By Donald L. Swanson

The American Bankruptcy Institute and St. John’s University School of Law do an annual forty-hour [yes, that’s 40-hour] “Bankruptcy Mediation Training” course.  The next course is coming soon — it’s scheduled for December 11 – 15, 2016.

I took this course two years ago – and loved it!  Here are some reasons why.

Course Site

First of all, this is not a vacation.  These are long, hard days of study and work and thought, complete with working-lunches, no less!  But being from Omaha, I get up early and walk around lower Manhattan to see the City each morning before showing up – on time – for the course.

The course turns out to be what I expected:  high-quality instruction and training from highly-skilled experts, with students who’ve already excelled in their bankruptcy professions.

What I didn’t expect is how high the expertise would actually be.  To illustrate, here’s an opening part of an article I wrote about a regional mediation hubs proposal:

The proposal comes about like this.  I walk into a lunch-time session of the ABI’s Mediation training course at St. John’s University, sit by a distinguished-looking gentleman and start chatting—as if he is one of my peers.  Turns out, he’s the lunch-time speaker.  He is the Bankruptcy Judge for many of the mega-cases we’ve all read and heard about.  [Oops.  Didn’t know that…sit up straighter in my chair…try to adopt a more dignified air…].  During the presentation, he talks about difficulties in mediating cases on the East Coast for far-away defendants.  “Like those from Nebraska,” he says with a nod to me [a nice and much-appreciated touch].  And he expresses openness to suggestions for addressing those difficulties.  Unfortunately, I have no suggestion at the time, other than allowing defendants to participate in mediation sessions by Skype.  That’s “not acceptable,” the Judge says.

Little Italy

Another surprise is the broad application of the training.  Much of my bankruptcy experience is as counsel for committees and trustees.  These roles are often mediation-ish: working with multiple parties to resolve disputes.  Many times during the course, I find myself muttering, “Wish I’d learned this two decades ago.”

A third surprise is the burst of creativity among students in the course.  For example, I had been writing for publication (to a limited extent) throughout my career.  But it was from this course that I decided to redouble such efforts – and, specifically, to write about bankruptcy mediation.  Such efforts led to starting this blog: .

And back to meeting expectations:  I expected to develop new relationships with great people that would continue beyond the course.  Expectation is accomplished.

And a huge “thank you” to Prof. Elayne Greenberg of St. John’s for making all this happen!

Coffee Shop


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