankruptcy law that prohibits you from starting a new business after bankruptcy. In fact, you might be able to apply some lessons learned from your prior financial problems to keep you out of trouble in the new business.
Unsecured Debt in Chapter 13: How Much Must You Pay?
How much you must pay to your general unsecured creditors in Chapter 13 bankruptcy depends on your disposable income and the "best interest of creditors" test.
Your Car in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy: An Overview
What happens to your car, truck, van, motorcycle, or other vehicle if you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy?
Converting Your Bankruptcy Case From Chapter 13 to Chapter 7
In cases where you can no longer maintain your Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan payments, your case can be converted to a Chapter 7 and your debts discharged.
What Happens at a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Meeting of Creditors?
Here's what to expect at the 341 hearing in your Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
How to File for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
Learn what it takes to successfully file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Your Obligations Under a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Plan
Learn which debts you must pay back when you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Expenses That Can Help You Pass Bankruptcy's Means Test
In some situations, having high expenses in certain categories can help you pass the Chapter 7 bankruptcy means test.
Bankruptcy Exemptions: An Overview
Bankruptcy exemptions play a big role in both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Can I Run Up my Credit Card Balances Before I File Bankruptcy?
If you run up your credit card balances right before filing for bankruptcy, the debt might not be wiped out by your bankruptcy.