Beyond the Bio

Scott Williams Discusses His Practice and Dedication to His Profession and Community

Scott Williams Discusses His Practice and Dedication to His Profession and Community

Williams, Scott

R. Scott Williams

Scott Williams, a partner in the Birmingham office, represents a wide variety of creditors and debtors in complex bankruptcy matters with significant experience handling complex commercial litigation cases. Scott reflects on his long career, discusses some significant cases and talks about his dedication to his profession and community.

What spurred your interest in this practice area and has kept you interested for so many years?

After law school, I went to Washington D.C. to serve as counsel to U.S. Senator Howell T. Heflin. One of the Senator’s goals was to update the bankruptcy code, so I became very involved in working on what was to become the United States Bankruptcy Code Amendments that were enacted in 1995. While I did not have a financial degree and I avoided bankruptcy classes throughout law school, it became the focus of my practice from the very beginning.

I found the work to be interesting and I liked having to know a little bit about a wide variety of topics in order to appropriately counsel clients. You have to have a good understanding of many areas of law including banking, tax and corporate law and you must know how to litigate. Bankruptcy occurs in any sector of the economy, so you also learned about a lot of different types of businesses. Over the years, I have been able to work for a number of diverse industries from high tech and coal to candy, just to name a few.

When I’m working with creditors and companies, my role is to help them understand their rights and what tools the bank code allows for them make the best decisions for their companies. Of course, I work with a lot of financial information and help my clients understand their true value of assets and help them decide how best to move forward, whether it’s to sell or repurpose. It’s challenging and I enjoy solving problems for my clients.

Can you share some examples of cases you found particularly interesting?

I have worked in a variety of industries over the years, but a couple of cases that really stand out are those where I worked a smaller piece of a large bankruptcy.  For instance, my colleague Jennifer Kimble and I had the honor of representing a committee of retired employees regarding healthcare benefits as part of the Kodak bankruptcy. It was extremely rewarding to help the retirees with their healthcare benefits, but was also fascinating to be a small part of a bigger bankruptcy and watch this company, that was once an icon of American capitalism, come apart.

Another case that stands out for me was a 100-year-old candy company that had to sell because the cost of high fructose corn syrup and sugar has grown so high that it became cheaper to manufacture candy elsewhere.

These cases showcase the importance of companies to adjust to the constant changes in today’s marketplace. Wildly successful companies are not immune to this fast-paced, ever-changing economy and have to adapt to be profitable.  In many cases, we are able to help companies and creditors salvage what they can or shed unprofitable pieces of business to help the profitable side continue operating.

You’re active on the national and local Bankruptcy Bar, the American Bankruptcy Institute, and have been a frequent lecturer and author on bankruptcy and commercial law topics—what inspires you to be so active in the profession?

In bankruptcy, you’re often in court and bankruptcy attorneys need to have excellent litigation skills. Most of my involvement professionally has been about teaching lawyers the litigation skills they’ll need to be successful. Whether an attorney has come from a financial background or was not exposed to litigation during law school, my goal is to help them become effective litigators in bankruptcy court.

What trends have you observed in your profession over the last few years?

There is a growing recognition in the Bankruptcy Bar for professionalism and courtesy. It’s becoming more recognized that this is an important part of what we do. In bankruptcy, there is not enough money to go around and there are many complex issues surrounding that. Situations can get tense and difficult, but remaining professional and rational is very important in serving the clients.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

I have been extremely active in my local community and school district. For 10 years, I served on our local school board and just recently stepped down. Being an active member of my professional and personal communities has always been important to me.

In addition to my volunteer work, I spent many years chasing my two sons around and watching them compete in their sporting events. I’ve watched a lot of football and basketball over the years. My oldest son is now a sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill and the youngest is graduating high school this year, and is in the process of determining where he will attend college. With both sons soon to be out of the house and after stepping off of the school board, I’ll be working on figuring out just how I’ll be spending my free time in the future.