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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.
Bruce Bennett, Global Practice Leader
Jones Day

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

My work includes representation of 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. This may involve out-of-court negotiations to restructure a company’s financial affairs without the intervention of a court or bankruptcy reorganization cases.

What types of clients do you represent?

More than half of my practice involves representation of institutional investors who hold distressed debt or equity interests. Many of these clients are investment funds that specialize in investing in distressed instruments. Prominent examples include Oaktree Capital, Centerbridge Capital, and Appaloosa. I also periodically represent debtors (e.g., businesses or municipalities that are experiencing financial challenges). Examples include City of Detroit, Michigan; Orange County, California; and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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

Virtually all of my cases involve some kind of debt restructuring. Some involve litigation concerning the rights of holders of debt instruments and the obligations of the issuers and guarantors of such instruments. Specific cases are listed in the biography above.

How did you choose this practice area?

Very few people go to law school planning to be a business restructuring and bankruptcy lawyer. I am not an exception. I took a law school class called “Business Reorganization,” not realizing that this really meant “Chapter 11 bankruptcy law.” Through taking that class, I was introduced to a bankruptcy boutique in Los Angeles. It sounded interesting. I spent the summer there and liked it and Los Angeles. The rest is history.

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

One of the best things about the business reorganization and restructuring practice, generally, and at Jones Day, in particular, is that the practice involves a combination of negotiating and deal making as well as litigation. Accordingly, I get to do everything lawyers can do.

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

All lawyers should take secured transactions—this course is also the foundation of many parts of bankruptcy law. Courses on corporation law (both basic and advanced—many of the most significant cases covered in these courses are bankruptcy cases) and accounting are also essential. Courses in bankruptcy law, particularly business bankruptcy, are also important, but our lawyers really learn about this when they start practicing. Courses covering Articles 3, 4, and 8 of the Uniform Commercial Code; securities law; and corporate taxation are also helpful.

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

Bankruptcy cases are more often than not about distributing losses. Thus the negotiations can be particularly intense and the litigation highly contentious. It is important not to let this bleed into the rest of one’s life. I think I have been pretty successful in this area. My personal friends are always surprised when they hear opposing counsel talk about how difficult I can be in negotiations or in court.

What do you like best about your practice area?

I was initially attracted to the practice because it involved a mix of finance and law, and that remains one of the things I like best about the practice area.

What misconceptions exist about your practice area?

One misconception is that a bankruptcy practice mainly involves liquidations of failed businesses—a kind of matter that is not often very interesting. There are some firms where this is true; however, the Jones Day practice is focused on very large reorganization cases. We are sometimes involved in liquidations, but this kind of case is relatively rare for us, and when we are involved in a liquidation, it is a relatively large and complex case. Another misconception is that joining a business restructuring practice involves too much specialization. That is not true at all. First, because restructuring cases involve negotiation and litigation, one can acquire more skills working in this area than in other practices that involve only one discipline. Second, bankruptcy cases sit at the intersection of the law of corporations, taxation, secured transactions, contracts, and bankruptcy. This practice will broaden your experience, not narrow it.

What is unique about your practice area at your firm?

Jones Day, unlike almost every other firm that practices in this area, is pretty evenly balanced between representation of debtors and creditors. Most firms focus on one or the other side of the practice. We firmly believe that the best creditors lawyers provide at least some experience representing debtors and that the best debtors lawyers offer experience representing creditors. Lawyers at Jones Day have many opportunities to work on both kinds of cases.

Bruce Bennett, Global Practice Leader—Business Restructuring and Reorganization

Bruce Bennett has represented debtors, creditors, and business acquirers in many of the United States’ largest corporate reorganizations in the retail, gaming, media, telecommunications, heavy industry, aviation, manufacturing, real estate, insurance, energy, banking, and computer technology sectors. Bruce is a member of the American College of Bankruptcy and the Financial Lawyers Conference.

Aparna Yenamandra, Partner • Stephen L. Iacovo, Associate
Kirkland & Ellis LLP

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

Stephen: Restructuring lawyers advise companies, private equity sponsors, distressed debt funds, ad hoc committees, and other investors with respect to public, private, and portfolio companies in financial distress, including out-of-court exchanges and restructurings, amend and extend transactions, refinancings, liability management transactions, and bankruptcy and insolvency proceedings.

What types of clients do you represent?

Aparna: In the U.S., our practice is approximately 75-80 percent company side and 20-25 percent 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. For example, in recent years, oil and gas has been the focus of the restructuring community, then retail, and now telecom and health care. Among other large clients, we have represented Caesars, Energy Future Holdings, iHeart, and Toys ‘R Us. Our representations of Seadrill and Noble, in particular, reflected the cross-integration of our domestic and international offices.

Stephen: Kirkland advises companies, private equity sponsors, distressed debt funds, ad hoc committees, and other investors in all aspects of corporate restructuring, bankruptcy, and insolvency proceedings. Some of my notable clients have included iHeartMedia, Inc. in its currently pending Chapter 11 cases and Avaya Inc. in its 2017 Chapter 11 cases. I also represented an international maritime logistics services company in an out-of-court restructuring, and I’m currently representing an operating company interested in potentially purchasing assets of an insolvent Fortune 500 company.

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

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. In addition, 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 have spent the vast majority of my time at Kirkland on Energy Future Holdings, the third-largest operational filing in history. I have also had an opportunity to work on smaller cases in the software and retail space.

Stephen: The majority of my deals involve representing debt-ors in complex Chapter 11 proceedings. For example, in connection with iHeartMedia, Inc.’s Chapter 11 restructuring, the company reached an agreement with holders of more than $11 billion of its debt and its financial sponsors regarding a comprehensive balance sheet restructuring that will reduce iHeart’s debt by more than $10 billion, provide iHeart’s existing senior creditors with over 90 percent of the reorganized company’s stock, and separate iHeart from its majority-owned subsidiary, Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings, Inc.

How did you choose this practice area?

Aparna: I liked (and still like!) that restructuring has a mix of litigation elements and corporate elements and that we are in a position to help companies during what is typically a high-stress time for them. Helping to reorganize a company, stabilize its operations, save jobs, and “keep the lights on” is hugely satisfying. I also like that the practice affords an opportunity to both sit at the negotiating table and also present arguments in court, providing a very comprehensive experience to any young lawyer.

Stephen: I chose restructuring because I was looking for a dynamic practice that also required a level of business skills and sophistication above and beyond that of traditional corporate lawyers. In particular, representing debtors requires lawyers to negotiate and broker extremely complex deals with large numbers of key stakeholders, which can involve the use or threat of litigation when needed. I particularly enjoy that every single day and every single case presents new challenges and the ability to use both transactional and litigation skills. In addition, bankruptcy lawyers get to appear in court frequently, even at junior levels of responsibility. And on top of the legal work, I spend considerable time working with restructuring advisers and investment bankers to assist and advise clients on strategic and operational business issues. In my experience, no other practice uses such a broad range of skills.

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

Aparna: A typical day changes dramatically the longer you are here. I have been at Kirkland in the restructuring group for six-and-a-half years. A typical day for me at this stage is a mix of fielding inbound questions from senior members of the management team and board members as to either issues that have arisen or broader restructuring strategy questions; working with younger associates to develop pleadings, deal documents, and various client presentations; and coordinating with my senior partners to make sure the communication lines are constantly open and that we are working together as cohesively as possible.

Stephen: The best part about being a restructuring lawyer is that there is no typical day. Some days I’ll be at a client’s offices, working with the client and its other advisers to formulate a restructuring strategy and prepare the company for a Chapter 11 filing. The next week, I might be in court seeking confirmation of a Chapter 11 plan. The days in between are spent on conference calls and in meetings trying to broker agreements to piece together a global deal and drafting various court-related documents, such as first day motions, plans of reorganization, claim objections, sale motions, and orders. I’ve even drafted bankruptcy appellate briefs. On any given week, I can find myself at a client’s headquarters anywhere in the world, at a meeting with key lender groups in New York, or in court anywhere in the U.S.

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

Aparna: I would recommend taking a broad base of classes, including those 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. Much of what we do involves working with investment bankers, so any business-related classes would be helpful. In addition, if there is an opportunity to clerk with a bankruptcy judge, that could be helpful to understand restructuring from the bench’s perspective. All that being said, Kirkland offers a wealth of training sessions on key topics, and nothing beats on-the-job training.

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

Aparna: One challenging aspect of the practice as debtors’ counsel, in particular, is that we are the consensus-makers among a number of parties with investments at stake. Debtors owe a fiduciary duty to maximize value for all of their stakeholders, and debtors’ counsel often has the task of trying to negotiate a global compromise across a number of disparate creditor constituencies who often have extremely different goals. Bringing those parties together can sometimes be a challenge but when done successfully, can also be very rewarding. Another challenge is the unpredictability of the practice—some days are simply triage for unexpected yet significant issues.

What do you like best about your practice area?

Aparna: There are a number of things I particularly like about my practice area. First, we work with virtually every practice group in the firm (tax, litigation, debt finance, capital markets, M&A, etc.), which allows me to develop relationships and get a snapshot of the work that others do. Second, every day is completely unpredictable and different from the previous day, which keeps things dynamic and interesting. Third, as distressed industries change (e.g., the shift in focus from oil and gas to retail to health care and telecom), we get to become subject matter experts in various industries. That means we are always learning about new industries and new companies (often high-profile ones), which I really enjoy.

Stephen: The thing I like most about my practice area is the people. The restructuring industry is a very small community, and you consistently work with (or against) the same people over and over and are consistently in front of the same judges. Because of that dynamic, relationships and credibility are so important, and that builds a real camaraderie across the industry that you can’t find anywhere else.

What is unique about this practice area at your firm?

Aparna: Kirkland’s restructuring practice is unique. It is a young, highly energized group that is growing quickly 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 fairly leanly, which means that there are not a number of layers between the senior partners and junior associates. This not only gives junior associates an opportunity to take on more substantive work, but it also helps bridge relationships among the deal teams. We are also office agnostic—all of our cases are cross staffed between our primary New York and Chicago teams, which gives every team a chance to get to work with as broad a group as possible.

Stephen: Kirkland encourages junior associates, particularly in the restructuring group, to take on a lot of responsibility early. That includes getting up and arguing in court within your first couple of years of practice. Additionally, the Kirkland Institute of Restructuring Training is a one-of-a-kind training opportunity where associates get paired with teams of junior investment bankers from the top restructuring advisory banks in the world to compete in a mock restructuring scenario. The training allows attorneys to present a mock board scenario, with real directors and other senior restructuring professionals serving as the board of a distressed company, and provides tremendous networking opportunities with other restructuring professionals.

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

Stephen: Restructuring attorneys typically find themselves pursuing any of the following career paths, in no particular order: staying in private practice law; leaving the practice of law for a position as a non-legal adviser in either an investment bank’s restructuring group or at a restructuring advisory firm, with maybe an eventual career at a distressed hedge fund; or pursuing in-house opportunities. Restructuring lawyers actually make great “generalists” because we deal with so many business law issues in our day-to-day practice, including real estate, employment and labor, vendor contracts, corporate and securities law, litigation, etc.

Aparna Yenamandra, Partner, and Stephen L. Iacovo, Associate—Restructuring

Aparna Yenamandra is a restructuring partner in the New York office of Kirkland & Ellis LLP (after having been a summer associate and associate at Kirkland). She advises companies and creditors with investments in distressed companies across a host of industries, including oil and gas, retail, and software. From a company perspective, she advises companies in connection with Chapter 11 filings and out-of-court deleveraging solutions. She also advises creditors in connection with distressed investments and sale transactions. Aparna received her B.A. in Economics and Political Science from New York University and her J.D. from Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law.

Stephen L. Iacovo is an associate in the restructuring group at Kirkland & Ellis in Chicago. Since joining Kirkland in 2016, Stephen has been involved in some of the largest and most complex corporate restructurings of the past few years, including representing iHeartMedia, Inc. and Avaya Inc. in their Chapter 11 cases. Stephen also maintains an active pro bono practice serving military veterans. Stephen graduated with a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School and an M.B.A. from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 2016. Prior to law and business school, Stephen served as a Commissioned Officer in the U.S. Army for four years. Stephen earned his Commission through Army ROTC at the University of Notre Dame, where he graduated with a B.B.A. in Finance and a supplemental major in History in 2009.

Daniel Eggermann, Partner
Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

Corporate restructuring is a considerably broad practice. In its simplest form, it entails advising and representing various categories of clients on the multitude of issues confronting distressed businesses. That could involve representing lenders (or borrowers) with respect to balance sheet or operational restructurings (both out-of-court or through a court-supervised bankruptcy process). Those restructurings can be negotiated consensually, achieved through litigation, or perhaps resolved through a combination of litigation and negotiation.

What types of clients do you represent?

My clients are typically, although not limited to, institutional investors who are holders of debt issued by financially distressed companies. They retain us individually, or in groups, to advise them with respect to their rights and entitlements and to protect those rights and entitlements if necessary. I have also represented official committees of unsecured creditors, as well as financially distressed companies and/or their boards of directors.

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

Kramer Levin has played prominent roles in many of the largest corporate and municipal debt restructurings of recent years, including Toys R’ Us, Caesars, Nine West, Puerto Rico, City of Detroit, Argentina, General Motors, Chrysler, Lehman Brothers, and Washington Mutual, to name a few.

How did you choose this practice area?

As a summer associate at a large corporate law firm, I was unsure as to whether I wanted to become a litigator or a corporate lawyer, and if a corporate lawyer, which areas or industries to focus on. I found that corporate restructuring offered the perfect balance of litigation and corporate. It may be the only true “general” practice, at least at the large corporate law firm level. As a corporate restructuring attorney, I get exposure to numerous disciplines of the law (both on the litigation side and on the corporate side), including capital markets, M&A, corporate governance, securities, real estate, tax, intellectual property, and employment, to name a few. Moreover, no industry is immune from distress. As a result, corporate restructuring attorneys work in multiple industries including—in recent years—retail, automotive, hospitality, gaming, energy, telecom, and financial services. This breadth and variety of experience is what attracted me to corporate restructuring in the first instance and has kept me in it since.

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

One of the appealing benefits of corporate restructuring, at least in my experience, is that there are no “typical” days. One day, I may be reviewing, revising, and negotiating many flavors of corporate documents, including plans of reorganization, asset purchase agreements, financing documents, etc. Another day, I may be reviewing and revising litigation briefs—whether in connection with motion practice, the merits, appeals, or otherwise. A significant portion of my day is spent simply communicating with clients, whether it be in meetings, on conference calls, or through written correspondence. The balance is generally spent reviewing, revising, or drafting documents and briefs, and, when necessary, attending court hearings.

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

Obviously, basic bankruptcy-related classes are helpful, as are classes that develop advocacy, drafting, and negotiation skills. But, candidly, much of that is learned “on the job.” What I think is very useful is a firm foundation in matters of corporate finance and to some extent, accounting. If one is to restructure a company, it is important to have a thorough understanding of that company’s business—notably, its assets, liabilities, and related cash flows. Being conversant on those matters and the associated accounting terms at the outset of your practice is a clear advantage. Many law schools permit their students to take graduate-level corporate finance, accounting, and related business courses offered by their affiliated business schools. In my experience, those courses are time well spent.

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

Achieving consensus. This is an especially challenging task which requires, among other things, a thorough understanding of the facts and the law, credibility, tact, careful navigation and—in large measure—diplomacy. Most large corporate restructurings involve negotiations and/or litigation among numerous parties in interest, including (in no particular order) borrowers, secured lenders, unsecured lenders, senior lenders, subordinated lenders, equity holders, employees, labor unions, management, pension funds, customers, tort creditors, landlords, suppliers, and regulators, as well as federal, state, and local government authorities. Those parties sometimes “wear multiple hats” and almost always have conflicting rights, entitlements—and importantly—opinions, views, strategies, and agendas. Indeed, even similarly situated creditors may have differing views on how best to restructure a company, which creates additional complexity when representing a group of creditors. Before one can even attempt to negotiate a resolution with adversaries, we are often tasked with negotiating and achieving a consensus within our own client group.

What do you like best about your practice area?

The breadth and variety of the practice. My career has been a constant learning experience. Restructuring has exposed me to numerous aspects of the law, as well as multiple industries and companies operating within those industries. Moreover, given this breadth of practice, I often find myself working with other specialists within my firm, including litigators, corporate finance attorneys, real estate attorneys, and tax specialists. That has enabled me to develop internal firm relationships that might otherwise be challenging to develop, particularly at large corporate law firms.

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

Junior corporate restructuring lawyers at Kramer Levin perform a wide array of important tasks. For example, they are critical components of business development. We very much rely on our junior lawyers to perform detailed analyses of distressed companies, including their businesses, operations, assets, liabilities, and the circumstances surrounding the “distress.” That understanding is critical to assessing and developing restructuring options and strategies, which in many instances can be the foundation for the firm’s engagement on a matter. Once engaged, we will rely on our junior associates for legal and factual research to help develop, test, and implement our strategies. Our junior lawyers are frequently called upon to draft corporate documents and court pleadings, and if required, to make court appearances. In many cases, our junior lawyers are expected to communicate directly with our clients on a daily basis. They are often tasked with providing daily updates to clients on case developments and are frequently on the receiving end of client inquiries.

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

We put an emphasis on providing our summer associates with opportunities to experience what it is like to practice law as a seasoned restructuring attorney—an experience that is not necessarily obtained through typical research-and-writing assignments that are often handed out to summer associates and junior lawyers. We do that in at least two ways. First, we encourage and promote “shadowing” opportunities pursuant to which summer associates accompany senior lawyers to client meetings, negotiations, and court hearings. Through those “shadowing” experiences, our summer lawyers observe firsthand what corporate restructuring attorneys (including senior attorneys) do on a day-to-day basis. We also offer our summer associates the opportunity to participate in a “bankruptcy simulation” inspired by our actual case experiences. Our summer associates are paired off into teams and assigned to either “represent” the company or its official committee of unsecured creditors. They are presented with a hypothetical dispute and tasked with (a) advising, and taking direction from, their “clients” (played by restructuring partners) and (b) negotiating a potential resolution with an opposing team of their fellow summer associates. Our restructuring associates serve as coaches to assist along the way. We find that this simulation provides summer associates with a unique “hands-on” experience of what it is like to practice as corporate restructuring attorneys.

Daniel Eggermann, Partner—Bankruptcy and Restructuring

Daniel Eggermann focuses primarily on the representation of distressed investors, bank debt holder and bondholder groups, creditors’ committees, and other parties in interest in all aspects of bankruptcy cases and out-of-court restructurings. Mr. Eggermann’s recent experience includes representing an ad hoc group of bondholders holding in excess of $3.5 billion of first priority senior secured bonds issued by Caesars Entertainment Operating Company in connection with Caesars’ Chapter 11 bankruptcy case.

Mr. Eggermann received a J.D., cum laude, from New York University School of Law in 2002 and a B.A., magna cum laude, from Long Island University in 1998.

Matt Barr, Co-Chair
Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

Weil is one of the leading bankruptcy and restructuring firms in the world, and I am proud to be co-chair of the Business Finance & Restructuring department. Weil invented much of what has become standard practice in restructuring, and over the last 45 years, our firm has played a pivotal role in defining this field by offering creative, practical, and thoughtful solutions for our clients.

We have more than 100 dedicated lawyers in our global restructuring group, many of them recognized as leaders in the field. Our group has been described as the “gold standard” of bankruptcy practices and as a “restructuring powerhouse.” Our representations in the U.S. restructuring practice range from top global corporations in mega-restructurings to middle-market debtors. We have served as chief debtors’ counsel in five of the six largest U.S. bankruptcy filings in history, and we continue to have leading company-side roles in many of the most complex and highest-profile cases. Unlike most other large firms, our practice is broad and includes sponsors and creditor representations—including ad hoc groups and official committees of unsecured creditors—and representations of purchasers of distressed assets, among others.

What types of clients do you represent?

Our practice is broad and diverse. From some of the most historic restructurings—including General Motors, Lehman Brothers, American Airlines, and MF Global—Weil continues to play an integral role in high-profile restructurings. In the U.S. alone, Weil has a leading role in more than 10 of the biggest bankruptcies in 2018, including serving as debtors’ counsel on two of the largest filings—Sears Holdings and Catalina Marketing Corporation. In 2019, our practice is flourishing with our representation of PG&E in its Chapter 11 cases with estimated liabilities (including contingent and disputed liabilities) in excess of $50 billion. We also acted as debtors’ counsel to LBI Media, Waypoint Leasing, Claire’s Stores, Westinghouse Electric, Takata, Basic Energy, Tops Holding, Southeastern Grocers, Halcón Resources, Aéropostale, J. Crew, Fieldwood Energy, China Fishery Group, Breitburn Energy Partners, and Angelica Corporation. And we represented the ad hoc group in Cobalt International Energy; served as counsel to Thomas H. Lee Partners and Bain Capital, as debt holder and financial sponsors of iHeart Media; and served as legal advisors to Krayn Wind LLC in connection with the Chapter 11 cases of FirstEnergy Solutions.

We don’t only represent clients who file for bankruptcy, but also do extensive work on restructuring of debt and successful avoidance of Chapter 11. Tweddle Group is just one recent example of that. Weil was honored by the 2018 M&A Advisor Turnaround Awards, winning the “Out-of-Court Restructuring of the Year (over $100 million)” award in recognition of the firm’s groundbreaking work advising Tweddle Group—a middle market, private-equity-owned automotive supplier—in an out-of-court restructuring, pursuant to which the lenders received 100 percent equity ownership of Tweddle Group and an amended term loan facility in exchange for their existing claims.

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

I have represented debtors, private equity funds, hedge funds, ad hoc groups, financial institutions, and secured and unsecured creditors in numerous in-court and out-of-court restructuring matters. I had the opportunity to advise on some of 2018’s largest and highest-profile bankruptcies. These notably included working for Fieldwood Energy in connection with its Chapter 11 case. We designed a strategy to use Chapter 11 to simultaneously acquire strategic assets, equitize over $1.6 billion in debt, and raise $525 million of capital through an equity rights offering in a fully consensual prepackaged restructuring completed in less than two months. In another high-profile matter, I advised Claire’s Stores, in connection with its Chapter 11 cases with liabilities in excess of $2 billion prepetition. I also advised Thomas H. Lee Partners and Bain Capital, as debt holder and financial sponsors of iHeart Media, in connection with the Chapter 11 case of iHeart. And I was counsel to an ad hoc consortium of holders of first lien 2019 notes issued by Cobalt International Energy that raised $500 million in new capital for the company and participated in a $715 million debt exchange.

How did you choose this practice area?

I grew up in a family that was heavily involved in the law. In fact, my father is a bankruptcy attorney and commercial litigator. One of my grandfathers was a district attorney and judge, while the other was a sheriff in Arizona. So I was also very familiar with and comfortable in legal settings. What drew me to bankruptcy and restructuring was the particular way it connects law and business. When I was in law school, it became clear to me that this path would enable me to dive into both in a deeply satisfying way.

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

As co-chair of the department, I manage many different projects, working to bring in new business and satisfying client needs all at the same time. I also make sure that associates are staffed on significant matters and that they have access to excellent mentoring and coaching. That makes for many days of very rapid, intense, and exciting activity. Dealing with a sudden flurry of activity is the norm for every attorney in our practice and can bring not just experience helping to create unique solutions for clients but also valuable exposure to clients.

I enjoy that things change from day to day in the BFR group. One day I can be in court, the next in a negotiation session over a restructuring, and the next drafting a pleading or corporate document, or helping on an employment issue. Typically what I plan on doing one day gets interrupted by many other issues that need immediate attention.

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

There are no specific courses required to join our practice. We look for people with good judgment who will be able to build and maintain relationships and earn the respect of attorneys and clients alike. All the same, I don’t want to minimize the advantages that come with having some knowledge of and significant interest in business and how companies are set up and operate. Keeping up with the latest topics, views, and developments in the restructuring world is very helpful. Weil’s award-winning Bankruptcy Blog contains such insightful thought leadership.

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

The combination of short deal turnaround time and complexity of the matters we handle is probably the biggest challenge, but this is also what keeps us motivated and draws us to this type of work. Lightning response to fast-moving developments in a restructuring matter is a necessity, since the company’s chances as a continuing enterprise often hinge on getting a deal in place before its business suffers irreparable damage. Simultaneously, we find that the creativity needed to bring these matters to a successful conclusion makes our practice area especially exciting.

What do you like best about your practice area?

The scope of our experience is probably the best thing about our practice. Our range and depth developed from our having been the firm that invented what is now standard practice—using restructuring and the bankruptcy system as a way of restoring large distressed companies to long-term viability and also creating the tools for selling large, complex businesses. That required constant innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit that we continue to prize today.

What misconceptions exist about your practice area?

One of the biggest misconceptions is that our business finance and restructuring clients are doomed to file Chapter 11. We do extensive out-of-court restructurings and successfully advise clients who never file or become the new owners of companies that never file. Another misconception is that our focus is solely on the debtor engagements. However, our creditor and sponsor engagements have become more robust and public.

As I mentioned, since my father is a bankruptcy attorney, I knew a lot about the practice and had him as a great resource. One thing I wish I had known, though, is that we all have to remember we aren’t just reorganizing companies and having clients make financial decisions. These decisions affect so many others—employees, vendors, and suppliers, to name just a few.

What is unique about this practice area at your firm?

Weil offers a level of expertise that very few firms can match in the field of bankruptcies and restructurings, and we have shaped the modern restructuring field. Our culture has grown out of that deep experience. The collaborative spirit among our attorneys is extremely high. It’s a supportive, cooperative atmosphere. Our practice welcomes new talent; trains associates well; and values innovative, entrepreneurial thinking. Chambers USA, which has noted our “creativity” and skill, named our practice 2018 “Bankruptcy Team of the Year.” Our team is so cohesive that we have won Law360’s “Bankruptcy Group of the Year” for nine straight years, being honored every year since the inception of the awards. Also, in 2018, our firm was recognized by the Financial Times’ North America Innovative Lawyers Report for advising Fieldwood Energy in its restructuring and Takata in its global restructuring and asset sale. We also earned eight M&A Advisor Turnaround Awards and eight Turnarounds & Workouts Successful Restructurings awards in 2018.

One of the reasons I joined Weil is that the practice has decided to enter new markets on the creditor side, where I have a lot of experience. Whether it’s with secured lenders, unsecured creditors, official committees of creditors, ad hoc groups of creditors, or other parties in interest, Weil has been able to assist its clients in maximizing value over the last few years by developing customized strategies and creative solutions to meet their goals.

Matt Barr, Co-Chair of the Business Finance & Restructuring Department

Matt Barr is co-chair of the Business Finance & Restructuring department (BFR) at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP. Mr. Barr has extensive experience leading representations of debtors, secured and unsecured creditors, bondholders, ad hoc groups, private equity funds, acquirers of assets, hedge funds, and other institutions acquiring controlling positions in financially distressed companies in Chapter 11 reorganization cases and out-of-court restructurings both in the U.S. and internationally. Mr. Barr’s engagements have ranged across a wide array of industries, including the retail, telecommunications, chemical, pharma-ceutical, textile, energy, oil and gas, automotive, apparel, manufacturing, project finance, and shipping sectors. Mr. Barr was named among Turnaround & Workouts “Outstanding Restructuring Lawyers—2017” and “Bankruptcy MVP” by Law360 for his role advising on some of 2017’s largest and most high-profile bankruptcies. He has consistently been recognized over the years as one of the nation’s leading restructuring lawyers by Chambers Global, Chambers USA, IFLR1000, Lawdragon, Legal 500, Expert Guide to the World’s Leading Insolvency and Restructuring Lawyers (Legal Media Group), and Super Lawyers, among others. He has contributed to various publications over the years on topics ranging from valuation litigation, in- and out-of-court remedies of creditors, and emergency asset sales, and he has been on a variety of panels. Mr. Barr joined Weil in 2015 from a major international law firm, where he was a senior equity partner.

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