Bankruptcy litigation

(On Campus Interviews, Summer Associate positions, Firm Reviews, Tips, ...)
Forum rules
Anonymous Posting

Anonymous posting is only appropriate when you are revealing sensitive employment related information about a firm, job, etc. You may anonymously respond on topic to these threads. Unacceptable uses include: harassing another user, joking around, testing the feature, or other things that are more appropriate in the lounge.

Failure to follow these rules will get you outed, warned, or banned.
Hutz_and_Goodman
Posts: 1413
Joined: Mon Apr 30, 2012 10:42 am

Bankruptcy litigation

Postby Hutz_and_Goodman » Sat Jul 06, 2013 10:49 am

I would love to hear any thoughts about this as a practice area. I have no course training in it, but I did some bankruptcy lit work during my SA this summer and enjoyed it. A couple of partners who focus on it are both great people who I liked and they are encouraging. I'm planning to take appropriate course work next year. From what I can tell there aren't a ton of people in this area, but there seem to be interesting issues and both of them said you get a lot of trial experience since the percentage of cases that settle is much smaller than other areas.

Edit: btw I'm asking the forum bc the people I worked with dont have a realistic idea of starting in the field today, since for instance they seemed to think its totally reasonable someone could graduate work at the firm for 6-7 years and then become partner.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273590
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Bankruptcy litigation

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jul 06, 2013 4:41 pm

I work in large(ish) firm bankruptcy litigation on the west coast, and can offer a few thoughts.

1.) Bankruptcy and restructuring bros are kind of a cult. We have our own conventions, and it's a pretty small world where the partners in one firm know all the others. Fortunately, it also seems to be a cult populated by really chill people (as private-sector legal professionals go).

2.) Bankruptcy lit is a lot less specialized than people realize. I sometimes call it "the last generalist practice," when I am in a mood to say pretentious things that make me sound as if I'm blowing myself. You will see all sorts of things play out in adversary proceedings - contract disputes, labor litigation, obviously fraud claims galore, intellectual property stuff, you name it.

3.) This is probably firm-specific to some degree and depends on who your clients are and how much they're willing to litigate, but I definitely take issue with the claim that a lower percentage of bankruptcy adversary proceedings settle than regular cases. I might even say it's just the opposite. Bankruptcy, especially chapter 11 practice, is all about the art of the deal. Both sides know that, as a creditor's attorney, your goal is getting blood from a stone, and so there's a high degree of willingness to play ball and make deals.

4.) The exception to the above would be any kind of nondischargeability proceeding where a jilted ex-spouse gets involved. Those litigate, and litigate, and litigate some more. Also try and avoid those kinds of cases if at all possible.

5.) If you have a business background or even just some business sense, it will go a long way towards helping you in your practice. Just knowing basics like how to discount a payment stream to present value (and what it means to do so) is huge. A lot of bankruptcy lit actually involves setting discount rates.

6.) Finally, caseloads are slowing down a lot post-ITE as things start to get a little better out there. To some degree this doesn't matter since I doubt you're going to be dealing with 7s and 13s, but I think the slowdown has probably affected 11s too. If you get an offer from your current SA job, if at all possible try and do bankruptcy as well as maybe general commercial lit, just so that you're adding value to multiple practice groups and they don't trim you if the work dries up. The flip side of this coin is that being the bankruptcy guy gives you some nice countercyclical job security - if the economy takes another huge dump, guess who's not getting fired?

Anonymous User
Posts: 273590
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Bankruptcy litigation

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jul 06, 2013 4:43 pm

Also, if you get a chance to work on a chapter 9 case, DO IT DO IT DO IT. Probably the most interesting developing area in bankruptcy practice right now is chapter 9.

Hutz_and_Goodman
Posts: 1413
Joined: Mon Apr 30, 2012 10:42 am

Re: Bankruptcy litigation

Postby Hutz_and_Goodman » Sat Jul 06, 2013 4:58 pm

Thanks for this great reply. I just looked up chapter 9 on the web. The partner who made the claim about time in court has had a ton of trial experience and represented many huge corporate entities (if I mentioned them he would be outed). I have a strong math background and some of the things that seem good about this practice area seem to be that it's complex (niche area where expertise might be valuable), as you said it's counter cyclical, and there are varied issues. I'm definitely not planning to pigeonhole myself but I'm thinking if I do bankruptcy lit as well as another area that might be really interesting.

Btw the other thing these partners told me is that bankruptcy lit is an area where associates can get more responsibility earlier. Obviously I wondered if this is true since I'd like more responsibility earlier for a variety of reasons (including exit options).

Anonymous User
Posts: 273590
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Bankruptcy litigation

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jul 06, 2013 5:16 pm

Hutz_and_Goodman wrote:Thanks for this great reply. I just looked up chapter 9 on the web. The partner who made the claim about time in court has had a ton of trial experience and represented many huge corporate entities (if I mentioned them he would be outed). I have a strong math background and some of the things that seem good about this practice area seem to be that it's complex (niche area where expertise might be valuable), as you said it's counter cyclical, and there are varied issues. I'm definitely not planning to pigeonhole myself but I'm thinking if I do bankruptcy lit as well as another area that might be really interesting.

Btw the other thing these partners told me is that bankruptcy lit is an area where associates can get more responsibility earlier. Obviously I wondered if this is true since I'd like more responsibility earlier for a variety of reasons (including exit options).

(I'm the guy from above.)

I'm trying to think of which huge corporate entities you're referring to, and depending on whether you're in NYC, DE or TX I bet I could guess the firm haha. It really is a small world. But yeah, having math expertise is incredibly useful, because a lot of what you are doing in an 11 practice is scrutinizing accounting records, so being able to intuitively make sense of those documents will save everyone time and money and also let you be better at your job.

I'm pretty set on doing bk lit FO LYFE, so I honestly don't have a great idea of what the exit options are like, but I imagine that some good ones would be working for the US Trustee or the SEC. Because of how diverse adversary proceedings are, my guess is that you could spin your experience into any other kind of commercial lit related job, especially if you're coming from a firm with a solid reputation. I do think the thing about more responsibility earlier is true. Every now and again you're going to have to litigate a motion for relief from stay or motion to value, and that's always going to go to someone junior. Plus all of the 523(a)(2)(A) stuff that crops up can often be handled by junior people.

Hutz_and_Goodman
Posts: 1413
Joined: Mon Apr 30, 2012 10:42 am

Re: Bankruptcy litigation

Postby Hutz_and_Goodman » Sat Jul 06, 2013 5:26 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Hutz_and_Goodman wrote:Thanks for this great reply. I just looked up chapter 9 on the web. The partner who made the claim about time in court has had a ton of trial experience and represented many huge corporate entities (if I mentioned them he would be outed). I have a strong math background and some of the things that seem good about this practice area seem to be that it's complex (niche area where expertise might be valuable), as you said it's counter cyclical, and there are varied issues. I'm definitely not planning to pigeonhole myself but I'm thinking if I do bankruptcy lit as well as another area that might be really interesting.

Btw the other thing these partners told me is that bankruptcy lit is an area where associates can get more responsibility earlier. Obviously I wondered if this is true since I'd like more responsibility earlier for a variety of reasons (including exit options).

(I'm the guy from above.)

I'm trying to think of which huge corporate entities you're referring to, and depending on whether you're in NYC, DE or TX I bet I could guess the firm haha. It really is a small world. But yeah, having math expertise is incredibly useful, because a lot of what you are doing in an 11 practice is scrutinizing accounting records, so being able to intuitively make sense of those documents will save everyone time and money and also let you be better at your job.

I'm pretty set on doing bk lit FO LYFE, so I honestly don't have a great idea of what the exit options are like, but I imagine that some good ones would be working for the US Trustee or the SEC. Because of how diverse adversary proceedings are, my guess is that you could spin your experience into any other kind of commercial lit related job, especially if you're coming from a firm with a solid reputation. I do think the thing about more responsibility earlier is true. Every now and again you're going to have to litigate a motion for relief from stay or motion to value, and that's always going to go to someone junior. Plus all of the 523(a)(2)(A) stuff that crops up can often be handled by junior people.


Thanks again--awesome info. I think I will really like practicing law, and the only reason I'm thinking exit options is that big law partnership seems to be almost impossible these days. The firm in question is a major big law presence and you probably would know the people if I said the geographical region and/or firm name.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273590
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Bankruptcy litigation

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jul 06, 2013 5:30 pm

If you're at a V100-ish firm, one thing you can consider as an exit too is going to a smaller-to-midlaw firm with a strong regional reputation for handling bk matters (in most major cities, there are a few 20ish person firms that represent bankruptcy trustees. This isn't super glamorous, but it's really steady income and you won't kill yourself hours-wise.) A lot of the folks at those types of firms are burned out former biglaw associates who want to work more reasonable hours. If you don't mind the hours and want to keep working on big cases, one thing to look at as an exit would be the bankruptcy bouqitues like Pachulski Stang. They do pretty top-shelf work, and they hire pretty much exclusively laterals from other bankruptcy practices.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273590
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Bankruptcy litigation

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jul 06, 2013 5:42 pm

I'm on my way into the bankruptcy group at a big firm. Some good stuff has already been said ITT, but I will add that at big firms with major chapter 11 practices it's not usually referred to as or considered bankruptcy litigation. At some firms most true litigation work, i.e., anything that involves taking discovery or putting on evidence, gets outsourced to the litigation group. In fact, the more senior lawyers seem to pride themselves on being more-or-less transactional attorneys. I assume this is less the case at smaller firms and boutiques.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273590
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Bankruptcy litigation

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jul 06, 2013 6:01 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'm on my way into the bankruptcy group at a big firm. Some good stuff has already been said ITT, but I will add that at big firms with major chapter 11 practices it's not usually referred to as or considered bankruptcy litigation. At some firms most true litigation work, i.e., anything that involves taking discovery or putting on evidence, gets outsourced to the litigation group. In fact, the more senior lawyers seem to pride themselves on being more-or-less transactional attorneys. I assume this is less the case at smaller firms and boutiques.


Also on my way into the bankruptcy group at a big firm in NY (not one of the major practices though). I know filings are down etc., but wondering if anyone has any insight on how busy bankruptcy groups actually are right now.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273590
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Bankruptcy litigation

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jul 06, 2013 6:05 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I'm on my way into the bankruptcy group at a big firm. Some good stuff has already been said ITT, but I will add that at big firms with major chapter 11 practices it's not usually referred to as or considered bankruptcy litigation. At some firms most true litigation work, i.e., anything that involves taking discovery or putting on evidence, gets outsourced to the litigation group. In fact, the more senior lawyers seem to pride themselves on being more-or-less transactional attorneys. I assume this is less the case at smaller firms and boutiques.


Also on my way into the bankruptcy group at a big firm in NY (not one of the major practices though). I know filings are down etc., but wondering if anyone has any insight on how busy bankruptcy groups actually are right now.

In my district, filings are literally half of what they were even a year ago. However, SDNY and D. Del. are different animals, so I can't say for sure how this will impact your workload.

anonymous2012
Posts: 82
Joined: Sat Oct 20, 2012 5:04 pm

Re: Bankruptcy litigation

Postby anonymous2012 » Sat Jul 06, 2013 6:52 pm

From friends, I can say that this is not an easy group to get placed in right now. There is a serious lack of filings across the board right now and a lot of major work which got outsourced to other areas (Lehman, Madoff, etc) is winding down without much in the pipeline (of course that could always change any second).

Anyway, this was a gold mine 4 years ago, but getting work right now isn't terribly easy.

Chapter 11 filings are down over 50% from '09. Tight DIP lending and low cash costs are fueling a lot of that. When rates go up, a lot of people think filings will stabilize, or hopefully even increase if we head into another recession.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273590
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Bankruptcy litigation

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jul 06, 2013 9:25 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I'm on my way into the bankruptcy group at a big firm. Some good stuff has already been said ITT, but I will add that at big firms with major chapter 11 practices it's not usually referred to as or considered bankruptcy litigation. At some firms most true litigation work, i.e., anything that involves taking discovery or putting on evidence, gets outsourced to the litigation group. In fact, the more senior lawyers seem to pride themselves on being more-or-less transactional attorneys. I assume this is less the case at smaller firms and boutiques.


Also on my way into the bankruptcy group at a big firm in NY (not one of the major practices though). I know filings are down etc., but wondering if anyone has any insight on how busy bankruptcy groups actually are right now.


My firm has one of the huge practices. The group is gangbusters right now because they're on some major deals. But it sounds like that's not representative. I wouldn't worry too much though because I believe it's common for bankruptcy associates to do corporate work when the market is slow.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273590
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Bankruptcy litigation

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jul 07, 2013 8:17 am

I'm a bankruptcy clerk ending a 2 year clerkship in a non-NY, DE, TX state. Filings are extremely slow and work is down. Networking for a bankruptcy job is like going to a funeral. A ton of bankruptcy attorneys are looking for jobs and no one is hiring. I'm barred in multiple states, so I'm looking across a 3 state area, fwiw. YMMV, but if you aren't already in bankruptcy, I don't think it's a viable practice to get into right now.




Return to “Legal Employment”

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.