The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault's Guide to Legal Practice Areas.
Andrea Amulic, Associate, and Amanda Parra Criste, Associate—Financial Restructuring and Insolvency
Andrea Amulic is an associate in the Financial Restructuring and Insolvency practice at White & Case in New York. Her practice focuses on bankruptcy and financial restructuring matters, including representation of debtors, creditors, purchasers, and other interested parties in international insolvency proceedings, Chapter 11 and Chapter 15 proceedings, out-of-court workouts, and related transactions.
Amanda Parra Criste is an associate in the firm’s Financial Restructuring and Insolvency practice in Miami. She advises debtors, secured and unsecured creditors, ad hoc groups, and other parties in interest with respect to complex financial restructurings, both in and out of the bankruptcy court. She also has experience advising clients in connection with bankruptcy litigation, Chapter 15 cases, and other cross-border insolvency matters.
Describe your practice area and what it entails.
Andrea: White & Case’s Financial Restructuring and Insolvency practice guides clients through restructurings, workouts, and insolvency matters worldwide. Our practice covers the full stressed and distressed debt continuum, from advising on corporate and financial restructuring transactions to navigating Chapter 11 proceedings, multijurisdictional insolvencies, debtor and creditor-related disputes, and special situations. We work across a wide range of sectors, including the automotive, maritime, oil and gas, entertainment, sovereign, retail & consumer, and health care sectors.
Our group provides strategic advice to stressed and distressed businesses, secured and unsecured creditors, and equity holders. We provide practical solutions that resolve disputes related to business failures to enable companies to continue operating and achieve the highest possible returns on their investments. As counsel to creditors, we negotiate workouts and restructurings, and when litigation becomes necessary, we put into motion strategies and remedies to obtain the greatest recoveries on claims.
What types of clients do you represent?
Amanda: We advise almost every type of restructuring stakeholder, including debtors, distressed investors, ad hoc creditor groups, unsecured creditor committees, key contract counterparties, independent directors, indenture trustees, and administrative and collateral agents.
What types of cases/deals do you work on?
Andrea: I have worked on several deals representing secured lenders in both in- and out-of-court restructurings, ad hoc unsecured noteholder groups, and debtors in both Chapter 11 and Chapter 15 proceedings.
Recently, I have been a core part of the team advising The Hertz Corporation in its global restructuring. In this capacity, I have been involved a wide array of matters, including advising and assisting with respect to the debtors’ obtaining a $1.65 billion DIP financing facility, a cross-border restructuring of certain of Hertz’s English-law governed debt through a scheme of arrangement and Chapter 15 recognition proceeding, the debtors’ use of certain cash collateral and provision of adequate protection in connection therewith, and the debtors’ maintenance and renewal of its various insurance programs.
How did you choose this practice area?
Amanda: For me it was important to find a practice that would leverage my finance and consulting background and that would allow me to work across industries. I did not want to be stuck on the same deals and the same forms. There were aspects of litigation that I liked, like being in court and persuasive writing, but I also did not want to be stuck in discovery mode for months or years. I chose bankruptcy and insolvency because it is not only solution oriented, but also provides a very varied practice, where crafting comprehensive business solutions requires collaboration with other disciplines and, in some cases, litigation.
What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?
Amanda: The best part of the practice is that every case and every day is different. The specific approach and tasks often depend on the client and its role in the case. As a mid-level associate, however, my role straddles the spectrum of work from researching complex issues, drafting pleadings, or working directly with senior associates and partners on developing broader strategies. One common task is reviewing and revising documents (such as proposed orders, Restructuring Support Agreements, or proposed Chapter 11 plans) and elevating key issues to the partners. At my level, involvement in advisor and client calls and meetings becomes greater, which means time management becomes critical. Delegation of research assignments and training has become a much larger part of my role which, in itself, requires critical organization and communication skills.
What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?
Andrea: I would highly recommend taking bankruptcy/restructuring and secured transaction courses, as well as classes on corporations and commercial law. I would also recommend taking a financial accounting course to anyone who does not have a finance or business background. And it remains important to take writing, procedural, and litigation skills courses, as bankruptcy lawyers also need to be strong persuasive writers, and any public-speaking and negotiation-oriented classes are always beneficial.
What is the most challenging aspect of practicing in this area?
Andrea: The most challenging aspect of practicing in this area is also often the most rewarding—it is a constantly unpredictable field. Restructuring is, by definition, focused on problem-solving, and every deal presents different problems than the last. While the unpredictable and reactive nature of the work can often present challenges, it also allows (and requires) practitioners to think creatively and apply novel ideas to addressing each unique situation. So it is difficult to ever feel comfortable, but at the same time, it is also impossible to ever feel bored.
What misconceptions exist about your practice area?
Amanda: I think the biggest misconception about the restructuring field is that it is a niche, specialty area that is monotonous, very U.S. centric, or closes doors to potential alternative career paths. None of these are true, however. Restructuring is truly a generalist practice. It requires both transactional and litigation skills and requires an understanding of many other disciplines, including M&A, capital markets, and finance. More and more, global companies are undergoing global restructurings, which requires working with our colleagues in many other jurisdictions. For example, I have been a part of the team involved with the restructuring of Argentina’s public debt and the debt of certain of its Provinces. In addition, our group is renowned for being involved in some of the most high-profile, Chapter 15 cross-border recognition cases.
What are some typical career paths for lawyers in this practice area?
Amanda: While many perceive bankruptcy practice to be niche and only permit a career path as a bankruptcy practitioner, in reality, having a bankruptcy career can open up several alternative trajectories. Bankruptcy practitioners develop financial and general corporate skills, which can be leveraged to various career paths. In addition to becoming partners at law firms, many bankruptcy lawyers go in-house and become counsel for major investment and hedge funds; others become financial restructuring advisors at top restructuring consulting firms or investment banks.
In what ways has the coronavirus pandemic affected your practice? How have you adjusted to lawyering in the wake of COVID-19?
Andrea: The pandemic has significantly impacted not only the number of Chapter 11 (and global insolvency) cases being filed, but has also altered debtor strategies for restructuring and navigating through bankruptcy. Our practice was extremely busy this past year. Prior to the pandemic, many more companies would file for bankruptcy with a pre-negotiated or pre-packaged deal with their major creditors, allowing for a smooth transition into and quick exit from Chapter 11. Now, however, more and more companies are using the full set of reorganization tools provided by the Bankruptcy Code and commencing Chapter 11 proceedings without pre-negotiated deals. Companies are leveraging bankruptcy tools to gain rent relief, renegotiate the terms of their contracts and debt instruments, and operationally restructure their businesses, given the effects the pandemic has had on many industries.
From a practical perspective, adjusting to working virtually has meant more calls and virtual meetings, rather than in-person meetings, which presents certain challenges when it comes to negotiating but allows for more frequent and direct contact among professionals and principals.