October 15, 2010
group of the nation’s leading bankruptcy lawyers and judges convened at Tulane Law School’s Weinmann Hall on October 13 to encourage students to consider building their careers in bankruptcy law. Tulane Law School and the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges, which is holding its annual meeting this week in downtown New Orleans, hosted the program jointly.
The program included a panel discussion with seven titans in the field of bankruptcy, moderated by Judge Jeffrey P. Hopkins, a former federal prosecutor who is now a U.S. Bankruptcy Judge in Cincinnati. Panelists discussed emerging trends in bankruptcy law, including the rise in resort to financial restructuring by cities and other public entities. Deryck Palmer, a partner and co-chair of the financial restructuring department at New York’s Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, described his work managing an out-of-court workout for the Detroit Public School system, which involved negotiating financial concessions from teachers, retirees, and other parties to enable the system to continue operating.
Panelists also described the distinctive features and satisfactions of bankruptcy practice and recounted the ways in which they each ended up specializing in the field. Michael St. Patrick Baxter, a partner in Covington & Burling in Washington, observed that bankruptcy involves a unique blend of both transactional and litigation work. Notably, all but one of the panelists said that they had come to bankruptcy practice largely by chance, either by a fortuitous early assignment by a partner in their firm or on the advice of an early career mentor. All agreed that practice in the field offers unique satisfactions, including enabling employees in financially distressed corporations to retain their jobs and families to remain in their homes.
In closing the event, Dean David Meyer thanked the panelists for exposing opportunities in bankruptcy law and also for sharing the secrets of their own success. “This was an extraordinary opportunity to hear life lessons from people who have achieved greatly,” Meyer said. “Their stories – highlighting the importance of seizing opportunities, being adaptable, and working hard to excel – point the way to professional success in any field of practice.”
Law students and pre-law undergraduates from across the region were invited to attend the event at Tulane as part of an effort by the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges to promote greater diversity in the legal profession and the bankruptcy bar. In addition to Baxter and Palmer, other panelists included the Hon. Randolph Baxter, Chief Judge of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Ohio in Cleveland; Judge David H. Coar of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago; Steven N. Cousins, head of the Financial Services practice group and member of the Executive Committee of Armstrong Teasdale in St. Louis; Monique Hayes, an associate with Genovese Joblove & Battista, P.A. in Miami, Florida; and Judge Erithe Smith of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California in the court’s Santa Ana Division.
Tulane law professor Adam Feibelman and Judge Douglas D. Dodd, a U.S. Bankruptcy Judge in Baton Rouge and an Adjunct Professor at Tulane Law School, also took part in the event. Following the panel discussion, students were invited to meet the panelists and a half dozen other Bankruptcy Judges at a reception in the Marian Meyer Berkett Multipurpose Room.
(Standing, Judge Jeffrey Hopkins.
Seated, panelists, L to R: Mr. Steven N. Cousins,
Mr. Michael St. Patrick Baxter, Ms. Monique H-
ayes, Judge Erithe Smith, Judge Randolph Bax-
ter, Judge David H. Coar and Mr. Deryck Palm-