The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault’s Guide to Legal Practice Areas.

Ray C. Schrock, P.C., Co-Chair—Business Finance & Restructuring Department

Ray Schrock is Co-Chair of the Business Finance & Restructuring Department at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP and has extensive experience leading complex, corporate international and U.S. restructuring matters. Mr. Schrock has represented debtors, non-debtor parent companies and affiliates, financial institutions, private equity funds, hedge funds, portfolio companies, secured and unsecured creditors and other major stakeholders in numerous in-court and out-of-court restructuring matters.

Mr. Schrock was recently named among Global M&A Network’s 2016 Top 100 Restructuring & Turnaround Professionals. He has also been named a 2015 Bankruptcy MVP by Law360. He is recognized as one of the nation’s leading restructuring lawyers by Chambers & Partners, The Legal 500 U.S., International Financial Law Review (IFLR1000), and Super Lawyers magazine and has served as lead restructuring partner in a number of the largest domestic and international cases on behalf of companies and fund- based clients.

Please provide an overview of what, substantively, your practice area entails.

I’m proud to be a part of a group that invented much of what has become standard practice in the restructuring field. For more than 45 years, Weil has played a pivotal role in defining bankruptcy and restructuring by offering creative, practical and thoughtful solutions for its clients. Weil’s global restructuring group comprises more than 100 dedicated lawyers, including a significant number recognized as leaders in the field. The practice has been described as the “gold standard” of bankruptcy practices and as a “restructuring powerhouse.” In particular, Weil’s U.S. restructuring practice has been involved in countless international and U.S. restructurings over many decades, with representations ranging from top global corporations in mega-restructurings to middle-market debtors. We’ve served as chief debtors’ counsel in five of the six largest U.S. bankruptcy filings in his- tory and have represented clients in numerous complicated cross-border insolvency and restructuring matters. And unlike most other large firms, our broad-based experience also includes numerous creditor representations, representations of purchasers and sellers of distressed assets, and substantial litigation.

What types of clients do you represent?

As a firm, Weil has worked on some of the most historic restructurings ever—including General Motors, Parmalat SpA, Lehman Brothers, American Airlines, and MF Global. Today, Weil continues to play an integral role in high-profile restructurings. We advise on the most significant and visible restructurings, cases that recast not only companies but whole sectors. From national clothing stores to major super- market chains, global steelmakers, and an array of energy companies, our recent record is notable for the variety as well as the number of high-profile debtor representations. In the U.S. alone, Weil was counsel in 10 of the largest filings in 2016, totaling roughly $50 billion in liabilities. These include four of the five largest: SunEdison, Peabody Energy, Sand- Ridge Energy, and Arch Coal. Others in the top 20 in which Weil is counsel are Breitburn Energy, Paragon Offshore, CHC Group, Ultra Petroleum, and Aspect Software.

What types of deals and/or cases do you work on?

I’ve represented debtors, non-debtor parent companies and affiliates, financial institutions, private equity funds, hedge funds, portfolio companies, secured and unsecured creditors, and other major stakeholders in numerous in- court and out-of-court restructuring matters. Some of my more recent representations include the chapter 11 cases of Aéropostale, Inc., Fairway Group Holdings Corp., and The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, Inc. (A&P). Other major representations include Essar Steel Algoma, one of the largest integrated steel manufacturers in North America, in its $1.2 billion restructuring, and Chassix Holdings, Inc. and its domestic subsidiaries, in its $700 million prearranged chapter 11 restructuring. Energy companies feature prominently as well: Breitburn Energy Partners, LP ($3.1 billion); Vantage Drilling Company in its prepackaged chapter 11 cases to restructure more than $2.5 billion in senior secured debt; offshore services provider Tidewater Inc.; and the ad hoc group of unsecured bondholders in the prepackaged chapter 11 case of oilfield services company 77Energy, Inc.

I regularly advise companies on out-of-court restructuring efforts, liability management initiatives, and exchange offers. I have also led private equity and hedge funds on buy-side and creditor engagements for such clients as Advent International, Trive Capital, Terramar Capital, Aterian Partners, Centerbridge Partners, and Peak Rock Capital, among others.

How did you decide to practice in your area?

I was very fortunate to have a number of amazing professors and mentors throughout my college years, law school years, and early career who encouraged me to take risks and seek out greater and greater challenges. Whether it was during my time as an undergrad and ROTC cadet at Western Michigan University, a law student at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Chicago-Kent School of Law, or a clerk to the Honorable Clarence Brimmer, U. S. District Court Judge, District of Wyoming, I sought out a wide range of experiences. When I started representing different companies, lenders and other creditors in some of the largest and most complex in-court and out-of-court restructuring matters early in my career, I was sold on the exciting and complex nature of the bankruptcy and restructuring arena.

What is a typical day or week like in your practice area?

What I can say is that things tend to happen very quickly in the bankruptcy arena, which often requires creativity and innovation, especially when confronted with unique circumstances. For example, after we helped the supermarket chain A&P file for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection—it had listed $1.6 billion in assets against liabilities of $2.3 billion—we had to work swiftly to create a specialized bidding structure to help manage an auction capable of accommodating several hundred attendees. Ultimately, we were able to utilize Weil’s extensive cross-disciplinary structure and resolve an array of issues with the assistance of our tax, real estate, corporate, and labor attorneys. But that kind of sudden, urgent matter is not uncommon in our practice.

What is the best thing about your practice area?

Probably, the best thing about the bankruptcy and restructuring practice area is that I get to step into highly stressful and complicated situations and work to not only help parties negotiate in a swift and organized manner, but also to salvage jobs. The complex situations we face at Weil require a degree of innovation on our part, which makes the practice all the more exciting. For example, in the chapter 11 bankruptcy of Aéropostale, Inc., we averted a wholesale liquidation, saving hundreds of stores and more than 12,000 jobs. But we did it by crafting an innovative solution: it was the first time a retailer has been reorganized by vertically integrating a retail enterprise through its landlords and separating the company through an intellectual property company. The deal provides a roadmap for other distressed retailers beset by online com- petition and facing liquidation.

What is the most challenging aspect of your practice area?

Probably, the most challenging aspect of my practice is that it often requires complex consensus building. In the case of chassis machining and casting company Chassix Inc., for instance, we had to work intensely to help it restructure $700 million in debt in a prepackaged chapter 11 deal. In order to execute that deal, we had to get buy-in not only from our clients but also from multiple stakeholders, many of whom thought the company could never successfully arrange a pre- packaged plan.

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

There’s really no recipe for becoming a top bankruptcy lawyer. But anyone interested in the field should stay apprised of the latest topics, views, and developments in the restructuring world. Reading and writing about these issues is a good way to keep abreast of what’s going on out there. In fact, Weil’s very own award-winning Bankruptcy Blog is a great place to find such insightful thought leadership.

What misconceptions exist about your practice area? What do you wish you had known before joining your practice area?

Probably the biggest misconception is that, since our work involves dealing with clients in highly distressed situations, the welfare of the employees who work for the companies we represent is a secondary concern. This couldn’t be further from the truth. For example, with A&P, we had to auction off a large number of grocery stores that had thousands of employees who were all subject to different collective bargaining agreements and unique multi-employer pension plans—an incredibly difficult task that posed many challenges. But despite all this, we were extremely methodical and were able to assemble a comprehensive strategy for the company that ultimately saved more than 19,000 jobs. That is something I’m quite proud of and am always concerned with when engaged in similar situations. Without a process to help our clients restructure in an organized manner, the prospects for some of the employees who work for the companies we advise would be far worse.

What is unique about your practice area at your firm?

Here are really very few firms out there that offer the same caliber of expertise and innovative solutions that Weil does when it comes to bankruptcies and restructurings. But it’s not only our extraordinary track record and the way we have shaped the modern restructuring field that sets us apart. It’s also the culture that has grown out of that deep experience. As Co-Chair of the practice, I’m happy to say that the collaborative spirit among our attorneys has never been greater. It’s a supportive, cooperative atmosphere that welcomes new talent, trains associates extremely well, and values innovative, entrepreneurial thinking. Chambers USA has especially noted our “creativity” as well as our skill. Our team is so cohesive that we have won Law360’s “Bankruptcy Group of the Year” for six straight years, being honored every year since the inception of the awards

Since I’ve joined the firm, I’ve seen the practice evolve to accommodate more and more creditor-side situations. Whether it’s with secured lenders, unsecured creditors, official committees of creditors, ad hoc groups of creditors, or other parties in interest, Weil has really maximized creditor value over the last few years by developing customized strategies to meet these clients’ goals.

What activities do you enjoy when you are not in the office, and how do you make time for them?

When I’m not in the office, I like to spend time with my family and friends, including, in particular, the men and women in uniform with whom I’ve forged an unbreakable bond over the years. Having served in the U.S. Army as a commissioned officer on various assignments for nearly seven years is something that I’m incredibly proud of and grateful for, so I always enjoy reconnecting with the folks who made that service so memorable and formative.

2017 Practice Ad Weil Bankruptcy