Paul G. Swanson and bankruptcy have always gone together – in a good way.
The Oshkosh attorney has represented a long list of clients in Chapter 11 reorganizations, Chapter 12 farm reorganizations, Chapter 7 liquidations and Chapter 13 repayment plans.
While bankruptcy is often a last resort, Swanson has kept busy during the recession trying to save small businesses as well has help them face the realities of the economy.
Even after 32 years in practice, he said it never gets any easier to see someone lose their livelihood.
Since 1982, the partner at Steinhilber, Swanson, Mares, Marone & McDermott has served as a panel trustee for the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin and also serves as a State Court Receiver in liquidation proceedings supervised by circuit court judges.
There was no reorganization necessary for Swanson’s responses to this week’s Asked & Answered.
Wisconsin Law Journal: If you could develop one CLE course for credit, what would it be about?
Paul G. Swanson: I believe that a CLE course on streamlined pleading and practice for small business Chapter 11s which would standardize forms for not only practitioners, but the judiciary, would be more than helpful. If practitioners and the courts were able to “shoehorn” small business cases into a simple Chapter 11 reorganization, then we might be able to save many worthwhile businesses that simply need a break from the immediate demands of their creditors.
WLJ: What can you spend hours doing that isn’t law related?
Swanson: In the winter, skiing. In the summer, sailing.
WLJ: What is your favorite website and why?
Swanson: Work related, I would say abiworld.org for its bankruptcy related content. On the other hand, I personally hit the websites of my local newspaper, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal every morning with coffee to find out what’s going on and who might have died. Amazing how obituaries become interesting at a certain point in life.
WLJ: Which actor would play you in a movie and why?
Swanson: In my Walter Mitty mind, I would like to think Harrison Ford. Trapped in this middle-aged body is a swashbuckling adventurer on the look out for damsels in distress and wrongs to be righted.
WLJ: What is one thing attorneys should know that they won’t learn in law school?
Swanson: Clients are real flesh and blood people that need to be treated with respect, listened to carefully and counseled individually. It’s something that is very difficult to train to young lawyers and is probably gained only with actual experience in the world.
Swanson: I think it was Summerfest in 1971 when there was simply a big tent at the waterfront in Milwaukee. The band was Mountain and Leslie West was the lead singer. I am not quite sure how we drove home after that one.
WLJ: If you could trade places with someone for a day, who would it be and why?
Swanson: I guess it would be fun to trade places with one of the Bankruptcy Judges for a day on which they were presiding over a difficult and intellectually challenging trial. I have often wondered how they see litigants and lawyers before them and would just like to see it from that perspective just one time.
WLJ: What is the hardest thing to tell a client?
Swanson: Without a doubt, in my specialized practice, that they are going to lose pretty much everything they have worked for. It doesn’t happen often, but it is always difficult.
WLJ: What is the one luxury item you cannot live without?
Swanson: Not to sound like a broken record, but in the winter, a good pair of skis and in the summer, a fair sailboat.
WLJ: If you were the State Bar President for a day and could make one permanent change to the profession, what would it be?
Swanson: I would mandate civility and common economic sense in civil litigation. Unfortunately, there are many causes which cannot be pursued due to the economic disparity between litigants. It would be nice to wave a magic wand to somehow ameliorate the situation.
Jack Zemlicka can be reached at email@example.com.