A Bankrupcy Practice Anchors Fox Rothschild's Expansion To New York

Saturday, October 1, 2005 - 01:00

Editor: Mr. Geron, would you tell us about your professional experience?

Geron: I have an undergraduate degree from Bard College and went on to receive a law degree from Hofstra University School of Law. Between my first and second year of law school I interned for a bankruptcy judge. That experience fueled my interest in bankruptcy law, and when I finished law school I started working for a small bankruptcy boutique in New York which was comprised of three partners and three associates. I cut my teeth there in the bankruptcy field, handling both trustee and non-trustee matters, until late 1991 when I started my own practice. Over the years since then I became a trustee myself, grew the practice and then merged with Fox Rothschild LLP in February of this year.

Editor: Please tell us about your practice. How has it evolved over the course of your career?

Geron: When I started out after law school, I was handling high-end bankruptcy matters that entailed representing debtors and creditors, and was also handling some trustee matters because one of the partners at my firm had been a trustee. I got to close some of his bankruptcy estates, and I also received some training with respect to other trustee matters. When I started my own practice, at least initially, my work was largely focused on the consumer area, although I was never engaged in a volume-based practice. I tended to handle only the most complicated or delicate consumer work that required considerable expertise. By the time of the merger with Fox Rothschild, however, most of my practice had to do with either creditor or debtor representation in bankruptcy, with considerable effort committed to trusteeship matters. Over time, the focus of my practice has evolved from the consumer end of bankruptcy to corporate bankruptcy.

Editor: Please tell us about your appointment as a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Trustee in the Southern District. How has this impacted your practice?

Geron: In late 1991 there was an opening on the trustee panel in Manhattan. I submitted my name, and I was ultimately granted the appointment by the Office of the United States Trustee. This was an extremely important step for me in that it provided excellent training and, in addition, it constituted a sort of legitimization for my developing practice. Over the course of my trusteeship I have been very fortunate to have been able to handle some extremely sophisticated cases. This is the kind of work that requires considerable expertise, and the more of it one handles the more expert one becomes. It has been a terrific education and, among other things, I have learned how to handle even the most complicated litigation matters as a result. I cannot overstate how important my trusteeship has been to my practice.

Editor: You have also had a parallel career speaking and writing on a variety of bankruptcy issues. How does this activity connect to your practice?

Geron: Speaking and writing allows me to stay current with new developments in the bankruptcy field. There are always new issues, and one of the best ways in which to stay abreast of them is to be a participant in the discussion. My speaking and writing, accordingly, is focused on emerging trends within the field.

Editor: How do you manage to juggle all of your commitments?

Geron: When I had my own practice I was able to commit a fair amount of time to lecturing, writing articles, and so on. That has become more difficult since joining Fox Rothschild because the volume of work has picked up substantially. There are rare times in the business cycle when the volume of work decreases, which afford me more time to devote to this kind of activity. Nevertheless, lecturing, making presentations, and writing articles is an extremely important part of a law practice, in my view - and particularly in the bankruptcy field, which is currently subject to ongoing revision and change - and time simply must be found to allocate to this process.

Editor: I assume there is a cycle to your practice that relates to the state of the economy. It is pretty clear what a bankruptcy lawyer does when the economy is not doing well. What kinds of things keep you busy in good economic times?

Geron: My debtor practice has been primarily focused on small- to medium-sized businesses. In my view, those businesses, although influenced by economic trends, are not as heavily impacted as the large enterprises. Wherever we are in the economic cycle, there is always a need for bankruptcy advice. I see a bankruptcy strategy as one of several key planning tools for any business organization. It is something that governing boards must be aware of, and much of my work involves being brought into the board room and educating directors on the bankruptcy issues that need to be brought into the strategic planning process.

The other aspect of my practice concerns my Chapter 7 trusteeship. That tends to be somewhat countercyclical to the ebb and flow that one sees on the Chapter 11 side. That is to say, if there are a great many Chapter 11 cases being filed where there is an ability to reorganize rather than liquidate, that generally means that things are relatively quiet in the trustee area. When the latter becomes busy, that usually means that a considerable number of Chapter 11 cases are failing or that they are not being filed at all.

Editor: What were the areas that Geron Associates, P.C. was handling prior to joining Fox Rothschild?

Geron: The primary emphasis of my practice has, at all times, been on bankruptcy, but over time, it did reach out to include a number of pre- and post-bankruptcy issues that were important to my clients. We did get involved in areas such as employee benefits, corporate structuring, corporate finance and finance and commercial real estate transactions. And, as a consequence, we developed a certain measure of experience in these areas. We did not focus our practice in those areas because we considered them tangential to our core bankruptcy practice. Fox Rothschild's great depth of expertise in those areas has allowed us to handle those additional areas much more efficiently since we joined the firm.

Editor: Will you share with us the factors that went into your joining Fox Rothschild after some 13 years of having your own practice?

Geron: First and foremost, I think the culture of Fox Rothschild is attractive. It is a firm built around entrepreneurial high-caliber attorneys, who work collegially in support of each other's practices. The firm encourages and supports its attorneys in developing their own practices. In addition, I now have the ability to tap into to a significant base of attorney capabilities within the firm, such as a first-rate tax department or trusts and estates, or corporate, or real estate, all of which is of great value to me, my practice, and my clients. I am in a position to serve my clients much more effectively than in the past. In taking this step, I was aware of the extended platform the Fox Rothschild offered to my practice. It was certainly the right step for me.

Editor: And, if you can, the factors that underlay the firm's interest in you?

Geron: I think the firm was looking for someone to establish their foothold in New York. They saw both my practice and my managerial experience as a means to establish and then grow a practice in the city.

Editor: Over the past eight months or so, has the integration proceeded as planned?

Geron: In terms of my practice, clients came to me in the past for very specific bankruptcy issues, whether they were creditors looking for assets within the bankruptcy field or debtors looking to file. Today I am seeing clients with a variety of broader needs, and many of these needs are beyond the scope of what I would have been able to handle for them before my merger. Corporations in the process of winding down have a multitude of issues. At an earlier point in my career, I would have been required to either hire additional counsel or put the brakes on what I was doing in order to tackle all of the issues that derive from the principal one on which, of course, all of my attention should have been focused. That problem has now been solved by the ready access I have to the firm's resources, both in terms of expertise and personnel.

Looking at the merger from Fox Rothschild's perspective, the firm has a strong financial services department, and at least three of its offices have sophisticated bankruptcy experience. Nevertheless, my presence serves to increase both the depth and the overall scope of the firm's bankruptcy capability. The firm has clients with very particularized financial service issues, and their representation is enhanced by my group's involvement in New York, particularly given the types and sizes of cases which are again being filed in New York's bankruptcy court. All in all, the integration process has evolved in a very satisfactory manner.

Editor: What about the future? Fox Rothschild has undergone considerable expansion in recent years. Do you see this continuing?

Geron: I can certainly speak for New York first. The continuation of my practice with the expertise and tremendous resources of a general practice firm of the caliber of Fox Rothschild behind it is a very positive step, and I see growth in the bankruptcy area for certain. With respect to the firm as a whole, the established presence that I have in New York, and the firm's strong reputation, has enabled the firm to anticipate the growth of other practice areas. For example, we are looking to build capabilities in the New York office in litigation, transactional work, and other areas. The firm has a New York trusts and estates presence now, with a resident partner and associate, and I think other practice areas are going to be represented here in the very near future. I believe we will quickly build the New York office to a critical mass of high quality attorneys within a short time, as much as Fox Rothschild has done in each of its other offices. Beyond New York, I think it is very likely that the firm is going to continue to grow, and the obvious focus of its attention is the New York-Washington corridor, and Florida, where the firm already has one office.

Editor: And your practice. Where do you see it in, say, five years?

Geron: I mentioned the fact that the bankruptcy field sees change on an ongoing basis. New statutory promulgations, case law, a vibrant literature that discusses emerging issues of increasing complexity and novelty, the bankruptcy area is an intense exercise in continuing education. One such change that is to become law in October may serve to make consumer bankruptcy relief under Chapter 7 much more difficult to obtain. It may also have a considerable impact on Chapter 11 cases. There has been a good deal of publicity on these developments, but we really do not have a sense yet of how it is going to affect practitioners and the practice generally. I certainly anticipate being very busy over the next few years, whatever impact the change in the laws, and I suspect that much of this is going to derive from the ever increasing sophistication of the clients I am called upon to represent and the increasing complexity of their issues.

Please email the interviewee at ygeron@foxrothschild.com with questions about this interview.