The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault's Guide to Legal Practice Areas.
Rachael Ringer is a newly elevated partner in the Corporate Restructuring and Bankruptcy practice in Kramer Levin’s New York office. She has been involved in many of the nation’s recent large and most complex bankruptcies and restructurings in numerous industries, including retail, biopharmaceutical, oil and gas services, shipping, automotive, and health care. Rachael specializes in handling high-stakes and complex bankruptcy matters on behalf of creditors’ committees and creditor groups, bondholders, and companies in connection with in- and out-of-court restructurings and regularly advises hedge funds regarding stressed and distressed investments.
Ms. Ringer was named a New York Super Lawyers Rising Star in bankruptcy from 2017-2019, and she received the M&A Advisor’s Emerging Leaders Award in 2019. She earned her J.D., cum laude, from Hofstra University School of Law in 2010 and her B.A., with high distinction, from the University of Michigan in 2007.
Describe your practice area and what it entails.
My practice concentrates on in- and out-of-court restructurings of large corporations. I advise clients on issues relating to bankruptcy planning, investments in distressed companies, and legal issues surrounding operational and financial restructurings. My work includes negotiating bankruptcy documents, such as Chapter 11 plans and disclosure statements as well as restructuring support agreements—if and when consensus is achieved. When consensus is not achieved, my practice also involves litigating bankruptcy issues, often including issues relating to debtor-in-possession financing and/or plan confirmation.
What types of clients do you represent?
My most recent experience includes representing official creditors’ committees and creditors or ad hoc creditor groups in large Chapter 11 cases nationwide. I am currently representing the ad hoc committee of governmental and contingent litigation claimants in the Purdue Pharma Chapter 11 case pending in the Southern District of New York and recently represented the official unsecured creditors’ committees in the Aegerion, Hexion, and Toys “R” Us bankruptcy cases in New York, Delaware, and Virginia, respectively. I also represented Brigade Capital Management as a large secured and unsecured creditor in the Nine West bankruptcy cases, and now I represent Premier Brands Group, the reorganized company of Nine West. In addition to representing clients in active restructurings, I often advise hedge funds and distressed investors with respect to stressed or distressed companies.
What types of cases/deals do you work on?
I primarily work on in-court Chapter 11 cases, which, depending on my particular client in the case, may involve pre-bankruptcy planning or negotiations. Almost all of my cases involve the restructuring of corporations but can differ depending on whether the company is undertaking either financial or operational restructuring. Because the restructuring space is cyclical in nature, my experience spans numerous industries, with recent experience concentrated in the biopharmaceutical industry (including Purdue Pharma and Aegerion Pharmaceuticals) and oil and gas services, as well as substantial involvement in retail cases, such as Toys “R” Us, Nine West, and other out-of-court matters.
How did you choose this practice area?
When I started at Kramer Levin as a summer associate in 2009, I admittedly had very limited interest in a career in restructuring—primarily because in my two years of law school at that point, my exposure to the field was quite limited. Fortunately, the department was quite busy in mid-2009, having just secured official creditors’ committee roles in both the GM and Chrysler cases, as well as representing Bally Total Fitness in its Chapter 11 proceedings. I was immediately attracted to the fast-paced nature of the work, and after spending a significant amount of my summer associate tenure working with the Restructuring department, I found myself planning 3L classes around a future in this practice area. Since returning to the firm as an associate and, now, partner, I have continued to be challenged and fulfilled by all that a career in bankruptcy has to offer.
What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?
It would be difficult to describe a “typical” day in this field because, more often than not, the day shapes itself around time-sensitive issues pertaining to various active matters. That being said, my days are usually filled with client calls, internal and external meetings (including with fellow professionals on a given case, both on the same side and across the aisle), the drafting of pleadings or agreements, negotiations with adversaries, and frequent trips to court for those matters actively in bankruptcy. The culture at Kramer Levin, however, is extremely collegial, and I have close friendships with many of my colleagues. So while days and nights are filled with extensive and substantive work, many days also involve some sort of camaraderie within our department—be it birthdays, other celebrations, or the occasional “pizza Friday.”
What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?
A career in the restructuring field requires a significant amount of negotiation, court appearances, and brief-writing, and it is one of the rare practice areas that truly straddles the transactional and litigation fields. Facilitating success on both sides, thus, requires confidence and oral argument skills (moot court or mock trial are good options for law students, and deposition training programs are great for young lawyers), as well as significant attention to detail and an ability to craft clear, concise, and innovative arguments in a persuasive manner. On this latter point, writing workshops are always valuable, as are those programs that emphasize meticulousness, like law review or school journals.
What do you like best about your practice area?
One of the greatest things about restructuring—and, in particular, Kramer Levin’s Restructuring practice—is that you are constantly exposed to new companies and industries, which gives you an opportunity to learn the intricacies of various types of businesses. While you are learning about new industries, you are simultaneously gaining experience on bankruptcy issues that apply across the board. The expedited nature of the practice keeps you “on your toes,” and given my appreciation for puzzles, the constant problem solving required by the practice is a perfect complement.
What is unique about your practice area at your firm?
Our firm is unique for a number of reasons, including, most prominently, the caliber of the attorneys at all levels within our group, as well as the collegial atmosphere on a day-to-day basis within the department. Our group is known both in and outside the firm for the breadth of our experience, but also for the strength of our relationships with our colleagues. I particularly enjoy the fact that our group sits together on one floor of the firm, which lends itself to substantial collaboration among all attorneys and frequent thoughtful, constructive debate of cutting-edge legal issues. Our group also approaches every matter with extreme thoughtfulness and intellectualism, which is why we have a record of being at the forefront of precedent-making decisions in recent years, including those in Puerto Rico, Peabody, TOUSA, Genco Shipping, and Residential Capital.
What kinds of experience can summer associates gain in this practice area at your firm?
Summer associates can gain immense experience in the Bankruptcy group even during the short summer period. When I was a summer associate, I had the privilege of assisting on certain preparations for creditors’ committee pitches, and when the firm was selected as committee counsel, I had the opportunity to sit in on committee calls, attend court hearings (including the GM sale hearing), conduct legal research, and prepare bankruptcy pleadings. Our group regularly invites summer associates to attend client calls, depositions, bankruptcy auctions, court hearings, and multi-week trials—including confirmation trials, where Kramer Levin’s bankruptcy group has an active role either on behalf of the debtor or creditors’ committees or groups. In addition to the many shadowing opportunities our group offers to summer associates, we regularly provide summer associates with substantive legal experience, including researching legal issues that are directly relevant to issues either being negotiated by senior attorneys or argued in court. We make a strong effort to educate our summer associates about the nuts and bolts of bankruptcy issues, preparing them for a future career in this area, if they choose to follow it!
What are some typical career paths for lawyers in this practice area?
The bankruptcy bar is unique in that many of the attorneys who started in the industry as young associates have chosen to remain practicing bankruptcy attorneys long term. As a result, the relationships you develop among your peers outside the firm have lasting impacts, and you are frequently negotiating with or against the same people with whom you’ve worked closely on multiple deals. For those who choose to leave the practice, many still remain in the restructuring field, often taking in-house positions at hedge funds involved in distressed investing or transitioning to roles at financial advisory or investment banking firms—again allowing for the continued development of those relationships either as clients or colleagues within the industry.