Vicki Hogue-Davies 2013-11-14 11:02:13
Providing trusted service to bankruptcy clients This year DelCotto Law Group marks its 10th anniversary helping clients navigate bankruptcy and debt restructuring. Laura Day DelCotto and former member Tracey N. Wise founded the Lexington firm, which now also has offices in Frankfort, Somerset and Danville, in September 2003. “I practiced bankruptcy law for 17 years at one of the larger firms in Lexington before opening my own firm,” DelCotto says. “While I was happy where I was in my career, at the time it just felt right to try something new, to challenge myself more, to go outside my comfort zone. The opening of our three additional offices this year is a natural progression in the growth of our practice. We receive lots of referrals in both the Eastern and Western Districts of Kentucky from long-time counsel for clients, and from the bigger firms that often have conflicts in being lead bankruptcy counsel.” The boutique firm focuses in commercial and consumer bankruptcy, handling Chapter 7, Chapter 11, Chapter 13 and other bankruptcy cases and related litigation. It also handles nonbankruptcy state and federal court commercial litigation, and counts two certified mediators among its attorneys. “We have a very wide range in our bankruptcy practice, from simple consumer cases all the way up to large, complex commercial cases,” DelCotto says. “On the consumer side, we work with married couples, people with medical problems, families trying to save their homes, students with loan issues, high income individuals and senior citizens. In the commercial area, our clients have included businesses in the coal industry, marinas, hospitals and health care providers, trucking companies, hotels, restaurants, convenience stores, retailers and others. We are pretty varied in the industries we work with, but the type of industry will drive a lot of what the case is about.” Dedicated Attorneys and Staff “We primarily do the debtor side of cases, not the bank side,” DelCotto says. “An overarching theme in our firm is that almost all our clients come to us in financial crisis and under extreme personal stress in their lives because they’re dealing with these life changing financial issues. Or they are in a huge piece of litigation with major ramifications to the company. Our firm hires attorneys who are passionate about helping them, and who are empathetic about what they are going through. We try to nurture an environment that is very calming, one where we can help a client go through the process and come out the other end with a good result.” There are eight attorneys at the firm including DelCotto. “My partners Michael Gartland and Dean Langdon are experienced senior attorneys and they are both extremely dedicated to clients and passionate in advocating for their clients,” she says. “We have a couple of mid-level lawyers who are both very talented and growing in their careers. And our young lawyers are awesome. Because we are a smaller firm, they have been thrown out there to go to court and handle things themselves, which is how you learn. It is scary to them, but they call it the practice of law because you’ve just got to get out there and do it.” As a young attorney in Kentucky, DelCotto also experienced nerves along the way when she had “to get out there and do it.” “I was so privileged as a young lawyer to practice most of my cases in front of Judge Joe Lee, who is nationally known,” she says. “He helped write the Bankruptcy Code and has been on the bench since the 1960s and is still on the bench today in senior status. He is very kind and not intimidating. The thing about him, though, was he was always going to ask something I hadn’t thought about. An older lawyer would have just said ‘Judge, I hadn’t thought of that,’ but being a young lawyer there was always a lot of angst in trying to figure out what you might not have thought of. I learned a lot just practicing in front of him.” A native Kentuckian and third-generation attorney, DelCotto followed the footsteps of her grandfather and father into the practice of law. Her father, Judge Henry H. Dickinson, who is now deceased, was a bankruptcy trustee and former bankruptcy judge in the Western District of Kentucky. “He was a very beloved judge, and was and always will be a role model for me, in life as well as in how I conduct myself as a lawyer.” “I was one of those people who didn’t really know what else I was going to do when I got out of college, so I went to law school,” she says. “And fortunately for me I really do like it. I like challenging myself mentally and I like to learn. I like to help our clients. It turned out to be a great career that fits me well.” “I had plans to become an environmental lawyer,” she continues. “I majored in natural resources in college, but when I got out of law school I took a job at the larger firm and they needed a bankruptcy associate. Again, it wasn’t anything I had in mind for myself, but maybe it wasn’t accidental that it happened that way. The partner I worked with over the years would tell the clients that I had bankruptcy in my blood.” Rounding out DelCotto Law Group are four paralegals and several support staff. Illustrating a bit of the office’s internal culture, DelCotto recounts a “brain study” the firm did. “It was very similar to a personality test,” she says. “It showed how each person was inclined to think about things—some very structurally or very big picture or very analytically. We have our color-coded pie-charts posted around the office on our doors and other places so we can remember that how we communicate may not be how the other person communicates. We all know what each other’s brains look like.” Respectfully Serving Clients DelCotto notes that while there is a lot of camaraderie and fun at the firm, its reason for being is to serve clients. “We are here to get the job done,” she says. “We are a customer service business and a professional services firm. I know there is a lot of debate about whether law firms are businesses or a profession, but we are both. We always instill in everyone that they act with respect and professionalism in everything they do and with everyone they interact with. We advocate strongly for our clients, but can still be respectful and courteous in dealing with the other parties involved. “I believe that all lawyers should show the utmost professionalism and civility to their peers,” she continues. “There are lots of adversarial situations, but lawyers need to rise above that and not get personally involved, remain professional, and agree to disagree in a respectful fashion. In cases where there is never enough money to go around to satisfy everyone, we have to be lean and mean, and be very proactive and efficient in keeping the cases moving to conclusion, always trying to reach consensus when we can, but also being ready to go to court when we must.” Bringing that respect to clients, along with listening skills and a true passion for helping people are some of the benefits that DelCotto believes the firm offers to clients. “We really care about our clients,” she says. “It is genuine and they can feel it. If someone isn’t passionate about our clients and what we do here, they are not going to stay. We are very focused on our clients and trying to help them achieve their goals, so we really try to understand them and listen to them and work backward from there to get to their goals.” “Sometimes we have to tell them things they don’t want to hear,” she acknowledges. “I have a sign on my desk that says ‘embrace reality.’ There is a lot of emotional trauma involved when you work through gaining acceptance of the economic realities to figure out whether and how your business can survive. We help them through it and provide as much education as we can. We are a partner through the process who has their back. We explore the options and come up with the best way forward under the circumstances. By the end they usually really trust us and sing our praises, because we haven’t just barked at them, we’ve tried to listen, understand and help.” What does Laura Day DelCotto find most inspiring about her work? “It is gut wrenching seeing people who have devoted their whole lives to building a business faced with losing it,” she says. “Trying to save someone’s business, trying to restructure and rehabilitate it is fulfilling. It’s very rewarding working towards making a positive difference, and I think it is fun—sort of like putting together a puzzle.” At A Glance DelCotto Law Group PLLC 200 North Upper Street Lexington, KY 40507 (859) 231-5800 www.dlgfirm.com Other locations in Somerset, Frankfort and Danville Founded in 2003 Practice Areas: • Personal and commercial financial restructurings, • Workouts and bankruptcies, including Chapters 7, 9, 11, 12 & 13 • Commercial, bankruptcy and debtor-creditor litigation • Mediation Laura Day DelCotto Education: • J.D. with distinction, University of Kentucky College of Law, 1986 • B.A., Natural Resources, Th e University of the South, magna cum laude, 1983 Admissions: • Kentucky, 1986 • U.S. District Court • Eastern District of Kentucky, 1986 • Western District of Kentucky, 1991 • Southern District of Indiana, 2002 • U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit, 1990 Other Attorneys: 7 Paralegal Staff : 4
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