Law Students Win Bankruptcy Scholarship Competition

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Rutgers law students Adam Saunders and Amelia Lyte each won a $1,500 scholarship from the New Jersey Chapter of the Turnaround Management Association (NJTMA), in the Inaugural Honorable Rosemary Gambardella Scholarship Competition, which is based on a student’s understanding and demonstration of bankruptcy law. Students, Claire Nielsen and Christine Armellino, also each won $1,000 scholarships as the runners-up.

Members of the NJTMA came to Rutgers Law School in Newark on November 17 to watch and participate in competition, which involved four students from Professor Chrystin Ondersma’s bankruptcy class.

In the final round of the competition, the students were asked to present arguments in front of a panel of three competition judges that included Judge Rosemary Gambardella of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Jersey, Steven Mitnick, Esq., a partner at SM Law PC, and Colleen Maker, Esq., an associate at Walsh Pizzi O’Reilly Falanga LLP.

The students were given a mock case about a distressed clothing company that entered into a mail-order business in an attempt to turnaround the company, but ultimately filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The students acted as attorneys in the case, two arguing on behalf of the debtor clothing company and two arguing on behalf of a creditor sued by the debtor to recover preference payments.

During the competition, each group of two student attorneys adversaries was given 30 minutes to argue their case to and answer questions by the judges. After the presentations were over, Saunders and Lyte were awarded the winning scholarships by past NJTMA presidents Stephen B. Ravin, Esq., of Saul Ewing LLP and Nicholas B. Jalowski of Cambridge Financial Services LLC. The four students as well as three other contestants and Professor Ondersma were also given free memberships to NJTMA, whose members sponsored a networking reception after the event.

 “The briefing and oral argument particularly forced me to learn a lot about preference payments and their potential defenses. I had to make sure that I was comfortable enough with the Code and relevant case law to answer the judicial panel's questions and respond to push back on the fly. Winning the competition was an honor, and I am tremendously appreciative of Professor Ondersma, the NJTMA, and Judge Gambardella for providing us with this amazing opportunity,” said Saunders.

NJTMA President Jane W. Mitnick said, “Education is at the very core of our association’s mission along with preparing future restructuring industry leaders.   It is always exciting to see the next generation filled with such enthusiasm and the participating students were no exception.”

Professor Ondersma said the two winners were chosen from a field of seven original competitors, who were evaluated on written briefs prior to the competition. She credited the students with doing their own research, since much of the material had not yet been covered in her class when the competition began.

Ms. Mitnick, who is president of SM Financial Services Corporation, welcomed students to the scholarship competition and talked about career opportunities in the bankruptcy and restructuring industry. She welcomed members of NJTMA who attended and thanked the co-chairs for the event, Sydney J. Darling, Esq., of Walsh Pizzi O’Reilly Falanga LLP, and Messrs. Ravin and Jalowski.

Judge Gambardella, who graduated from Rutgers Law School, said of the competition, “What a wonderful event. It is truly an honor to be part of a program that supports young law students.”

Members of NJTMA’s NextGen and Network of Women (TMA NOW) Committees prepared the hypothetical case for the students.

To learn more about the NJTMA, see a schedule of upcoming events or to become a member, visit jersey.