The Making of a Trustee

The Making of a Trustee

By Russell D. Garrett

TCMS Today

Chapter 7 Panel Trustee
Western District of Washington

If someone had told me 29 years ago that I would be practicing law in the bankruptcy area I would have said they were crazy. At that time, I was living and working in San Francisco, single and considering law school. I had already had a successful career in insurance, both in claims and sales. However, law school offered me more of an intellectual challenge. I expected to be a trial lawyer. Despite the fact that I do try cases, and enjoy that, I discovered that the issues associated with bankruptcy are more complex than in most other substantive areas. I started my practice representing secured and unsecured creditors and working in a variety of substantive areas. Eventually, I represented a few bankruptcy trustees. When a position opened up on the Western District of Washington Chapter 7 panel, I took the plunge. Since then, I've represented Chapter 7, 13 and 12 Trustees, have been an Examiner in Chapter 11 cases, represented creditor's committees, and operated as a Chapter 11 Trustee and Debtor-In-Possession's counsel. For some reason, this practice is still fascinating.

I'll never forget my first asset case. A Chapter 11 had converted to Chapter 7 and I was supposed to go out and lockdown a service station with a convenience store attached. As I was driving out to the site, I called my wife. She asked if I would be joined by law enforcement. I told her no. She then asked if she would ever see me again. I laughed and said I hope so but I couldn't give her any assurance that would be the case. Beer and wine had been delivered earlier in the day and the distributors were coming back to collect the payment. I took possession of the cash, locked down the store, locked down the pumps and inventoried as much as I could. Later that evening I was visited by Guido and his henchmen who wanted their cash for the beer and wine. I'm glad I made it home that night. In another case, after the case was closed, we discovered, through a business partner, that the debtor had failed to disclose 2 separate businesses, an airplane, an airplane hangar and 3 vintage Corvettes. I never did get to drive the Corvettes but the reopening of the case and look of surprise on the debtor's face was memorable. There is a lot more to that story; find me at one of the NABT conferences and I'll tell you the rest.

Running a busy practice and operating as a Chapter 7 Trustee can be a daunting task. The level of accessibility to information and connectivity today is astounding compared to 20 years ago. Unfortunately, for my family and friends, I embraced it years ago. Fortunately for everyone, however, I work with Epiq and TCMSWeb®. I was skeptical several years ago when a TCMS® presentation was going on in our office, and in fact, I wasn't even going to attend the presentation. My assistant at the time, and two other Trustees scheduled the presentation because they were interested in looking at another product. I dropped in to be sociable and after about 10 minutes with Epiq and Union Bank, I found myself asking more questions. It's now been several years since I moved to Epiq. In that time, I've had an opportunity to meet several people from Coast to Coast and everything in between including Epiq folks in Kansas City. They've always been service-oriented, but I think that most of the employees at Epiq must have taken their training at Disney. The service and support is amazing. The people are wonderful and the products are superb. Any issues that I've had have been promptly resolved and improvements instituted. The flexibility of TCMSWeb® allows me to spend more time with family, friends and other volunteer activities. Because of the internet, and its ease of accessibility, I am connected everywhere and anywhere I want to be with my caseload through Epiq. Now, my family actually likes my connectivity. They see me more often.

My wife, Margaret, and I (and the kids) live in Lake Oswego, Oregon. I am an avid Duck fan. My son is a lacrosse player and plays for the University of Oregon while attending college. My daughter is also a lacrosse player and a vocalist as a Junior in High School. I'm also an amateur radio operator and work with the Lake Oswego Fire Department in our Amateur Radio Emergency Service group. I spend a lot of my time back-packing and bicycling individually and with our coed venturing crew. This summer, our crew back-packed at Philmont in New Mexico. It's difficult to imagine how much time I actually invest in scouting but the reward is in seeing young men and women grow up to make good life choices. Also, I discovered that there is one place that I am not connected: the wilderness. So, despite my love of technology and connectivity, I discovered that there is a time and place for connectivity and no connectivity. Fortunately, because of TCMSWeb® and the wonderful support we all enjoy from Epiq, I now have access to both.

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