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Lawyer Limelight: Suzzanne Uhland (Lawdragon)


Suzzanne Uhland once wrote that she started out her legal career “believing that ‘professionalism’ was equated with ‘toughness’ and maintaining aloofness.” But she says the upward spiral of her career at O’Melveny & Myers is due far more to learning the importance of empathy, openness to other points of view and teamwork.

As head of O’Melveny’s restructuring practice, Uhland is one of the leading bankruptcy attorneys in the U.S. today, sought after both for her skill in shepherding companies to higher ground and for her views and insights on matters of international debt and restructuring.

Name: Suzzanne Uhland
Firm: O’Melveny & Myers LLP
Position: Partner, chair of the U.S. restructuring practice
Practice Areas: Bankruptcy, corporate restructuring, real estate, technology, energy, municipal and international financing.
Location: San Francisco and Newport Beach, Calif.
Law School: J.D., Yale Law School, 1988
Undergraduate: Stanford University, A.B., 1984, Phi Beta Kappa.

Lawdragon: You’ve been involved at a high level in quite a few well-publicized bankruptcy cases over the years across a spectrum of industries – high-tech, entertainment, financial, etc. What are some common threads, if any, in how big firms find their way to your door and into Chapter 11?

Suzzanne Uhland: Most of my debtor clients have found themselves the subject of macroeconomic or technological shifts that have impacted their business models. For example, I represented music retailers in the 1990s, when big box retailers got into the business, and again in the early 2000s when technology changed the way consumers acquire music (as one of my clients noted, “it’s hard to compete with free”). A few years later, I represented a book distributor and publisher, also a victim of technological advances.

The Great Recession also was a significant recent source of bankruptcy cases. I co-led the bankruptcy of New Century Financial, a large subprime lender, when it filed for chapter 11 at the beginning of the meltdown. I also represented a large investor in the Lehman case, and the buyer of a bankrupt Icelandic DNA bank.

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