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The Wizard of Bankruptcy Clinics

Friday, June 03, 2005

  • By: R. Fretz
  • Organization: VLSP




Fifth generation San Franciscan Tony Rothschild is a household name around VLSP. And with good reason: Tony's volunteer work with VLSP's Bankruptcy Clinic has made him a sine qua non, in fact, it's safe to say the clinic wouldn't exist without Tony's abiding leadership - he was there at its inception twenty years ago and has been the prime mover ever since.

At the monthly clinic, which serves about 70 clients a year, Tony explains the ins-and-outs of bankruptcy law and what it means to be judgment-proof. His sense of humor and aplomb make his expertise readily accessible to the low-income clients he consults. "People are intimidated by the phone calls they get from creditors," he says. "So I use the story of the wizard behind the curtain in The Wizard of Oz to show that when the curtain is pulled back and there's just a little man on a ladder speaking through a megaphone, we realize that the only power the wizard has is the power we surrender to him. Same thing with phone calls."

In this way, Tony humanizes collections agents. "At some point you just have to tell them you don't have any money," he says. "Turn the conversation around. Ask them where they're from. Tell 'em they've got a terrible baseball team."

Not coincidentally, Tony can be found on the softball field every Wednesday night. "At 61," he says, "I'm the oldest player in the seniors league." Tony has managed a team for 40 straight years and shares season tickets to SBC Park. Dedication, whether it be to softball or volunteering, is a time-honored tradition for Tony. In addition to his continued involvement with VLSP, Tony is a former member of the Board of Directors of The Bar Association of San Francisco, as well, former treasurer of the Barristers Club.

Tony, who is in practice with his wife, Laura Goldin, handles a range of matters such as family law, probate, and Gay and Lesbian rights, and bankruptcy. Despite his full schedule, Tony remains passionate about volunteering, because, he says, "The thank yous, both verbal and written, that you get from volunteer work - you can't put a price tag on it."

Of VLSP, he says, "It matches people who want to give with people who need help. . .and who's to say I don't get just as much help from them?"

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