BFLSA Scholarship recipient reflects on her first six months at Columbia University in the City of New York.

LLM Courses at Columbia University – Overview

In my first semester at Columbia University I was able to take the following courses:

I am also undertaking a Master’s thesis under the supervision of Professor Edward Morrison. As many of the members of the BFSLA will know, in 2017 as part of the National Innovation & Science Agenda, the Australian Government introduced some of the most significant reforms to Australian insolvency laws in over 20 years. One of the cornerstones of the NISA Insolvency reforms was to introduce a stay on the exercise of contractual “ipso facto” clauses when a company enters formal Australian insolvency processes.

Given that the United States Bankruptcy Code has long rendered ipso facto clauses unenforceable, I have decided to undertake a Master’s thesis which considers the key lessons that Australia can learn from the US experience of the ipso facto stay.  I will complete my thesis in the Spring semester and look forward to sharing my findings in due course.

View from the inside –  some coursework highlights

All of my subjects surpassed my expectations. They have provided me with a solid foundation in key fields of US corporate law that I look forward to building upon during the Spring semester. I have also gained valuable skills in the areas of corporate finance, accounting, the interpretation of financial statements and computer programming. Columbia Law School’s emphasis on producing commercially-minded graduates with inter-disciplinary skills, particularly in business and finance, is one of the strengths of its LLM program.

Given my background as an insolvency and restructuring lawyer, it is hardly surprising that one of my favourite classes was Bankruptcy and Reorganization.  It was such a treat to be able to listen to Judge Glenn, a highly esteemed Bankruptcy judge in the Southern District of New York, explain the intricacies of the US Bankruptcy Code and Chapter 11 to our class – with frequent reference his recent decisions and fascinating “war stories”.

I am very pleased to report that my enthusiasm for this course translated into academic performance as I finished top of my class to Bankruptcy & Reorganization. I also received an academic merit award for “truly extraordinary performance” in this subject.

Taking Securities Regulation with Professor Coffee was incredible. He often shared his views on the state of US and global securities law and policy with the class, in addition to providing a comprehensive overview of the black letter law on the subject. He is as dynamic and witty as his publications suggest – although he does teach by “cold calling” his students to answer questions and solve complex securities law problems, so intense weekly preparation was essential for this class! I have observed that the use of the Socratic method is widely adopted in classes at Columbia Law School, and I have found that exposure to this method of teaching has vastly improved my advocacy skills and confidence in thinking on my feet.

Conferences & Seminars

One of the best things about studying at Columbia is the variety of lunch time speakers that come to visit us. Almost every day there is a high-profile individual presenting at the law school, and I took every possible opportunity to hear their stories. Some of my favourite sessions were: Neil Eggleston on his role as former White House Counsel to President Obama, Judge Ian Forrester of the European Court of Justice on what Brexit will mean for EU law and Sherine Tadros of Amnesty International and Akshaya Kumar of Human Rights Watch on their experiences as Director and Deputy Director of United Nations Advocacy.

Columbia also sponsored me to attend two conferences: the Global Restructuring Review International Insolvency Conference and the 10 Years after the Financial Crisis.  Hearing Professor John Coffee Jr, Stephen Cutler (Chairman of JPMorgan) and Congressman Barney Frank (aka the “Frank” in the “Dodd-Frank” Act) take stock of where we are 10 years after the Global Financial Crisis and debate options for the next phase of systemic risk legislation was one of the highlights of my year to date.

I have also joined the Columbia Business Law Association board as the LLM representative, and am working on programming an exciting lunch time series for business law students for Spring semester.

A sneak preview of Spring Semester

I am very much looking forward to another action-packed semester in the Spring. My program of study will include courses in: Financial Valuation, Secured Transactions, Advanced Bankruptcy Deals, International Banking and Finance, and Cross-Border Insolvency and Sovereign Debt Restructuring.

I am also working with the Columbia School of International Public Affairs on a project for the European Development Bank that considers strategies for resolving non-performing loans in Central Asia and the South-Eastern Mediterranean.

The LLM at Columbia is truly the highlight of my academic career to date, and I am incredibly grateful to the BFSLA for facilitating this once in a lifetime opportunity.