Slate and Leoni was a truly unique Los Angeles bankruptcy law firm. The law firm was founded by attorney Hugh Slate in the late 1950’s with his law partner, Andrew F. Leoni. Together, they made bankruptcy law history, representing individuals and small business people. The firm filed approximately 50,000 bankruptcy cases throughout southern California.
I worked at Slate and Leoni as an attorney from 1980 to 1989. So did Jeffrey Wishman and Peter Leotta, who would join me to form Bayer, Wishman & Leotta in 1989.
The workplace at Slate and Leoni was always congenial, and frequently fun. Hugh and Andy each possessed a wonderful sense of humor. However, Hugh was very outgoing, while Andy was more reserved and studious. I’ll share a funny memory.
Andy had a very old, battle scarred brief case. Hugh always made fun of Andy’s brief case, ribbing him about how undignified it was. Andy finally bought a new brief case as a birthday present to himself. He threw the old one away. (Unbeknown to Andy, Hugh fetched the old one out of the trash.) A year later, Hugh had the old brief case gift wrapped. Then, amidst much ceremony, gathered the whole office around to give Andy a birthday present. Andy unwrapped the box, and of course, inside was the old brief case! It was hilarious. This kind of thing went on all all the time.
Always accessible to the young lawyers, Hugh and Andy carefully watched our progress and molded us. They were wonderful legal mentors. The firm fostered a strong sense of loyalty and teamwork. At the end of most work days, the two partners would round up all the lawyers and we would walk over to the L.A. Athletic club to enjoy cocktails and friendship.
If you need to reach Slate and Leoni, contact:
Slate and Leoni
c/o Bayer, Wishman & Leotta
1055 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 1900
Los Angeles, CA 90017
(Call 213-629-8801 to reach former Slate and Leoni attorneys Marcus Tiggs, Jeff Wishman and Leon Bayer.)
The end of Slate & Leoni came around 2001, with the retirement of Mr. Leoni. Mr. Slate had passed away about 10 years earlier. The remaining attorneys of Slate and Leoni at the time of Mr. Leoni’s retirement were Marcus Tiggs and Robert Leon. Marcus Tiggs was the last Managing Partner of Slate and Leoni. When Slate and Leoni closed it’s doors for good, Mr. Tiggs joined Bayer, Wishman & Leotta. Robert Leon worked briefly as a staff lawyer for a chapter 13 trustee, and then he retired. The firm’s remaining cases were transferred to Bayer, Wishman & Leotta for completion. You can still call the Slate & Leoni phone number of 213-629-8801 to obtain information.
Why was Slate and Leoni so unique?
Here’s why. They handled a huge volume of cases. But they did so with zeal, passion, and maintained the highest professional standards. But there was something else. The attorney fees. The firm would file your bankruptcy with no money down, and easy monthly payments. The goal was to gain immediate debt relief for each client. In the firm’s heyday, it employed almost 70 attorneys and other staff. Sometimes the firm would see as many as 100 clients per day.
“Slate and Leoni once stopped a foreclosure sale in less than 1 hour, with a Los Angeles Bankruptcy Case.” – Leon Bayer
You could walk in the door early any morning, and tell Mr. Slate that there was going to be a foreclosure sale of your home later that day. He would grab the necessary lawyers and staff away from whatever they were doing, and put them to work to immediately prepare and file your case. The foreclosure sale of your home would be stopped. All in a matter of a couple of hours. I remember one occasion when we prepared and filed a case, all in less than one hour. Mr. Slate did it just to see if we could do it!
This will give you some perspective. Back in those days, there were no computers. No electronic case filing. That “one hour” bankruptcy case had to be drafted, typed, and have a messenger run the papers to court, all in less than one hour. And the client didn’t pay one dime up front.
Time Magazine took notice of the firm. They ran this story:
Some 188,500 hard-pressed individuals and companies in the U.S. went to court last year to declare themselves bankrupt. This year the total may reach a record 250,000. Nowhere is the business of going bust booming more than it is in that erstwhile capital of easy living, Los Angeles. Personal bankruptcies rose by more than 18% in the L.A. area last year, and they are already up another 48% in 1975. So it is no real surprise that the busiest bankruptcy lawyer in the nation is headquartered in Los Angeles. He is Hugh Slate, 58,…
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The law firm was ground breaking in another respect. Integration. Los Angeles of the late 1950’s and 1960’s was still racially segregated. The firm hired an African American woman named Roberta Brown to be Mr. Leoni’s personal legal secretary. many other African Americans were hired for various other positions. It was unheard of in those days, and a move that was never regretted.
Also, to the memory of my two dynamic mentors, Messrs. Houston H. Slate and Andrew F. Leoni, the founders of that iconic Los Angeles bankruptcy law firm, Slate & Leoni, which was the gold standard for consumer bankruptcy law from the 1950s thru the 1990s;
Video TV ads and poster ad featuring Hugh Slate, of Slate & Leoni.
Slate & Leoni, Los Angeles Bankruptcy Lawyers
Slate & Leoni TV Commercial
Andrew F. Leoni
Vintage Slate and Leoni bus ad poster, circa 1987: