Chapter 11:This is designed for businesses. Chapter 11 is often referred to as “reorganization bankruptcy” because it gives businesses a chance to stay open while they restructure the business’ debts and assets so it can pay back creditors. This is used primarily by large corporations like General Motors, Circuit City and United Airlines, but can be used by any size business, including partnerships and in some rare cases, individuals. Though the business continues to operate during bankruptcy proceedings, most of the decisions are made with permission from the courts.
A good way to approach the decision of whether to hire a lawyer is to buy (and read) Nolo's book How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. It will give you a good idea of what issues may arise when you file, and flags specific situations when a lawyer's help is called for. It will also give you a good idea of whether the filing process seems to complicated for you.
For companies, formal bankruptcy is a normal effect of insolvency, even if there is a reconstruction mechanism where the company can be given time to solve its situation, e.g. by finding an investor. The formal bankruptcy involves contracting a bankruptcy manager, who makes certain that assets are sold and money divided by the priority the law claims, and no other way. Banks have such a priority. After a finished bankruptcy for a company, it is terminated. The activities might continue in a new company which has bought important assets from the bankrupted company.
Often called "straight bankruptcy" or "simple bankruptcy," a Chapter 7 bankruptcy potentially allows debtors to eliminate most or all of their debts over a period of as little as three or four months. In a typical consumer bankruptcy, the only debts that survive a Chapter 7 are student loans, child support obligations, some tax bills and criminal fines. Credit cards, pay day loans, personal loans, medical bills, and just about all other bills are discharged.