As COVID-19 upends the U.S. economy, bankruptcy filings are rising sharply. Businesses seeking protection include iconic retailers JCPenney, Lord & Taylor, J. Crew, and Brooks Brothers; dining and entertainment purveyors Ruby Tuesday, Sizzler, Chuck E. Cheese, and Cirque du Soleil; and longtime operators like Hertz, Gold’s Gym, and Pier 1 Imports, among many other corporate and consumer filers. With the pandemic’s second wave looming, industry experts predict that bankruptcies will only continue to surge, along with the demand for well trained and highly skilled bankruptcy lawyers.
St. John’s Law has been home to the nation’s preeminent Master of Laws (LL.M.) program devoted to bankruptcy for over 20 years. This fall, the Bankruptcy LL.M. program welcomed 11 new students from across the country. As they pursue their degree full time and part time, remotely and in person, the students are building the knowledge, skills, and experience they need to be leaders in the bankruptcy field.
Like many current and past Bankruptcy LL.M. students, Jennifer Schein ’21LL.M. handled some bankruptcy matters as a lawyer before starting at St. John’s. She was drawn to the “fast-paced, intricate, collaborative, and diverse” practice area and knew she wanted to pursue an advanced degree to gain more extensive, specialized knowledge. Schein also sees the real-world impact of bankruptcy practice. “Cases handled in bankruptcy affect our everyday lives—from what we eat and how we get to work to how we treat our environment and what we do on the weekends. It provides relief to individuals, as well as large corporations and municipalities, based on the wide variety of cases at the intersection of federal law, state law, and the code.”
Schein’s classmate, Austin Cottrell ‘15C, ‘17MBA, ‘20L, ’21LL.M., shares her outlook and enthusiasm. His interest in bankruptcy law took root when he was a St. John’s Law 1L. “I had Professor Keith Sharfman for contracts, which was one of my favorite classes,” Cottrell says. “He recommended that anyone interested in exploring a career in bankruptcy take Creditor’s Rights taught by his colleague, Professor Ray Warner. I took his advice and then, as an upper-level student, I signed up for a few LL.M. classes. I really enjoyed learning from some of the bankruptcy field’s best practitioners. Sure that I wanted to pursue a career in bankruptcy law, I enrolled in the LL.M program right after earning my J.D. to continue building the knowledge and skills I need to be a top-tier practitioner.”
Cottrell, Schein, and their fellow Bankruptcy LL.M. students benefit from a highly focused and specialized program taught by acclaimed scholars, expert practitioners, and respected judges. Those educators bring their experience and insights to a range of courses, including:
To complement this coursework, in conjunction with the American Bankruptcy Institute, St. John’s Law publishes the American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review and hosts the national Duberstein Bankruptcy Moot Court competition.
Just a couple of months into her LL.M. studies, Schein, a 2016 Fordham Law graduate, knows that choosing St. John’s Bankruptcy LL.M. program was the right decision. “Every class is a very unique and invaluable experience,” she shares. “The professors are so enthusiastic about each topic and are truly invested in their students. And the ‘St. John's Family’ is real, not just a saying. You truly feel the support you receive from the faculty and the administration. They are always available.”
With the support of St. John’s exceptional teaching and learning community, Schein looks forward to this next phase of her career. “Now, more than ever, companies and individuals will rely on the protection and solutions provided in bankruptcy,” she says. “I know the St. John’s Law Bankruptcy LL.M. program is preparing me well for that important work ahead.”