Bankruptcy, or insolvency law, is a legal area governing the process for debtors who are unable to repay their creditors and seek relief from their debts through a court process. Students enrolled in the bankruptcy practicum learned the theoretical aspects of bankruptcy law and practiced the application of those principles. A first of its kind at the law school, the course was proposed, designed and taught by Assistant Professor of Law Robert Miller, J.D.

“This class allows me to leverage my practice experience and connections to provide students with an opportunity to better understand the realities of insolvency practice,” said Miller, who practiced national and international insolvency law for a firm in Nashville, Tennessee, prior to joining the Knudson School of Law faculty. “As a result, students are better prepared to excel when faced with the situations similar to those covered in class. I hope they recognize the importance of having a problem-solving mindset; it will serve them well as new lawyers.”

For their final project, students participated in nine separate mock bankruptcy hearings in the law school courtroom. Organized similar to many trial competitions, students were provided with a fact pattern and assigned a client for whom to advocate.

The students had an opportunity to discuss their topics in depth before three federal bankruptcy judges – Thad Collins, J.D., chief bankruptcy judge for the Northern District of Iowa; Laura L. Kulm Ask, J.D. ’03, B.S. ’00, chief bankruptcy judge for the District of South Dakota; and Charles L. Nail Jr., J.D., former chief bankruptcy judge for the District of South Dakota.

The judges also offered students advice for their legal careers.

“This is hard to do in law school,” said Collins. “Substantively, you were all hitting the right points, but speak up. When you speak up, it gives you command of the courtroom. Own that podium.”

Kulm Ask reminded the future lawyers of the importance of problem-solving and critical thinking.

“Bankruptcy court can be very creative,” she said. “When you’re up against a wall, I encourage you to take a step back and look for a creative solution.”

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