Bad Times Are Good for Some Attorneys Bankruptcy Lawyers Are in Demand as Companies Struggle
Byline: Alison Ahmoye Medill News Service
The downturn in the economy has meant an upswing in job openings for lawyers in bankruptcy law. A specialty that didn't seem very glamorous is getting a lot of attention.
"You don't grow up pining to be a bankruptcy lawyer," admits Andrew Shaffer, an associate in the New York office of Chicago- based Mayer, Brown, Rowe and Maw.
But the firm's Chicago and New York offices now employ about 14 bankruptcy lawyers.
"When I joined the firm we had two bankruptcy partners," said Tom Kiriakos, a bankruptcy lawyer in the Chicago office since 1982. The largest growth occurred during the last two years, he said.
Winston & Strawn senior partner Terry John Malik said his bankruptcy department has grown from five lawyers five years ago to 15 today.
Deborah Gutfelb has seen the similar growth in the bankruptcy department of Piper Rudnick. Gutfelb, an associate who started in 2000, said: "When I started we had two associates. Now we have seven in Chicago."
Top bankruptcy lawyers command $700 an hour or more.
"Bankruptcy is hot now," said Lauren Taylor, legal search consultant for Audrey Golden Associates in New York. "With the shift in the economy, there is more demand for bankruptcy attorneys and it's quieted on the corporate front."
The membership of the bankruptcy committee of the Chicago Bar Association has been steadily rising since 1996 when the roster had 144 names. The committee coordinator, Awilda Reyes, said, the committee currently has 161 members.
Although the number of corporate bankruptcy filings actually has declined over the last year, some of the largest corporate bankruptcy cases have been filed. The busy U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Northern District of Illinois has seen some of the largest, including Kmart Corp., UAL Corp., National Steel Corp. and Conseco Inc. The number of personal bankruptcies also continues to climb rapidly and reached another all-time national high of 1.5 million filings in 2002.
A challenge that law firms and headhunters face is finding bankruptcy lawyers with experience. …