So you’ve just finished your summer associate program and received an offer to work with the firm’s bankruptcy and restructuring team. You might be wondering what law school classes you should take in your final year of law school to help you prepare for your first year of practice. Chapter 11 practice touches on almost every area of the law, but some key subjects will be more beneficial than others.
While your firm will undoubtedly have attorneys covering many of the subjects below, law school classes can heighten your awareness of issues in these areas and build your sense of when assistance from attorneys in other departments may be necessary. Bankruptcy is also a cyclical practice, so it pays to think ahead as to what your subspecialty might be when Chapter 11 work is slow, and some of these classes could pique your interest as well as help fine-tune your skills.
Assuming you’ve already taken contracts, property, and business organizations—all of which are fundamental—as well as an introduction to bankruptcy class, here are some classes to consider, which I ranked according to helpfulness:
Secured Transactions. You may already have signed up for a class that covers secured transactions under Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code in preparation for the bar exam. But even if your jurisdiction no longer tests this, secured transactions is an essential subject for bankruptcy practice, particularly with respect to perfection and priority of security interests. The statutory analysis skills you acquire by studying Article 9 will also serve you well when working with the Bankruptcy Code.
Workouts and Reorganizations/Advanced Bankruptcy Seminar. These seminars walk you through the Chapter 11 process and go beyond the fundamental concepts. You’ll learn about negotiation and strategy with creditors, the solicitation and voting process, and the various requirements for confirming a plan of reorganization.
Oral Advocacy (Litigation Clinics/Trial Practice/Mediation/Negotiation). While your firm’s most senior partners will handle high-profile, contested hearings in bankruptcy court, it’s important to start honing your oral advocacy skills. Much of the action in Chapter 11 takes place behind the scenes, and you may be given some negotiation assignments early on (possibly to settle preference cases or claim objections). Confident and effective communication is essential to being a successful restructuring attorney.
Consult your advisor about what classes teach oral advocacy because sometimes this might not be obvious from the title of the course (Fundamentals of Lawyering, for example).
Accounting and Finance. While Chapter 11 debtors and committees often hire financial advisors to handle the accounting aspects of a restructuring, an accounting class can help you better understand and communicate with the financial advisors, analyze valuation issues, and become versed in the language of business. Classes in corporate finance and real estate finance familiarize you with transactions that will be at issue in any major Chapter 11 case. If you enjoy finance, also consider banking and securities regulation, discussed below.
Transactional Seminars. Transactional work as a bankruptcy attorney varies greatly, from assembling agreed orders to drafting the provisions of a plan of reorganization. A transaction-focused seminar—especially one focused on an acquisition or financing transaction—will help you learn how to translate the terms of a deal into contractual language.
Banking and Securities Regulation. These classes will acquaint you with the regulatory context for various financing transactions. A banking regulation class can provide you with a deeper understanding of the provisions of the debtor’s financing documents. While the Bankruptcy Code provides an exemption from securities laws for postpetition solicitation and acceptance of most plans, you may encounter securities regulation issues when conducting prepetition solicitation of a prepackaged Chapter 11 plan.
Health Care. This is a specialty area with its own unique regulatory environment, financing transactions, and business issues. A health law class can acquaint you with the health-care industry’s complex legal framework. Health care makes up a large percentage of the economy, so it’s more than likely that you will encounter a related bankruptcy at some point in your career.
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