With the economic crisis affecting so many people, our new clients are nearly all people with sudden and severe financial problems and overwhelming debt. Almost all of our time is now devoted to helping clients reduce or eliminate their debt problems and get the fresh start that bankruptcy provides. We serve people from San Jose to Santa Rosa from our Oakland location.
My wife, Marlene Fong, and I have worked together since 1985. We formed our own firm in Oakland/Alameda in 1998 as an estate planning practice, helping clients plan for their futures and avoid problems with inheritances and taxes. Bankruptcy grew naturally out of seeing so many people with financial issues. Many of the same kind of people with homes and businesses are now coming to us for financial help.
A single woman with a well-paying job had to change employers when the company folded, resulting in an income reduction. This left her unable to keep up with the cost of living, maintaining a professional appearance at work, and paying for the reliable car she needed for her long commute. Credit card debt grew to unmanageable levels. We eliminated all of her debt and she is now living without debt and able to meet her expenses through careful budgeting.
A young couple with two small children was unable to pay the bills despite regular work, after a job change and income loss caused by the recession. Like so many Americans they turned to credit cards to close the gap but before long it was too much. We filed a Chapter 7 case for them. They were able to keep their house, keep their car, and eliminate all their credit card debt. We negotiated with the bank to turn over an underwater rental that was costing more than it could earn, dragging the family down. Now they are able to manage their situation and even save due to being freed from past debt and the burden of too many mortgages.
Scholtes & Fong
1300 Clay Street
Oakland CA 94612
We have a free online evaluation and do a 30-minute phone or email consult for no charge, usually to discuss the results of the online questionnaire.
Our flat rate for most Chapter 7 cases is $1,500. Chapter 13 case fees depend on the complexity of the case and how long it will run, typically in the $3,500 to $4,500 range with a retainer of $1,000. We offer payment plans, installment plans, and give a discount to AARP members and clients who come to us through Nolo.
Hourly fees are rare in bankruptcy cases, but when needed our rate is $250 per hour.
Our office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. We are available evenings and weekends and work at least one weekend day most weeks.
We have Cantonese, Mandarin, Spanish and Tagalog speakers available on request.
No other area of the law gives the lawyer the ability to make such a huge difference and produce such a dramatic positive result for the client. Bankruptcy practice is ideal for the small firm or partnership where the client needs the reassurance of ready access to the attorney, and where the attorney wants the direct contact with clients.
Great! I encourage clients to educate themselves about the issues so we can hit the ground running when they come to me for the lawyer stuff. There are wonderful online sources like Nolo, National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA), Cornell and others with reliable and easy to understand information about bankruptcy. I am not at all threatened by the educated client, as long as they let me do the law part and listen to my advice. Really, since bankruptcy is and has to be a close cooperative relationship between attorney and client, the client can help out by understanding what we need to do and why we need to do it. No other area of the law is like this.
If a person is already my client I do review their documents, since the client has to generate the lists of property and other data. I can't take the risk of giving advice to self-represented people, however, since I have no control over the final product but could get blamed for problems in the papers or handling of the case. Plus, my actual clients take up 100% of my time already and I can't short-change them by giving attention to do-it-yourself-ers.
I really cannot coach self-represented people, who could create problems I could be blamed for later. In fact, this has never come up in my practice. Bankruptcy is too complex in most cases for people to successfully navigate the process and get the result they otherwise would be entitled to. Attorney help in bankruptcy is cheap and more than pays for itself, the best bargain in the whole field of law.
By choice, my career as a lawyer has always been with small firms, first in Oakland from 1979 to 1985 involving people injured by dangerous products, then from 1985 to 1998 representing home owners saddled with leaking and poorly built homes, forcing the builders to make repairs. Starting in 1998, Marlene and I have worked together in our own practice, Scholtes and Fong, planning wills and trusts for families and individuals, then guiding the process of distribution after a death. We now do primarily bankruptcy work for consumers and small business owners.
I've been a cannery worker, forklift driver, Sears hardware salesman, and a lot of other things that give me some perspective on life. Thirty-one years' experience as an attorney also gives me some perspective on how to effectively represent clients. Having a young daughter in school and being homeowners in Alameda puts me and Marlene in touch with the community in a very personal way. We have a large stake in the success of our town, region and culture. We see ourselves as making things right, one client at a time.
We are easy to talk to and not at all intimidating. We know that a person calling us with a bankruptcy question may never have talked to a lawyer before and now is revealing personal and sometimes uncomfortable facts about their lives. We like to assure people in financial trouble that there is nothing wrong or immoral with using the laws Congress gave us to let honest people put debt behind them and start anew. We are informal and encourage clients to be open with us as they would be with friends or family. Clients have our cell phone numbers and can reach us seven days a week if need be. We pride ourselves on making the process as easy as possible.Personal interests:
Spending time with our daughter and her activities, reading, gardening, riding bicycles, and trying to keep up with our Brittany puppy on walks.
* Nolo has confirmed that every member attorney has a valid license and is in good standing with the state agency that licenses lawyers. Any past disbarments and suspensions (with possible exceptions for minor violations or nonpayment of dues, in our discretion) will be indicated accordingly in the badge. Member attorneys are required to notify Nolo immediately if they become the subject of any disciplinary action by any state licensing agency.