Spotlight: John Small
Thirty Year Specialist in Bankruptcy Law
What led you to become a lawyer?
Many people in my home town assumed I would be a lawyer because there were several lawyers in my family, including my father. I did not make the decision to pursue a career in law until I was a junior in college. I had observed lawyers being instrumental in solving problems both at a societal level and on an individual scale. A legal career seemed an ideal way to contribute to improving our society and to helping people.
What made you decide to pursue certification?
At that time, I wanted to expand my fledgling bankruptcy practice at my firm, Brooks Pierce, and see it grow and flourish. The certification process was an opportunity to demonstrate my expertise in bankruptcy law to my partners, to other bankruptcy attorneys, and to the bankruptcy courts, as well as promote the firm’s bankruptcy expertise to the business community across the state.
What’s the best thing about recently reaching 30 years of certification?
I am privileged to have had a long, fulfilling, and successful career doing what I enjoy. As a bankruptcy practitioner at this level, I have been challenged with by the financial problems that businesses have for a wide variety of reasons, including mass tort claims, patent infringement claims, foreign competition, environmental problems, and general economic conditions that can each create unique situations requiring creative solutions.
What is it like to work with bankruptcy clients in Greensboro?
I have been very fortunate that my practice has taken me from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the coast, representing clients across our state for bankruptcy cases pending in North Carolina as well as other jurisdictions from New England to the West Coast. It is particularly challenging to help clients beginning with a distressed financial situation, and then develop a productive business going forward. Sometimes that involves reorganizing a business. In other cases it involves representing a buyer for certain assets of a business that where the buyer will be able to invest new capital or and create a continuing successful business enterprise from the failing one. The most fulfilling part of the practice is seeing a business rise like a phoenix from the ashes of a bankruptcy.
In what activities/volunteer groups are you involved?
I have been very active in my local church and the local association of churches in Guilford County. Based on that experience, I served on the Board of Directors and various committees for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. After years of such service, I have had the opportunity to be the general counsel for the Baptist State Convention for over ten years. This service and opportunity to assist, not only the Baptist State Convention, but also other churches and associations across North Carolina, has been very meaningful for me.
Who is your role model and why?
I was blessed to have many mentors in school and among my partners. However, my role model has to be my father who, through his career as a lawyer in private practice, district attorney, and judge, demonstrated an unwavering commitment to do what was right and to seek justice for all. He set a standard for doing the right thing regardless of the personal cost.
What do you want non-bankruptcy attorneys to know about what you do?
Bankruptcy offers opportunities as well as challenges for businesses. One common problem is that clients and non-bankruptcy attorneys wait too long to seek the advice of a bankruptcy attorney about a financially distressed business. I have seen many situations in which bankruptcy may have been avoided through a workout or reorganization. One of these options may have been possible if the bankruptcy attorney had been consulted earlier, but either the non-bankruptcy attorney or the client did not reach out until it was too late. Then the only option left for the company was to shut its doors.
You’ve reached a big milestone by being a specialist for 30 years. What’s next for you?
I am thoroughly enjoying continuing to practice full time. For the next several years, I plan to practice and to mentor younger attorneys to continue Brooks Pierce’s strong bankruptcy practice.
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