NCBJ Program Connects and Educates the Next Generation of Bankruptcy Attorneys

To promote and support the next generation of bankruptcy attorneys, the bankruptcy bar invests substantial resources in the professional development of its less-seasoned attorneys. As an associate at Landis, Rath & Cobb in Wilmington, I’ve had the opportunity in a relatively short time to work on significant bankruptcy proceedings alongside some of the top practitioners in the country. The work also has exposed me to some of the best and most sophisticated judges the legal system has to offer.

Recently, I had the honor of being one of 40 bankruptcy attorneys in the country selected to participate in the fifth annual National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges’ (NCBJ) Next Generation Program. The NCBJ created the program, which is part of its annual meeting each September, as a way to identify a small group of up-and-coming bankruptcy attorneys “who show the potential to distinguish themselves in future years as highly respected members of the bankruptcy bar.”

To qualify for participation in the program, a nominee must:

  • Have five to 10 years of experience practicing law
  • Devote at least 50 percent of his/her practice to bankruptcy cases
  • Demonstrate legal excellence in the practice of bankruptcy law
  • Display a serious commitment to principles of civility, ethics and professionalism
  • Demonstrate commitment to the continued educational development of bankruptcy professionals and to professional activities that will benefit the public, members of the bar, and the court system

I found the Next Generation program to be an enriching experience that connected and educated its participants in a way that may be unique to the insolvency industry. It is a refreshing paradigm where the judges and attorneys with different levels of experience learn from one another, making us all better lawyers and strengthening the practice. This year’s program was led by the Hon. Laurel Myerson Isicoff of the Southern District of Florida. Her Next Generation Program planning committee offered exclusive events for us “NextGenners” while also providing tremendous networking connections with other young bankruptcy practitioners from across the country.

Of course, there are worse places to kick off a program than lunch at a variety of Miami, Florida hot spots. We were teamed with several fellow NextGenners and one of the following senior practitioners and non-judicial Next Generation Program planning committee members: Eyal Berger, partner at Akerman LLP in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Reno Fernandez, partner at Macdonald Fernandez LLP in San Francisco, California; Monique Hayes, associate at Genovese Joblove & Battista, P.A. in Miami, Florida; Demetra Liggins, partner at Thompson & Knight LLP in Houston, Texas; and David Samole, partner at Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton, LLP in Miami, Florida.

We also were invited to participate in a roundtable event with more than 20 bankruptcy judges and 10 senior practitioners. The roundtable provided NextGenners with the opportunity to interact with distinguished judges and experienced lawyers in a small-group environment and to learn first-hand “what judges are really thinking.” As an icebreaker, the roundtable started off with a presentation on the art of successfully drafting and obtaining court approval of fee applications.  NextGenners were encouraged to ask questions and raise issues on any topic of interest in a free-flowing format, which generated frank and enlightening discussions.

The program’s perfect mix of substantive learning and casual interaction included a networking reception in South Beach that afforded us the opportunity to connect with fellow NextGenners, judges, senior practitioners, and other renowned insolvency experts. The reception fostered an intimate atmosphere where NextGenners were able to work on their networking skills while enjoying a cocktail or two.

The final evening of activities included a reunion event that connected Next Generation Program alums and current NextGenners. Both the reunion and the dinner that followed provided yet another chance to mingle with other “up and comers,” learn from more senior colleagues, and form lasting and meaningful connections with others in the insolvency industry.

To receive this type of professional development opportunity in your practice is really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The Next Generation Program connected and educated the next generation of bankruptcy attorneys in a unique and meaningful way. I can’t speak for other judicial organizations, but the time and effort that the bankruptcy judges put into helping lawyers—both young and established—makes for an enriching experience.

If you know a rising star in the insolvency industry who meets the aforementioned criteria, please consider nominating him or her for the 2016 Next Generation Program.  It is the ultimate professional development opportunity for a young bankruptcy lawyer. Additional information regarding the Next Generation Program and how to nominate candidates may be found at

About the Author

Kimberly A. Brown is an associate at Landis, Rath & Cobb LLP, a Wilmington, Delaware-based law firm concentrating in commercial bankruptcy, restructuring, creditor’s rights and business litigation. She can be reached at 302.467.4436 or

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