Q&A with William S. Hackney

William S. Hackney, a partner in SmithAmundsen’s Chicago office, concentrates his practice in the area of bankruptcy, corporate reorganization, and creditors’ rights matters and acts as outside bankruptcy counsel to corporations. He has significant experience representing debtors, secured creditors, creditors’ committees and trustees, in all manners of chapter 11 and chapter 7 matters as well as out-of-court workouts.

Why did you become a lawyer?

I loved to argue as a kid.  One day a family friend began referring to me as “Mouthpiece Willy” (a moniker that remains today), explained what it meant, and for the first time I began to realize I could make a living arguing and persuading others I was right.

What advice do you have for law students?

I’m sure everyone says “get great grades” but not everyone can be in the top 10 percent of their class.  For those of us who were not or currently are not, I’d say get as much hands-on, real world experience as you can through internships, judicial clerkships, volunteering, whatever.  Your ability to “hit the ground running” to any extent combined with a basic understanding of how the real practice of law works will be appreciated by any potential employer.

What is the biggest way that your practice has changed since you first started working in that area?

During the early years of my career there were always a number of large chapter 11 reorganization cases being handled in Chicago.  Whether you represented debtors or creditors, the chapter 11 option was always on the table.  However, once access to cash was reduced (some would say eliminated) the chapter 11 option was oftentimes removed from consideration and the number of large chapter 11 cases being filed in Chicago decreased dramatically.  For a number of reasons, the practice today involves many more out of court workouts and restructurings.

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