About a half million Americans may have filed for bankruptcy protection last week, trying to beat the Oct. 17 deadline when a new, more restrictive bankruptcy law took effect.

The courts were so inundated with petitions that thousands have yet to be recorded, according to Lundquist Consulting Inc., a California financial research firm that reports on case information collected daily from the nation's bankruptcy courts.

Lundquist said there were 205,129 bankruptcy filings as of late last week, nearly double the number posted the previous week. But the company said it anticipated another 300,000 petitions to be recorded this week, reflecting the cases filed on Saturday and Sunday as well as the backlog of paper petitions that were submitted last week but not yet posted.

That would make the total filings in the 10 days before the new bankruptcy law took effect about 500,000, or nearly a third of the total filed in all of 2004. Normally, about 30,000 cases are filed a week.

The new bankruptcy law, long sought by the financial industry, makes it harder and more expensive for people to completely wipe out their debts under Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

This week, bankruptcy lawyers say they are receiving very few queries from financially strapped consumers.