About Bankruptcy Law

Bankruptcy law governs the obligations and rights of creditors and debtors. It provides for the development of a plan that allows debtors — both individuals and businesses — who are unable to pay their creditors to resolve debts by dividing the debtors' remaining assets among all of the creditors. Certain bankruptcy proceedings allow a debtor to stay in business and use revenue generated to resolve his or her debts. The bankruptcy system also provides overburdened individuals and businesses with an opportunity to resolve and reorder their financial affairs while providing protection for their creditors.

Bankruptcy law is controlled by a complex set of federal statutes known as the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Bankruptcy proceedings are supervised by and litigated in the United States Bankruptcy Courts. States may not regulate bankruptcy, although they may pass laws that govern other aspects of the debtor-creditor relationship. Debtor-creditor law governs situations where one party is unable to pay a monetary debt to another. Non-bankruptcy debtor-creditor law arises mainly from state statutory and common law.

Bankruptcy lawyers frequently work in private firms, both large and small. Large and mid-size firms may have departments that specialize in bankruptcy and debtor-creditors' rights. They may represent individual and corporate debtors, individual and corporate creditors, creditors' committees, and bankruptcy trustees. Bankruptcy lawyers who represent debtors guide their clients through the statutory framework that provides relief from the lenders to whom their clients are financially indebted. Bankruptcy lawyers who represent creditors attempt to protect their clients' interests by securing the maximum recovery possible from a debtor. Bankruptcy lawyers also work in other settings, including for the legal departments of large banks, for credit card companies, for the government, and even in public interest organizations.

Bankruptcy law is a blend of transactional work and litigation, thus bankruptcy lawyers must have both transactional and litigation skills. They must be good negotiators and must have excellent writing skills and strong oral advocacy skills.

Courses

Note: Whether a particular course is scheduled depends on faculty availability and student demand. View the Course Descriptions for more information about each course and when it's offered.

Core/Foundation Courses

These are the entry level courses that — at a minimum — employers expect a student interested in this specialty to have .

Recommended Courses

Students interested in this practice area should consider including one or more of the following courses as electives.

Enrichment Courses

These courses deepen or broaden the skills and substantive information that a lawyer in this field needs and also provide advanced courses for students interested in a specialty within this area of practice.

Clinics, Internships, & Externships

Externship at the United States Trustee's Office

The U.S. Trustee Office is a component of the Department of Justice and is a statutory party in all bankruptcy cases. View an excellent overview of the mission and operations of the U.S. Trustee program for more information.

Law students can obtain externships for academic credit at the Chicago, Madison or Milwaukee office of the U.S. Trustee during the summer, fall or spring term through the Law Externship course.

Contact the Law School's Externship Director, Erin McBride, for additional information and application instructions.

Judicial Internship Program

Second and third-year students can obtain academic credit for working in a judge's chambers during the spring, summer or fall terms, through the Judicial Intern clinical program. Placements are available with U.S. Bankruptcy judges.

Learn more about the Judicial Internship Program »

Consumer Law Clinic

The Consumer Law Clinic represents low- and moderate-income consumers in individual and class action lawsuits in federal and state courts. The Clinic operates year-round and is open to students who have completed their first year of law school. The Consumer Law Clinic trains students in all aspects of civil litigation.

Learn more about the Consumer Law Clinic »

Student Organizations & Related Activities

Students involved in student activities and organizations are often strong job candidates. Employers look for students who show leadership, public service, and community involvement. 

For a full list of student organizations at UW Law, view the Student Organizations, Journals, & Activities.

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