Written by The Business Journal Staff
Peter L Fear, Owner
Fear Law Group, P.C.
What we do:
The firm started in 2004 with me as the only attorney, and we now have three attorneys and four support staff. We do only bankruptcy and insolvency work. We love crafting solutions to difficult financial problems for clients. Clients often walk in the door weighed down by financial problems and walk out with a viable game plan to deal with those problems. We help businesses, farmers, and consumers overcome their debt obstacles, and we file cases under Chapter 7 (liquidation), Chapter 11 (reorganization), Chapter 12 (family farmer payment plan) and Chapter 13 (individual payment plan) of the Bankruptcy Code.
Oak Brook College of Law. Juris Doctor.
My wife’s name is Debra. I have six children from the ages of 11 to 1. Their names are Hannah, Daniel, Caleb, Abigail, Samuel and Ava.
Have bankruptcies started to level off some, Peter?
There was a surge in bankruptcy filing after the 2008 crash, and filings are now down substantially, but I would not call it “leveled off.” A pendulum swing would be a better word picture. In 2007, bankruptcy filings were about 56 percent of the historical average for this federal district. Filings went up substantially ever year thereafter until 2010 when filings were about 175 percent of the historical average. After 2010, bankruptcy filings have been steadily decreasing every year. Last year, filings were about 87 percent of the historical average.
Bankruptcy laws changed in 2005. Did that make it more imperative that consumers work through a knowledgeable attorney, Peter?
The 2005 law definitely increased the need to hire a good bankruptcy lawyer. That law introduced many complicated changes to the Bankruptcy Code, some of which come up in every case, some of which are less frequent. Probably the most well-known consumer issue created by the 2005 law is known as the “means test.” This is a complicated series of calculations used to determine if a debtor can qualify for Chapter 7 or how much should be paid to creditors in a Chapter 13. There are so many complicated issues regarding the means test that new decisions are coming out every year changing certain aspects of the means test. It is important to hire an attorney who keeps up with all of these decisions and can give a debtor up-to-date advice on how to complete these calculations.
What makes your job special and what do you like most about what you do, Peter?
I love when a client comes in with a difficult problem and we can put together a solution that solves the problem. As a bankruptcy attorney, we have a lot of tools in our toolbox to help clients and I love using those tools to accomplish good. When I see a client at the end of a bankruptcy case get the debt discharged, the house payment caught up, a judgment lien removed from a house or the car paid off — that is a good feeling.
I remember one case a few years ago where we reduced the mortgage on a family farm by 67 percent and lowered the mortgage payment significantly. That allowed these family farmers to keep the farm, which was also their home.
How long have you lived in the Fresno area, Peter?
I moved to Fresno in 2000. I worked for another firm doing primarily bankruptcy litigation for four years before starting my own firm. From a relatively young age, I knew that I either wanted to be a computer programmer or a lawyer. I settled on the latter, but I am still somewhat of a “techie” and do some of the IT work for my firm.
What was the best business advice you received? Was there someone who inspired you, Peter?
Roger Magnuson was a friend and mentor who inspired me. He was a senior partner at a large law firm in Minneapolis and was generally regarded as one of the best trial attorneys in the country. At the same time, he pastored an inner city church that focused on the needs of the poor and downtrodden, and he gave of his time to many other ministries and charitable causes. He passed away last year after a short battle with cancer.
I think the best business advice I received was to under-promise and over-perform.
What was your very first job, Peter?
When I was 14 or 15, I worked on a concrete crew for a summer in Florida.
What do you like to do in your spare time? Do you have any hobbies? What kind of entertainment do you enjoy, Peter?
I love to play basketball and tennis. Spending time with my children is my favorite hobby. I enjoy watching college football and basketball, especially March Madness. And in those rare quiet moments, I like reading the Bible, histories and biographies.