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Bankruptcy / Restructuring

Overview

Bankruptcy and restructuring lawyers represent debtors, creditors, equity interest holders, and other entities that may be interested in a business (such as a prospective acquirer) that is confronting financial difficulties. The practice can involve out-of-court negotiations to restructure a company’s financial affairs without the intervention of a court or bankruptcy reorganization litigation; there are practitioners who focus on either one of these aspects and others whose practices encompass both. Likewise, there are firms that specialize in representing creditors, others that focus on the representation of debtors, and broad practices that do both. Lawyers are often drawn to restructuring work to straddle the business and litigation sides. Bankruptcy involves an arcane set of rules that can take a long time to master. There are limited in-house positions for bankruptcy attorneys, so much of the practice is in a law firm setting. The practice is counter-cyclical—bankruptcy lawyers are most in demand in down markets. A clerkship at a federal bankruptcy court can be helpful, especially for those more interested in the litigation side rather than restructuring transactions. Some bankruptcy practitioners also earn an LL.M. in bankruptcy at some point in their careers.

Featured Q&A's
Get an insider's view on working in Bankruptcy / Restructuring from real lawyers in the practice area.
Naomi Moss, Partner • Chance Hiner, Associate—Bankruptcy & Restructuring
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

Naomi: Financial restructuring is a dynamic and complex practice that includes both transactional and litigation work. Akin's Financial Restructuring practice has an international reputation for representing significant business entities requiring financial reorganization or advice in connection with debt restructurings. We have represented creditors’ committees and secured creditors in hundreds of major restructurings. We have also represented well-known companies in their chapter 11 proceedings. Creditors and debtors alike turn to our team to devise creative solutions that bridge competing interests and help our clients achieve their goals.

Chance: Financial restructuring is a complex practice. In the simplest form, financial restructuring revolves around bankruptcy. In practice, financial restructuring encompasses all things related to distressed debt, including distressed mergers and acquisitions, debt exchanges, and other out-of-court arrangements between distressed companies and such companies’ major creditor constituencies. 

What types of clients do you represent?

Naomi: I have played leading roles representing ad hoc committees of funded debt holders in some of the most complex chapter 11 cases, including Frontier Communications, Inc.’s $17 billion balance sheet restructuring, and Sungard Availability Services—the fastest-resolved case ever in the Southern District of New York.In Sungard, I co-led the representation of a crossover group of secured and unsecured lenders in negotiations with the company, which resulted in “prepackaged” chapter 11 cases. In May 2019, Sungard filed for chapter 11 seeking to (i) reduce its debt by $800+ million and (ii) obtain $100 million of new liquidity. The plan was confirmed and Sungard emerged a mere 19 hours later. In addition to representing informal lender groups, I have played leading roles counseling official committees of unsecured creditors, including most recently in Diamond Offshore Drilling, Inc.’s free-fall chapter 11 cases resulting in 100% recovery for general unsecured creditors. I also represented the official committee of unsecured creditors in iHeart Media’s chapter 11 cases. I have also represented chapter 11 debtors, including, but not limited to, GTT Communications, Inc. and Sanchez Energy.

Chance: I have advised an ad hoc group of bondholders of CSI Compressco LP in connection with the company's exchange offer for certain newly issued notes; represented Martin Midstream Partners L.P. and one of its subsidiaries in the restructuring of their 7.25% Unsecured Notes due 2021, which involved an out-of-court exchange offer and tender offer and the contemporaneous solicitation of votes on a prepackaged plan of reorganization; represented Texas-based Hospital Acquisition in their chapter 11 bankruptcy cases; and, represented the Restructuring Committee of Remington Outdoor Company, Inc. and certain of its affiliates in connection with the development, structuring and implementation of a restructuring of the company and its affiliates.

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

Naomi: I work on a mix of in- and out-of-court restructurings.  Depending on the representation, our involvement may commence with pre-bankruptcy planning or negotiations and continue through post-commencement of chapter 11 cases. All my matters involve restructurings of corporations across different sectors, and differ depending on whether the company is seeking to effectuate an operational or financial restructuring. 

Chance: Debtors, official and unofficial committees of unsecured creditors, secured creditors, debtor-in-possession lenders, hedge funds and acquirers of businesses and assets in Chapter 11 cases of all sizes and complexity, as well as in connection with out-of-court restructurings. 

How did you choose this practice area?

Naomi: I served as an intern to the Honorable Robert E. Gerber, Bankruptcy Judge for the Southern District of New York while I was in law school. That experience—in particular, the fast-paced nature of cases and interplay of different areas of law—pushed me to love the practice area. I went on to get an LL.M. in bankruptcy after I received my J.D.  

Chance: In law school, I was lucky enough to have a federal bankruptcy judge as a mentor, and was also lucky enough to clerk for him after graduating law school. The subject matter always kept me intrigued and engaged, and after constant exposure to the practice and seeing what it entails, I knew it would be a good fit. 

What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?

Naomi: The tasks I perform vary depending on the stages of the cases I am working on and the particular needs of those cases.  For example, when I represent an ad hoc group in the early stages of a restructuring, my tasks often involve getting up to speed with respect to information regarding the company in question and working with the clients to develop potential restructuring alternatives. When I represent a company, there is a lot more administrative work and contingency planning. Given that this is an emergency-driven practice, there are no “typical” days and I regularly need to shift focus to address time-sensitive issues that arise.

Chance: It is fast moving practice with ever-changing circumstances, so the answer is that it depends.  A lot of emails, phone calls, and Zooms to make sure the deal is still moving along. There will often be side research projects, or sometimes you are tasked with drafting a substantive pleading. It could be that you have to coordinate hearings, and other times you have to prepare to present in court. I think the day to day really depends on the particular deal you are on, the people you are working with, the timeframe, and a whole host of other factors that will drive the deal and the work streams involved.

What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?

Naomi: Doing an internship for a federal bankruptcy judge was a tremendous experience for me. It helped me to understand the “big picture” perspective of each matter. Financial restructuring is a unique practice in that a broad range of skill sets are utilized, allowing attorneys to develop their own practice styles. Thus, most of the necessary skill sets will be developed on the job itself. 

Chance: At a minimum, take a bankruptcy course in law school. And as a benefactor, I speak very highly of the bankruptcy clerkship experience. But there are plenty of self-learning opportunities that are much more accessible—browse articles on current trends, read law review articles, skim the Bankruptcy Code, or attend a seminar or CLE program. I also think it is helpful to talk to a practitioner, and much of what I have learned is from being in the same air-space as other attorneys in this practice.

What do you like best about your practice area?

Naomi: The interplay of many different areas of law. This is unique to financial restructuring and keeps it interesting. It is a dynamic practice that is extremely fast paced. This allows young attorneys to develop early and truly make an impact.    

Chance: The people. That starts first with colleagues at Akin, which I cannot say enough good things about, but also extends to all others in this practice. The financial restructuring community is surprisingly small—seeing the same people over and over lends to meaningful professional relationships and, for the most part, cordial dealings.

What misconceptions exist about your practice area?

Naomi: That filing for chapter 11 is a bad thing.  

Chance: That bankruptcy is bad. It is a common misconception, but bankruptcy is a useful tool that distressed companies can use that results in favorable outcomes for not only the company itself, but many of the other parties involved.  Bankruptcy provides a collective forum to strike mutually beneficial deals in spite of dire circumstances, and I think the stigma around bankruptcy is misplaced.

What is unique about your practice area at your firm?

Naomi: What is most unique about financial restructuring is the ability for practitioners to set their own course. It is not a “cookie cutter” practice. As a result, young lawyers, like myself, have the ability to promote their own practice style and shine as individuals. I truly believe that this is unique to this practice area and allows younger lawyers to make names for themselves amongst the giants in the industry. The Financial Restructuring practice at Akin is especially unique due to the collaborative nature of our matters, which typically involve multiple practice groups across the firm. Because we staff leanly and rely on our deep bench of attorneys, junior attorneys are often given the opportunity to play lead roles on high profile restructuring matters. Given the expedited pace of restructuring matters and the collaborative nature of the financial restructuring practice at Akin, all of our cases truly are team efforts.  

Chance: Our Financial Restructuring practice touches every other practice group. Financial restructuring is a practice that manages to touch on every major sector of the law—corporate, litigation, tax, labor, regulatory, etc. Deals often involve several different teams from several different practice groups all coordinating together to reach the desired outcome.

How do you see this practice area evolving in the future?

Naomi: I see a continued focus on prepackaged restructurings that reduce the amount of time a company spends in chapter 11. Given the significant costs attendant to most Chapter 11 cases, negotiating the terms in advance can save both time and money.

Chance:  Hard to say. I think financial restructuring is such a unique practice that it will continue to evolve out ahead of everything else. But what that looks like will most likely be driven by the market and its cyclical nature—financial restructuring is an adaptive practice meant to handle the ebbs and flows of the market and will continue to evolve in a dynamic way to accommodate market demands.

Naomi Moss focuses on in- and out-of-court restructurings, with an emphasis on bondholder committees and creditors’ committees in large, complex cases. Naomi represents debtors, official and unofficial committees of unsecured creditors, secured lender groups, debtor-in-possession lenders, institutional investors, hedge funds and acquirers of businesses and assets. Naomi served as an intern to the Honorable Robert E. Gerber, former United States Bankruptcy Judge for the Southern District of New York.

 

Chance Hiner is an associate in the firm’s financial restructuring practice. Prior to joining Akin Gump, he was a law clerk to the Honorable Harlin D. Hale in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Texas. Chance’s practice focuses on financial restructuring matters. He represents debtors, official and unofficial committees of unsecured creditors, secured creditors, debtor-in-possession lenders, hedge funds and acquirers of businesses and assets in Chapter 11 cases of all sizes and complexity, as well as in connection with out-of-court restructurings.

Jeff Michalik, Partner • Aparna Yenamandra, Partner
Kirkland & Ellis

Describe your practice area and what it entails. 

Jeff: Restructuring encompasses a huge range of cases and transactions. The common thread is usually some level of distress—whether that’s too much debt, a liquidity crisis, burdensome litigation, operational inefficiencies, or a combination of the above. When a company enters a distressed situation, a debtor lawyer needs to be the steady hand, applying experience and creative solutions to a situation where the client has little experience, multiple stakeholder groups are at odds, and tensions are extremely high.

Aparna: Restructuring is a dynamic practice that has both transactional elements and litigation elements. Among others, we represent companies, creditors of distressed companies, and funds looking to potentially invest in the distressed space. Our practice is primarily focused on deal-making and contingency planning to allow companies to either avoid a chapter 11 altogether or ensure their stay in chapter 11 is as expeditious and successful as possible.

What types of clients do you represent? 

Jeff: The fortunate/unfortunate reality is businesses all over the world are potential restructuring clients. It makes for a very diverse practice. For example, I’ve split days between representing a U.S.-based women’s clothing retailer and a U.K.-based offshore drilling company. I’ve also represented oil and gas companies, energy infrastructure and engineering companies, a “safety net” hospital company, a paper company, a chemical manufacturer, and even a Croatian grocery store chain.

Aparna: In the U.S., our practice is approximately 75-80% company side and 20-25% creditor/investor side. In London, Munich, and Hong Kong, it is the reverse, although our offices in the U.S. and internationally are fully integrated. We represent the largest and most complex clients and are industry agnostic. During my time at Kirkland, there have been waves of restructurings in various industries: oil and gas, retail, telecom, health, and most recently, crypto. Among other large clients, we have represented Rite Aid, Intelsat, J.C. Penney, and Energy Future Holdings.

What types of cases/deals do you work on? 

Jeff: We typically work on deals that range from out-of-court liability management to comprehensive in-court restructurings and everything in between (including out-of-court restructurings and refinancings).  

Aparna: As a group, we largely prepare companies for an expeditious stay in chapter 11. We work hard to negotiate consensus with as many creditor constituencies as possible, but we are prepared to litigate where necessary. We advise companies on out-of-court deleveraging transactions (e.g., a debt-for-equity swap, an amendment and extension of debt facilities, and/or sale transactions). I’ve spent much of my time with Kirkland on Energy Future Holdings, which was the third-largest operational filing in history. Since then, I have worked on several high-profile matters. Across all these representations, I have touched a range of industries, creditor constituencies, and complex and novel implementation and structuring issues.

How did you choose this practice area? 

Jeff: Nobody grows up thinking they want to be a restructuring lawyer; I found this practice area essentially by accident. My 1L summer, I knew I wanted to extern with a judge. I ended up with an offer from a bankruptcy court despite a lack of prior experience or interest in the field. My first day on the job, the judge’s clerk gave me a crash course in “everything you need to know about bankruptcy law,” and it immediately clicked. I was hooked, and I never really looked back.

Aparna: I liked that restructuring has a mix of litigation and corporate elements and that we can help companies during what is typically a high-stress time for them. The job is equal parts classic IQ and strong EQ, as we are advising tier one management teams at a pivotal time in the life of their companies. Helping to reorganize a company, stabilize its operations, save jobs, and “keep the lights on” is hugely satisfying. There are real people with real jobs and livelihoods that depend on a successful restructuring outcome, and that is both humbling and rewarding. I also appreciate that the practice affords an opportunity to both sit at the negotiating table and present arguments in court, providing a very comprehensive experience.

What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform? 

Jeff: No two days are the same in restructuring, but it’s always a mix of Zoom meetings and phone calls, a healthy dose of email, and drafting/revising of memos, pleadings, letters, etc. Restructuring lawyers at Kirkland are both transactional lawyers and litigators; you could finalize a Transaction Support Agreement and then stand up in court to defend it in front of a judge that same day.

Aparna: I have been at Kirkland for just over 11 years; a typical day for me at this stage is a mix of fielding questions from a senior management team and board members, navigating complex deal or litigation issues both internally with other Kirkland practice groups or with creditor constituencies, and, as needed, preparing for court. I am also constantly staying in communication with my co-advisors (within and outside of Kirkland) to ensure that we are working together as cohesively as possible.

What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area? 

Jeff: I’d always recommend Bankruptcy, Secured Transactions, Business Organizations, and some form of tax, which is relevant to every practice area. Experience-wise, you can get a ton of value from sitting in a bankruptcy court and watching a judge field their way through a day’s docket. You’ll get a feel for how pragmatic bankruptcy and restructuring lawyers must be when they’re working through complex legal issues with real-world (often urgent) consequences.

Aparna: While in law school, take a broad base of classes touching on business organizations, evidence, federal tax, accounting, trial advocacy, and legal writing. A secured transactions class may also be helpful to understand bankruptcy basics. An opportunity to clerk with a bankruptcy judge could also be beneficial to understanding restructuring from the bench’s perspective. All that said, Kirkland offers a wealth of training sessions on key topics, and nothing beats on-the-job training.

What is unique about your practice area at your firm? 

Jeff: Kirkland’s restructuring group is heavily debtor focused, which is rare in BigLaw. You’ll find yourself working on a wide variety of matters for clients in an array of industries—ideally, never with the same client twice. It contributes to an atmosphere where you’re always learning, and you’re almost always working to save companies and jobs. It adds a layer of real-world significance and opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives that isn’t prevalent in most other areas or firms in BigLaw.

Aparna: Kirkland’s restructuring practice is a young, highly energized group that has grown quickly and continues to grow but retains a small group feel. The group leaders are laser focused on ensuring that young lawyers have opportunities as early as possible, maximizing the group’s diversity, and encouraging a healthy work-life balance. Our cases are generally staffed leanly, reducing the layers between the senior partners and most junior associates, providing ample opportunity for more substantive work earlier. 

How do you see this practice area evolving in the future? 

Jeff: In the time I’ve been at Kirkland, we’ve seen a rapid rise in liability management transactions. I think we’ll see a continued increase in these types of deals where companies work together with a supportive group of their stakeholders earlier in the process to maximize the going-concern value of the company by injecting crucial liquidity to extend runways or bridge to orderly restructuring processes.

Aparna: Ten years ago, this was a relatively small industry somewhat unprepared for the waves of restructurings necessitated by technological advances and, most recently, COVID. As restructurings become more commonplace, I think companies will increasingly see deleveraging as a positive rather than focusing on the negative press of a chapter 11. This will hopefully facilitate companies approaching restructuring professionals earlier, increasing the likelihood of out-of-court solutions. 

What kinds of experience can summer associates gain in this practice area at your firm? 

Jeff: Summer associates can expect to work directly with practicing restructuring attorneys on active client matters. In addition to substantive work, there are a ton of shadowing opportunities where summer associates will get a front-row seat to the top lawyers doing some of the best restructuring work in the world.

Aparna: Shadow, shadow, shadow! The best way to know if you want to be a restructuring lawyer is to see what we do. Summer associates should take advantage of every opportunity to sit in on calls, go to bankruptcy court hearings, go to bankruptcy settlement conferences, and familiarize themselves with what key bankruptcy documents look like. They should also spend time with associates and partners at different levels. For me, it was key to spend time with (and shadow) junior associates, senior associates, income partners, and share partners to see if I could see myself doing their job one day. 

What advice do you have for navigating the multidisciplinary nature of bankruptcy practice? 

Jeff: Always ask questions and be hungry to learn. Give yourself the opportunity to succeed by trying to understand the “why” of what you’re working on and where it fits into the broader deal. That’s not easy to do, and it takes time. But if you commit to that, it’ll make you a better lawyer today than you were yesterday.

Aparna: Learn from your peers in other practice groups: the goal is not to become an expert in other practice groups, but to be able to spot issues that other specialists should weigh in on. I consider myself a little bit of a tax, debt, capital markets, and litigation expert, to an extent where I know when to raise my hand and ask for help from the experts. Being at the center of it all is an exciting and perfect way to learn what everyone else does.

Jeff Michalik and Aparna Yenamandra, Partners—Restructuring

Jeff Michalik is a restructuring partner in the Chicago office of Kirkland & Ellis, where he represents debtors and creditors in a variety of complex in- and out-of-court restructuring matters. Jeff received a B.S. in Psychology (with Honors) from Loyola University Chicago and graduated magna cum laude from IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. Jeff was a summer associate at Kirkland in 2016, returned as a full-time associate in the restructuring group after graduating from law school in 2017, and recently made partner in fall 2023. 

Aparna Yenamandra is a restructuring partner in the New York office of Kirkland & Ellis. She advises companies and creditors with investments in distressed companies across a host of industries, including oil and gas, retail, and software. She advises companies in connection with chapter 11 filings and out-of-court deleveraging solutions and creditors in connection with distressed investments and sale transactions. Aparna received her Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Political Science from New York University and her J.D. from Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law.

Dennis F. Dunne, Partner • Nelly Almeida, Partner—Financial Restructuring
Milbank

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

We advise debtors, creditors, private equity sponsors, and other major parties in all aspects of traditional chapter 11 bankruptcy cases, out-of-court restructurings, and cross-border insolvency matters. We also assist our clients in structuring high-risk loans; facilitate the purchase and sale of financially distressed companies; and represent clients in all types of chapter 11 litigation, including defending or prosecuting challenges to complex transactions, such as leveraged buyouts. The multidisciplinary nature of our practice requires us to work very closely with our colleagues in our Corporate Finance and Securities, Real Estate, Litigation & Arbitration, Intellectual Property, and Tax groups on a regular basis. Our restructuring attorneys in the U.S. and London also collaborate with our attorneys in Germany, Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and São Paulo to address complex issues arising in our international insolvency matters. 

What types of clients do you represent?

We represent high-profile clients involved in many of the largest and most complex restructuring cases that have taken place over the past decades, including Celsius Network, AMC Entertainment, Envision Healthcare Corp., Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), PG&E, Avianca, Intelsat, Guitar Center, and Cirque du Soleil. Representations include official and informal creditor groups, as well as many of the world’s largest financial institutions interested in providing credit to chapter 11 debtors and acquiring or selling financially distressed companies. We also represent companies facing a distressed situation and boards of directors in a variety of industries and jurisdictions in the U.S. and abroad as they navigate through financial crisis. 

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

Our practice consists of the most complex, cutting-edge restructuring work in the country. Whether it is advising clients on novel financing structures (which won our group a Top 20 Most Innovative Law Firm award from the Financial Times) or navigating the political currents in large cases such as Puerto Rico or PG&E, our team will be engaged in primary roles in virtually every large restructuring. We represent debtors, creditors, official creditor committees, private equity sponsors, and purchasers of distressed assets. Representing secured and unsecured creditors, sponsors, and debtors in chapter 11 cases and out-of-court workouts in the U.S. and internationally, our engagements have ranged across an array of industries. 

How did you choose this practice area?

Dennis: While a summer associate, I rotated through the Litigation and Corporate departments. There were elements of each that I liked (courtroom advocacy and negotiating deals) and elements I disliked (bates-stamping documents and interminable due diligence). During my third year of law school, I worked in the Financial Restructuring group of a law firm. I found that financial restructuring and chapter 11 work involved the best of each practice area without the undesirable (but necessary) aspects of either.

Nelly: I was a summer associate at the height of the aftermath of the financial crisis, so summering in the Financial Restructuring group was a no brainer. I enjoyed the work the group did for many of the same reasons that Dennis mentioned. Most notably, I was drawn to the variety of the work—both in terms of cases and issues that the lawyers handled and also in terms of the day-to-day assignments. That variety continues to be what keeps the practice interesting.

What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?

Dennis: From arguing in court and advising a board of directors to creating new and innovative structural solutions, I would say one of the most rewarding things about this practice is that there is no typical day. Everything we do is bespoke, and it’s rewarding and challenging. 

Nelly: On any deal we do, I think of restructuring lawyers as being the deal quarterbacks, who have to not only be aware of everything going on in the deal, but be ready to make the key strategy decisions quickly as issues come up. We are constantly working through the different pieces of the puzzle to put it all together within the confines of the bankruptcy courts. The variety is what makes it interesting. We’re thought leaders, constantly balancing limitations, the bankruptcy code, and unique circumstances for each client to figure out solutions—often in a tight timeframe. 

What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?

Dennis: Explore all areas of law in law school. Wherever you follow the course book, you’ll end up using in this practice. Although not crucial to being successful in the practice, any courses on bankruptcy, secured transactions, or anything that teaches you how to negotiate contracts would be helpful. 

Nelly: I don’t think there is a particular class that is required, though, of course, some can be helpful, including Corporate Tax, Securities Regulation, Secured Transactions, and Bankruptcy. I think what is important is the ability to stay organized and focused on the various issues that may impact your deal. 

What is the most challenging aspect of practicing in this area?

Dennis: The path to a successful restructuring can be tricky. There are often a variety of actors and interests involved, as well as various legal considerations to take into account. A successful restructuring requires an in-depth understanding of a company’s challenges. As a result, restructuring attorneys must not only understand the applicable business, but also be proficient in many areas of the law. Because every company has a unique set of problems, we are not a form-based practice. No finite set of documents or a delineated universe of precedents guides our work. We are truly the last of the “generalists.”

What do you like best about your practice area?

Nelly: What attracted me to bankruptcy and restructuring, and what I continue to enjoy, is that there is no one-size-fits-all aspect to it. There is always something new and different to learn—and an opportunity to structure innovative solutions. I would also add that as an associate, bankruptcy afforded me the unique opportunity to work with attorneys in other practice groups, including M&A, Corporate Finance and Securities, and Litigation, which was invaluable for my career development. I have also been able to work on a number of cross-border deals that add to the variety and excitement.

What misconceptions exist about your practice area?

Dennis: People have the misimpression that restructuring and bankruptcy is a niche practice. To the contrary, it is one of the last bastions of general practice and pure lawyering. Financial restructuring is often the broadest practice area of any department in a large firm, as it involves knowledge of a variety of departments. Bankruptcy is undoubtedly a hybrid litigation and transactional practice. Its transactional aspect spans many areas, each of which often constitutes its own department within a firm. For instance, on any given day, lawyers in the group may negotiate bank deals and related documents, distressed M&A transactions, or transactions that entail bond debt. We also negotiate and help craft the key aspects of the charter and by-laws for reorganized companies. The practice area is vast and never boring. 

What is unique about your practice area at your firm?

Whether we are in economic booms or swoons, you couldn’t be in a better practice because we are always busy. Naturally, in a downturn or during a pandemic, the practice can be unusually busy. However, because Milbank has a first-rate Restructuring practice that often handles some of the largest, most complex situations, we are uniquely positioned to have attorneys from other groups—Corporate, Corporate Finance and Securities, and Litigation—that often advise on restructuring matters and are, therefore, able to provide tremendous support during a downturn. More companies are recognizing the benefits to restructuring as a preferred commercial path for a company that is over levered, even during market climbs—there is always an industry going through its own unique headwinds that requires restructuring. 

Dennis F. Dunne is a partner in the New York office of Milbank LLP, a member of the firm’s Global Executive Committee, and head of the firm’s Financial Restructuring group. With over 30 years of experience, Mr. Dunne is one of the leading bankruptcy and restructuring lawyers in the nation.

Nelly Almeida is a partner in the Financial Restructuring group at Milbank LLP. Ms. Almeida represents various stakeholders in both in- and out-of-court domestic and international corporate restructurings and distressed financings and acquisitions. She has advised on some of the most high-profile cases in the country.

Alice Belisle Eaton, Deputy Chair of the Restructuring Department • Sean A. Mitchell, Partner—Restructuring
Paul, Weiss

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

Alice: Our restructuring practice is quite broad. We describe ourselves as restructuring lawyers, not bankruptcy lawyers—an important distinction. We don’t just handle bankruptcy court proceedings; we take a holistic view of a company’s challenges—whether it’s helping a company get consent to change its capital structure, addressing systemic business problems, dealing with chapter 11 issues, or assisting with a refinancing offer. We also assist investors on various transactions. Our practice is unique in that it is evenly split between representing debtors in both in-court and out-of-court restructurings, and representing linchpin creditor groups and sponsors.

Sean: As a restructuring lawyer, you’re fundamentally a problem solver. Generally, there is an issue or problem with a company, and many different constituents need to come together to reach a solution to the problem. Typically, the problem is that the company owes more money than it can pay—perhaps because it borrowed too much, it had involuntary creditor claimants, revenue fell off, or some other reason. Our job is to help clients assess potential problems or possible investment opportunities within this arena. The work is highly multi-disciplinary, so we often collaborate across practices—from M&A to securities—to reach the best solutions for our clients.

What types of clients do you represent?

Alice: We represent companies that are distressed and facing challenges, and we also represent investors in distressed businesses; my practice is split 50/50. An example of a company-side matter is our representation of Revlon, which emerged from bankruptcy last year after facing capital structure issues and operational challenges. On the creditor side, we represent mostly ad hoc groups of creditors, including institutional investors and mutual fund managers, as well as alternative asset managers and more opportunistic credit investors. For example, we represented key creditor groups in the restructurings of two pharmaceutical companies, Mallinckrodt and Endo Pharmaceuticals.

Sean: At Paul, Weiss, we advise on all sides of restructuring matters—both company-side and creditor-side—so my practice is quite diverse. I represent major companies on their most critical restructuring issues, as well as investors and acquirers who are focused on buying companies, engaging in mergers and acquisitions, or completely unwinding companies in distress. I also represent governmental entities that have an interest in distressed entities.

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

Sean: The Paul, Weiss Restructuring Department has served as a critical advisor on almost every major headline-grabbing restructuring matter, including three of the five largest restructurings in 2023. It’s a truly varied practice mix, including transactional and litigation aspects—and it spans industries. Some recent examples of the department’s work include representing Revlon, Diamond Sports Group, and Party City in their respective chapter 11 cases; California Public Utilities Commission in the chapter 11 cases of PG&E Corporation, the largest public utility in U.S. history to file for bankruptcy; an ad hoc group of creditors in the restructuring of Rite Aid Corporation; and an ad hoc group of creditors in the restructuring of Western Global Airlines. 

Alice: The types of matters we work on really run the gamut because we work across industries and gain a lot of specialized knowledge. Over the course of my career, I have worked on matters relating to the financial services, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, automotive, energy, and consumer products industries—to name a few. Our work is always interesting.

How did you choose this practice area?

Sean: I became interested in restructuring after taking a bankruptcy course in law school and learning about the Bankruptcy Code. The Code sets a backdrop for everything we do, and I liked that there was a starting point for the work and analyses. After working in Paul, Weiss’s Restructuring Department as a summer associate, I was hooked. I had the opportunity to work with the best and brightest lawyers on cutting-edge solutions to complex problems. It was challenging and exhilarating to face seemingly intractable problems and try to find a solution. I returned to the firm as a restructuring associate and have grown my career here since, becoming a partner in 2023.

Alice: My path is not typical because I entered law school knowing I wanted to pursue a career in restructuring. I have a family member in the field, so I was exposed to the work early on. In particular, I was struck by how much restructuring lawyers loved their work and especially relished the challenges and the problem-solving aspects of their practice. I decided I wanted to be part of that, and I haven’t looked back. The restructuring community is really tightly knit, and the lawyers in this area tend to be motivated, enthusiastic, and passionate about what they do.

What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?

Alice: There’s not a lot of commonality in my day to day because it is really driven by the specific matters on my plate and client demands. I spend most of my time interacting with clients, providing advice, solving the problems before us, and trying to anticipate future issues clients may face. I then work directly with our team to determine how to tackle the various tasks at hand—whether that’s conducting analyses, fielding client inbounds, negotiating, or doing other strategic work.

Sean: Like Alice, a good chunk of my day is spent on calls with clients, listening to their concerns, understanding their goals, and interpreting recent developments in the courts to help them make more informed decisions. I split my time between litigation and transactional work, reviewing and preparing filings and transactional documents. I dedicate a significant amount of time to strategic planning, considering what recommendations to make to our clients so they can meet their goals. My days also include time for client relationship building, which may involve lunches or dinners with prospective clients.

What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?

Alice: A standard bankruptcy course is definitely helpful to gain a foundation. Bankruptcy seminars are also useful because you get to dig deeper into the legal dynamics of bankruptcy. I also think a course in secured transactions is useful to prepare for the negotiation aspect of the practice. In addition, I recommend that law students take advantage of shadowing opportunities while they are summer associates; observing more senior lawyers in action will give you a sense of the bigger picture, so you can understand how your work fits.

What do you like best about your practice area?

Alice: I’m a problem solver by nature, and I really enjoy the challenges of this practice. I’ve been working in restructuring for 25 years, and I can’t see myself doing anything else or finding the same gratification I get from rolling up my sleeves and trying to reach the best outcome for our clients.

Sean: I echo Alice; the challenges are my favorite part. I really enjoy some of the esoteric or really bespoke situations that we handle at Paul, Weiss. I also like the negotiations we work on because they’re focused on problem solving; it’s satisfying to reach a conclusion that is mutually beneficial to everyone.

What is unique about your practice area at your firm?

Alice: We are among a small handful of law firms that represent all parties in a bankruptcy, whether it’s a company, creditor, secured creditor, unsecured creditor, convertible noteholder, sponsor, or acquirer of distressed businesses. Our practice is exceptionally varied, and we practice at the highest level. Also, our team is phenomenal—from our partners all the way down to the most junior associates—and we share a common mantra that we do our best when we work together.

What are some typical tasks that a junior lawyer would perform in this practice area?

Sean: On the litigation side, junior lawyers become micro subject matter experts. It’s their job to take a deep dive: research, think about the issues, write memos, etc. They have perspective that no one else on the team has, which is invaluable. I often debate the junior associates on some of the issues and talk through the nuances with them because they have so much knowledge to offer. On the transactional side, junior associates also do a deep dive, looking at precedents and drafting agreements, creating first drafts of nondisclosures, drafting responses, and more. Junior lawyers also keep the schedule of deadlines, which is absolutely critical. In addition, junior associates at Paul, Weiss frequently interact with clients and are key in helping us develop client relationships. I also firmly believe that a big part of a junior associate’s job is to learn; they should observe senior lawyers, shadow them, and develop their own style over time.

What advice do you have for navigating the multidisciplinary nature of bankruptcy practice?

Sean: Ask questions. I even do this as a partner. Learn from more senior restructuring lawyers and from specialists in other disciplines. As a restructuring lawyer, there are amazing opportunities to develop your knowledge in many different areas of law and to learn how those areas impact restructuring. Explore why we are taking certain steps or approaching a matter in a particular way.

Alice: Be open-minded to the different types of work you can do within restructuring. The breadth of this practice is incredible, and if you are willing to try different types of work, you will be exposed to a range of corporate transactions and litigation, which will help you figure out what you enjoy doing most. Also, develop client relationships early, especially with peers at the client. These relationships can help you learn more about their work and their perspectives.

Deputy Chair of Paul, Weiss’s Restructuring Department, Alice Eaton advises creditor and debtor clients in corporate reorganizations and bankruptcies, with a focus on post-petition financings, exit financings, and related transactions. Alice was named as one of Law360’s “Bankruptcy MVPs” in both 2023 and 2021, and she was recognized as a 2022 “Outstanding Restructuring Lawyer” by Turnarounds & Workouts. She received her J.D. from New York University School of Law and graduated summa cum laude from Bowdoin College.

Sean Mitchell is a restructuring partner at Paul, Weiss. He focuses his practice on representing debtors, equity owners, creditor groups, and distressed investors in a broad range of restructuring matters, including chapter 11 cases, cross-border matters, out-of-court restructurings, and bankruptcy-related acquisitions. Sean has a broad range of experience across a number of industries, including consumer products, retail, media and communications, health care, energy, and manufacturing. He received his J.D. from Harvard Law School and his B.A., with honors, in Economics from Harvard University.

Alexa Kranzley, Partner—General Practice (Finance & Restructuring)
Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

Sullivan & Cromwell’s Finance & Restructuring practice is well known for helping domestic and multinational corporations navigate their most complex issues. We take on strategic corporate and financial restructuring transactions, in and out of court, as well as related litigation, financings, and M&A transactions. In addition to representing debtors and creditors in chapter 11 and chapter 15 cases and out-of-court restructurings, lawyers in our Finance & Restructuring Group also represent private equity and hedge funds in connection with distressed transactions and special situation investments. Our practice combines elite transactional and litigation attorneys with a deep knowledge of restructuring and insolvency laws and significant experience working on a diverse mix of international and domestic distressed situations. The Finance & Restructuring practice imports the expertise of S&C’s “generalist” and top-rated litigation, corporate governance, tax, M&A, and finance lawyers to deliver multidisciplinary advice.

What types of clients do you represent?

I represent a diverse range of corporate clients across a variety of industries, primarily representing companies in distress and strategic creditors facing distressed counterparties. I have represented, among many others, FTX Trading, Kidde-Fenwal, Garrett Motion, California Resources Corporation, LSC Communications, White Star Petroleum, and Eastman Kodak Company, in each case in connection with their in- and out-of-court restructuring proceedings, Major League Baseball in its pending dispute with Diamond Sports Group in its pending chapter 11 proceedings, and other suppliers and financial institutions facing distressed counterparties.

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

I primarily work on company-side restructurings, assisting companies, management, and their boards in finding solutions to their most prominent issues (whether financial or operational), as quickly and with as little business disruption as possible. At S&C, being involved in numerous high-profile, highly complex cases at a time is customary. In the last year, while handling various matters in FTX’s bankruptcy proceedings, I was also advising Major League Baseball in its battle with Diamond Sports Group, and Kidde-Fenwal in a landmark bankruptcy in connection with PFAS liabilities. The exposure to a variety of legal areas and industries allows our team to acquire a broad skillset and cultivate an expansive international restructuring practice.

How did you choose this practice area?

I graduated from law school in 2008 and started my career at Shearman & Sterling the week after Lehman Brothers filed for chapter 11. I naturally fell into the restructuring practice as it was the busiest practice area at that time. In law school, restructuring had been described to me as a hybrid of litigation and corporate. While law school primarily teaches you litigation, I was more interested in transactional work. Restructuring felt like a good balance of the two practices and a good place to start. Because there’s really a little bit of everything within restructuring, I’ve learned so much over the years and have had such diverse experiences that I never wanted to change practices.

What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?

There are three different kinds of common days. A typical day in the office consists of a number of meetings, both internally and with external advisors such as company or financial advisors, where we discuss strategy and next steps. In addition to participating in these meetings, I work with associates in reviewing and preparing motions, orders, pleadings, and declarations for court filings. I also review transactional documents such as purchase agreements, financing documents, vendor agreements, and the like.

Because I primarily focus on company-side restructurings, there are several days each month where our team is in court. A typical day in court is not quite argument—there’s no jury or trial—but I appear and represent companies in front of the judge and other constituents. Occasionally, when the judge has a difficult schedule and we cannot be in person, our team takes the hearing from S&C’s internal Moot Courtroom, which is a newly developed space in our building that can be arranged to approximate different types of courtroom venues. In fact, our Moot Courtroom looks so much like court rooms that counsel have asked how we are before the judge when the hearing is virtual.

Representing these companies also means that our cases have numerous interested parties: creditors, lenders, people who want to buy the assets. So, lastly, I have a lot of meetings with these counterparties to negotiate and try to reach resolutions. More often than not, this practice is not as adversarial as people think; it is most beneficial when we have consensus.

What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?

I took introductory bankruptcy and business reorganization classes that I found helpful, though these types of courses are certainly not required. Because of our frequent appearances in court, understanding civil procedures in a court setting is also important. Additionally, bankruptcies typically occur when financing goes wrong, so it is also helpful if you understand how financings work. That said, the on-the-job training that you will receive once you start work is likely to be the most valuable.

What do you like best about your practice area?

Working with a company to restructure means getting to do a bit of everything—financing, operations, communications, public relations, tax—you name it. It also means that I have to fully understand the company and learn everything about the business before I can help them restructure, which I really enjoy. S&C is unique in that we do not focus on particular industries or types of companies, which means that one year, I may be learning about an oil and gas company, and the next year, I am learning about crypto. I also like that my practice has an element of helping people. For most people who work at a company, the term “bankruptcy” has a negative connotation, and I enjoy getting to know them and helping them improve their business and make it more viable. It is rewarding when the company restructures and ends up doing very well.

What misconceptions exist about your practice area?

I think there are two misconceptions, the first being that bankruptcy is always bad. In the corporate world, bankruptcy is viewed as corporate reorganization, meaning that it is actually a tool that companies can use to fix and restructure themselves and not have to liquidate. In the United States, bankruptcy does not mean liquidation. Big names like Sears, United Airlines, and Delta Airlines are all companies that have used chapter 11, which is a provision of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code that allows companies to reorganize and restructure their debts and obligations. 

The second misconception is that bankruptcy is very narrow. In my practice, I get to do a bit of everything, including going to court regularly, negotiating M&A and other interesting transactions, and conducting auctions. For companies that are looking to sell assets, one of the ways to do so is using chapter 11. In this context, companies will host auctions to allow for the highest bids for their assets.

What is unique about your practice area at your firm?

I think 2023 probably speaks the most to the uniqueness of S&C’s restructuring practice. We are a very small practice with primarily one litigation and four corporate partners in bankruptcy, and a small group of core restructuring associates. Yet with such a small team, we have three large, high-profile cases this year—FTX trading, Silicon Valley Bank, and Kidde-Fenwal, a subsidiary of Carrier Corporation. The firms that take on matters of this scale typically have groups that are three or four times the size of ours, but because S&C lawyers are generalists—a unique aspect of our approach to practice more broadly—we have the capabilities to work on all aspects of a case, our size notwithstanding.

For example, we rely on a large investigations team to help with cases that go to trial, and we have brought on M&A teams to help with sales in other cases.

One of the biggest benefits to associates in this kind of practice is that you’re exposed to a wide range of substantive work early on. Junior associates get hands-on training from day one, like preparing first drafts of motions and documents and observing client calls.


What advice do you have for navigating the multidisciplinary nature of bankruptcy practice?

Take advantage of the opportunities that you get! One of the first cases I worked on at S&C was Kodak, and within that case, I worked on a number of different things, like selling a billboard in Times Square and a power plant they used to own. This area really embodies our generalist approach and provides a great platform for learning about how all of the different areas fit together and which ones you enjoy. It’s never boring!

Alexa Kranzley is a partner in the firm’s Finance and Restructuring Group. Ms. Kranzley represents companies and creditors in chapter 11 proceedings and out-of-court corporate and financial restructurings, and private equity and hedge funds in connection with distressed transactions and special situation investments. Ms. Kranzley also has experience handling adversary proceedings, contested matters, and both debtor and creditor representations in bankruptcy proceedings. Ms. Kranzley’s practice is international, and she has worked in collaboration with the firm’s other offices on substantive matters involving restructurings in other jurisdictions. Ms. Kranzley has been recognized by Chambers USA for her work in bankruptcy and restructuring and by The Best Lawyers in America for her work in Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights/Insolvency and Reorganization Law. She was also recognized as a 2022 “Rising Star” in Bankruptcy by Law360, and named a 2021 “Outstanding Young Restructuring Lawyer” by Turnarounds & Workouts. She was named to the 2018 Class of the American Bankruptcy Institute’s 40 Under 40 Program and nominated and inducted in 2017 into the International Insolvency Institute’s NextGen Leadership Program. Both programs recognize “Rising Stars” in the insolvency area. She is recognized by IFLR1000 as a “Rising Star.”

Jeff Bjork, Managing Partner (Los Angeles) • Caroline Reckler, Partner and Finance Department Chair (Chicago)
Latham & Watkins

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

Jeff: Our team advises the full array of stakeholders involved with financially distressed businesses, including debtors and issuers of both public and private securities, all types of creditors, equity holders, new investors, boards of directors, and senior management teams. The practice spans financial and operational restructurings, often with a cross-jurisdictional dynamic. I have a particular expertise in mass tort bankruptcies.

Caroline: Clients look to us for guidance in the most complex, challenging, and often contentious restructuring matters. Whatever the challenge may be—an over-levered balance sheet, litigation overhang, or operations in need of restructuring—our team has the experience and capabilities to meet it. We also bring to bear the strength of Latham’s other market-leading practices in all of the major financial centers around the world, including the tax, M&A, private equity, capital markets, employment and benefits, and debt finance groups.

What types of clients do you represent? 

Caroline: We represent distressed companies and creditors of distressed companies, as well as purchasers, lenders, boards of directors, investors, and other stakeholders in distressed situations, both domestically and globally. Our clients span a variety of sectors, including those with a long history of restructuring activity (e.g., retail, energy, health care, manufacturing, and consumer services companies), as well as newer players (e.g., fintech/digital assets).


What types of cases/deals do you work on? 

Jeff: Our practice often advises on restructuring through chapter 11. Recently, we helped Paddock Enterprises, formerly Owens Illinois, in their emergence from chapter 11. Similarly, our practice advised Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals in its reorganization following chapter 11 and through its recognition proceedings that implemented the first global opioid litigation settlement.

We pursue solutions in and out of court, including creditor compromise procedures, security enforcements, debt rescheduling, liability management transactions, exchange and tender offers, refinancings, new money and distressed financings, debt-to-equity swap transactions, equity capital raises, and strategic and distressed M&A transactions.

How did you choose this practice area?

Caroline: I gained exposure to the restructuring practice in my first year as part of Latham’s Unassigned Program. I didn’t know what type of law I wanted to focus on when I graduated from law school and started at Latham, and the program gave me an opportunity to try out a variety of practice groups and enabled me to make an educated decision of which practice group to join. The fast pace of restructuring, the opportunity to get client contact and external exposure quickly, and the practice’s blend of litigation and transactional work captivated me, and I haven’t looked back since.

Jeff: I had a bankruptcy class in law school, and in talking with the professor I felt encouraged to take more—I ended up taking three or four bankruptcy and finance classes. After that, I was sold and clerked for a bankruptcy judge before moving to my law firm practice.

What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?

Jeff: Our practice’s common tasks run the gamut—days vary between negotiating aspects of a deal, advising a board or senior management of a company, and strategizing with clients on how to navigate distressed situations. Other days I’m in court. I’m in the boardroom as much as I’m in the courtroom.

As the cases grow in size and difficulty, mediation has also become more common, which differs from traditional negotiations because there’s a neutral third party involved.

Similar to how general counsels operate, the hot-button issue of the moment dictates my day, whether it’s an employee issue, a default under financing facility, or something else. The day-to-day tasks vary but are “typical” in that all involve working with the client in their most challenging moments and finding a way to simultaneously make it through the day while also planning long-term strategy.


What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?

Caroline: Restructuring is a rapidly developing and wide-ranging subject area, but our clients (often high-level corporate decision makers) expect clear, practical advice that shows an understanding of their business. It’s beneficial to have a grounding in commercial and financial principles and to stay up to date on market developments. But as a starting point, I’d take a bankruptcy, corporate finance, or tax class and understand at least the basics of how secured financing works. Those with interest both in corporate law and in litigation tend to find our practice a good fit. I’ll also plug two of Latham’s resources: our Restructuring & Special Situations Virtual Experience Program and our Book of Jargon.
I’d also recommend honing your negotiating skills because those are critical to being an effective restructuring lawyer. Yes, sometimes we litigate, but in most if not all matters, a negotiated resolution is the objective. Understanding parties’ commercial incentives, in addition to the legal backdrop, is key to understanding the art of the possible and finding that solution.


What do you like best about your practice area?

Caroline: The human side—I love that I use my skills to help people at their most trying moments. I’ve been at this long enough that I can find a practical solution to most issues and offer the necessary assurances to alleviate our clients’ uncertainty. The unpredictable nature of our practice also keeps the appeal fresh—I’m always doing different things, learning new industries, and getting into the weeds.

Jeff: I enjoy the complexity of the problem solving. I often get to engage in game theory, which ensures matters stay interesting. For example, I often encounter a common fund with more creditors than assets. I also like combining corporate and litigation in one practice. But most of all, I get to meet board members and CEOs and some of the biggest clients in the world, and across industries as well. Every day is varied because it’s such a broad practice.


What misconceptions exist about your practice area?

Caroline: One of the more common misconceptions I hear about restructuring is that we are effectively specialists, but our practice is far more of a generalist practice that requires at least a passing knowledge of a wide range of topics, including corporate governance, finance, nuts-and-bolts litigation, M&A, securities law, and more. We advise on out-of-court restructurings or sales, we advise boards on strategic alternatives, and we work with financing colleagues on hybrid or unique financing transactions. Our practice covers nearly every aspect of corporate law and every issue for companies facing any type of stress.


What are some typical tasks that a junior lawyer would perform in this practice area?

Jeff: Junior associates can expect hands-on experience very early in their tenure with the practice. Their typical slate of tasks includes preparing for court if we have a litigation dispute in a bankruptcy, working directly with our clients to give strategic guidance, and drafting memos and various transactional documents. Our junior associates interact often with partners and clients—they learn how to negotiate and think strategically, and how to think about litigation and use litigation leverage as a tool.

Caroline: In addition to the overview of tasks Jeff provided, I’ll emphasize that junior attorneys in the restructuring practice with interest in court experience gain it sooner and more frequently than in a classic litigation practice. Junior associates can also expect to frequently sit in board meetings and get valuable time with C-suite clients.


What are some typical career paths for lawyers in this practice area?

Jeff: A restructuring practice makes you one of the last generalists in the law and requires touching multiple practice areas—litigation, corporate, M&A, employee benefits, tax, finance, etc. That broad base of experience creates opportunities to go in-house or work for hedge funds. Different doors open because you’re specializing in bankruptcy but have a general knowledge of a lot of critical business areas.

Caroline: I agree, and what may be appealing to those considering a restructuring practice is how your experience translates across industries—you’ll pick up a broad range of knowledge that will allow you to navigate what’s hot based on the economic cycle. The generalist nature of restructuring practice provides great training for in-house counsel roles, regardless of industry, private equity and other investment management work, or investment banking roles.

Jeff Bjork, Managing Partner of the Los Angeles offices and former Global Vice Chair of the Restructuring and Special Situations Practice, represents public and private companies, creditors, and investors in all aspects of restructuring. Widely recognized as a leading restructuring lawyer in the United States, Mr. Bjork is a fellow in the American College of Bankruptcy and was named one of the Outstanding Restructuring Lawyers for 2020 by Turnarounds & Workouts.

Caroline Reckler, Global Vice Chair of the Restructuring & Special Situations Practice, is a nationally recognized bankruptcy lawyer, advises debtors around the world on all aspects of restructuring and special situations. She serves as Finance Department Chair for the Chicago office and as the Global Chair for the firm’s Women Enriching Business (WEB) initiative. Ms. Reckler is a Fellow in the American College of Bankruptcy and is regularly recognized in leading legal publications, including Chambers USA and The Legal 500.

Jessica Liou, Partner—Restructuring
Weil

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

Weil is widely recognized as one of the top restructuring law firms in the world, providing us the opportunity to work on a variety of cutting-edge matters. As a restructuring partner at Weil, I lead company-side and creditor-side restructuring matters both in and out of court across various industries and geographies. Regardless of economic conditions, there is always a lot of exciting work to do within this practice. At all times, we are focused on providing our clients with the most comprehensive solution that is tailored to their particular situation.

What types of clients do you represent?

My practice covers domestic and international corporate restructurings, bankruptcy and insolvency proceedings, and liability and crisis management. I have represented large, public companies such as PG&E Corporation, Sears, and Claire’s in their bankruptcies, as well as multi-billion-dollar private equity funds as creditors, such as Brookfield and SoftBank, in the bankruptcies of target or portfolio companies. I’ve recently been focused on the cryptocurrency industry, which has been experiencing a tremendous amount of distress. Currently, I represent Digital Currency Group in the bankruptcy of its subsidiary, Genesis Global, a cryptocurrency trading, lending, and custody platform.

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

I recently worked on the chapter 11 restructuring of PG&E Corporation, which provides electricity and natural gas to 16 million customers and has over 24,000 employees. It was high stakes, given the intense public scrutiny on PG&E’s proposed resolution of claims relating to the 2017 and 2018 California wildfires, the California governor’s involvement in ensuring the restructuring would benefit his constituents, and the close oversight of the state regulator, the CPUC. The judge approved the $59 billion chapter 11 plan, which was a culmination of 18 months of hard work by our whole team. My other recent engagements include representing Talen Energy, an independent power producer, in its chapter 11 restructuring, and Marathon Digital, a large, publicly-traded bitcoin miner, in the restructuring of Compute North, a mining hosting services provider.

How did you choose this practice area?

No one is better equipped than a restructuring lawyer to be the primary architect of a path forward, and restructuring lends itself to being a business lawyer, which I enjoy. Everything in restructuring ultimately comes back to the bankruptcy code, but a good restructuring attorney also understands a client’s business and can coalesce interests around a creative, efficient, and effective reorganization plan. I get to be creative and at the center of important matters, which excited me when choosing a practice area.

What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?

Every day is different as a restructuring lawyer; I’m very rarely bored. You are always dealing with something new. Even well into your career, you may encounter an entirely novel issue. There is no part of the law that we do not touch, which is why restructuring lawyers are often said to be “generalists.” We know enough to be dangerous in various areas of law, but we also rely on collaborating with our colleagues who have expertise in their respective fields. For example, I often work closely with my tax colleagues to understand the tax implications of a restructuring transaction or whether tax attributes can be monetized to generate additional value. I work closely with my banking & finance and capital markets colleagues to find ways to access capital for a distressed company. I also work closely with our M&A colleagues on corporate governance matters, and our litigators on assessing fraudulent transfer and preference claims.

Some days, my work is very corporate-heavy, and I will be negotiating an asset purchase agreement or defining the terms of a financing deal. Other days, my work is focused on operational concerns, like helping a company determine how to make payroll or negotiate employment agreements. And other days, I am litigation focused, reviewing a motion or analyzing case law relating to a novel issue, preparing witnesses, and gearing up for trial.

What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?

On-the-job training is the most important way to develop your skills. Taking certain law classes may help someone new to the field learn some of the jargon, but real-world training is the best way to gain experience in restructuring. Weil provides top-notch skill workshops for summer associates, so being engaged and excited to learn are the most important things to have on day one. Building relationships with informal mentors and watching senior associates is also a great way to develop because you can learn what they actually are doing on a daily basis. When I joined Weil as a summer associate, I gained a lot of knowledge that way.

What do you like best about your practice area?


My work is intellectually and emotionally rewarding. I genuinely feel I am making a positive contribution. For each company-side representation that I’m involved in, a lot of parties are affected. If the Weil team is able to successfully reorganize a company, parties who have a stake in the company’s future are positively impacted; for example, employees who depend on that company for their livelihood continue to have jobs and creditors who have done business with the company by supplying valuable goods and services get to see a recovery on their claims, which may mean the difference between staying in business or not.

What misconceptions exist about your practice area?


One unfortunate misconception about restructuring is that it is a niche practice area and will limit a person’s career goals. I think young associates are afraid that it will not be a good stepping stone to the next stage of their career, but I’ve seen exactly the opposite. Because we gain experience in so many areas of law, I think restructuring attorneys are very well equipped with a wide skill set to either remain with the practice area or move into an entirely different space.

Many in-house positions require an attorney to deal with various parts of a company, so someone who can do a bit of everything may be better suited to that than someone who is hyper-focused in one area. Weil provides young associates with that kind of broad experience so that they are ready to succeed regardless of where their career takes them.

What are some typical tasks that a junior lawyer would perform in this practice area?

Our practice is fast-paced and sophisticated. Junior lawyers who demonstrate they are able and willing to take on significant responsibility early are rewarded with opportunities to do exactly that. Typically, junior lawyers would be expected to research and draft memos, draft procedural and substantive motions dealing with various issues, interface with the client and opposing counsel on calls and in person, and speak in court.

What kinds of experience can summer associates gain at this practice area at your firm?

I started my Weil career as a summer associate and haven’t left since. At Weil, you are given a surprising amount of access to attorneys across practices and offices. These people become informal sounding boards and sources of advice. Through observing them, you get a clear picture of how your career could evolve and what partners do day to day.

You also gain practical, substantive experiences while a summer associate at Weil. We want you to do real work and treat you the same as we would a first-year associate. That way, by the time you actually are a first- or second-year associate, you already have the skills and background knowledge that are required to succeed.

Summer associates should also expect Weil to focus heavily on formal mentorship. Mentorship only works if both parties are invested and, at Weil everyone is more than willing to invest their time in building effective mentoring relationships. I found those relationships to be invaluable when I was a summer associate, and I enjoy being on the other side of them now.

Jessica advises clients in all aspects of distressed and insolvency situations. She has advised debtors, creditors, equity owners, and purchasers on in- and out-of-court restructurings involving companies in various industries, including cryptocurrency, power, oil & gas, renewable energy, manufacturing, hospitality, retail, and telecommunications.

Jessica serves on the Bankruptcy & Corporate Reorganization Committee for the New York City Bar Association and is one of the co-editors of Weil’s Restructuring Review. She also actively lectures on various topics relating to restructuring, including for organizations such as the Practising Law Institute, the American Bar Association, the American Bankruptcy Institute, and the Association of Insolvency and Restructuring Advisors. 

Jessica earned her J.D. from Boston College Law School and obtained her B.A. from New York University, where she graduated magna cum laude.

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