NCBJ’s Edifying and Entertaining Las Vegas Education Program

Posted by Frank J. Bailey, NCBJ Education Committee Chair and United States Bankruptcy Judge, D. Mass.

The education programs in San Francisco were among the best ever in the 90 plus years of our conference. Thank you Judge Bonapfel and your committee. So the pressure is on to keep the ball rolling. The education programs for the 2017 Annual Conference in Vegas are planned and will be a blockbuster, with something for everyone from the high rollers to the “I’d rather be reading a good book crowd.”

Let me start with the good book. On the final day, which is Wednesday this year, we will offer three presentations of interest to insolvency professionals and judges (and their guests). Michael Lewis, best-selling author of the Wall Street thriller “The Big Short” and sports classics “Moneyball” and the “Blind Side,” will be interviewed by Judge Kevin Carey. We expect that Michael will focus his interview answers on the intersection of Wall Street and Main Street. He will also talk about how his books have been turned into academy award nominated films. Bring your Michael Lewis best sellers because he will offer autographs on your books (or, I suppose, on your e-readers). But even Michael Lewis may not be the highlight of the Wednesday programming. Several large company general counsel have agreed to talk about how they select counsel and their perceptions of the bankruptcy system. Finally, as we know, while bankruptcy offers an honest debtor a fresh start, not all debtors are honest. At a Wednesday program judges will be asked to sit at tables with attendees and to participate in a program that attempts to understand the sociological and psychological reasons that good people sometimes do bad things and perhaps what can be done about it. Phew, and that’s just one day of the conference. But we have much more.

On the theory that if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, Monday morning will start with a review of hot topics presented by a series of interviews managed by a pair of law professor/TV personalities in a freshening of hit 2016 Broken Bench Radio program. the education committee is working hard on producing a new edition of Broken Bench TV. Then, over the next two days, you will have a chance to drill down into new and difficult topics such as LLCs in bankruptcy, successor liability after GM, the ever challenging third party release problem, and the best practices in handling and judging retail bankruptcies.

What else? Bankruptcy is intended to be a negotiated process. Indeed, it works best that way. The committee has arranged to have one of the leading negotiation specialists from Harvard on hand to discuss, one-on-one with Judge Jeff Hopkins, the best ways to get to yes and the reasons a deal happens or does not happen.

We will also explore the fundamental changes in our economy, our political and legal systems, and our society that have resulted in a move away from formal bankruptcy court adjudication. Who and what caused this tectonic shift? And will the seismic plates realign, or is this the new normal? The education committee has an all-star panel ready to answer these difficult, but core, questions.

As we know from the several year march toward a national chapter 13 plan, we do not all do things the same way in this business. Unique practices, policies and cultures exist throughout our system. We call that Locality Differences, and the committee is planning a program that explores these differences and the reasons for them. Do they all achieve fairness? Should you be following a practice that they are using in another district? Come find out.

That is just a sample of what the programming will be in Vegas. Of course the ABLJ, ABA, ABI, FBA, and other partners and affiliates will be presenting programming of their own. Please look at the conference website beginning in April for more details and changes. Check back here for timely updates. And get ready to join us in America’s playground, Las Vegas, in October!