Overworked junior bankruptcy lawyers find rare outlet

Thu Jan 28, 2010 12:28pm EST
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By Chelsea Emery

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Hoisting mixed drinks and swapping business cards, scores of bankruptcy professionals bellied up to a New York bar at a rare networking event solely for junior business turnaround experts.

Some came for the networking, others to find new clients and others just to socialize. But all of the young, suited executives jostling for drinks with a group of salsa dancers at a shared event space seemed to share a sense of glee at escaping their desks, if only for a few hours.

"You have no idea how hard people work," said Edward Neiger, an attorney and founder of law firm Neiger LLP, which helped sponsor the Turnaround Underground open-bar gathering in New York's Chelsea neighborhood. "Mid-level people don't get to leave the office, leave the computer, meet their peers."

The corporate restructuring profession has enjoyed an upswing as corporate America has run aground. U.S. business bankruptcies soared 38 percent in 2009, from the year before, as companies struggled with tighter credit and a crippling U.S. recession.

The surge prompted advisory firms to quickly bulk their practices with new turnaround experts, who work long into the night to handle the onslaught of bankruptcy cases, including carmaker General Motors, magazine company Reader's Digest Association Inc and hotel chain Extended Stay America Inc

While established pros have always enjoyed company-approved networking outings such as golf outings, wine tastings or even a "make-over and martinis" gatherings at New York's Henri Bendel department store, the less-experienced new hires have been stuck at their desks night after long night.

Adrienne Blankley, an attorney with Arent Fox LLP, who graduated from law school in 2004, set out to change that with a social gathering solely for mid-level restructuring professionals.

"If I'm at a networking event and my boss is at a networking event, everyone's going to want to talk to my boss," she said. "This keeps the opportunity for those who are just coming up in the ranks."   Continued...

<p>A woman holds a business card while talking to another woman as a group of laid-off workers meet during a recruitment event at a pub in New York March 25, 2009. REUTERS/Eric Thayer</p>