Jay Goffman '83: Creative Solutions to Difficult Problems

Native New Yorker Jay Goffman '83 decided within 10 minutes of his first visit to Chapel Hill that UNC School of Law would be his home for the next three years. “The school is so beautiful and the people were so friendly,” Goffman says. “I realized I could enjoy myself, like the people I was with, and still get a great education with every opportunity that I wanted.”

Those opportunities led to his position as partner and global practice leader of corporate restructuring at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP in New York City. “In my job, I restructure companies as quickly, efficiently, and cost effectively as possible, both in the United States and throughout the world,” Goffman says. “With restructuring, we’re talking about the whole gamut: refinancing, workouts, exchange offers, tender offers, recaps, prepacks, and traditional Chapter 11 cases and schemes of arrangement. We save companies, help clients make money and figure out creative and innovative solutions to difficult problems.”

One of those solutions is something Goffman calls “prepacks:” prepackaged restructurings that are negotiated, documented and voted on out of court, followed by a short Chapter 11 case to make it binding for all parties. Goffman, who invented prepacks in the 1980s, says he has used them more, and in shorter periods of time (including one in 32 hours), than any other attorney. He also says that his law school education inspired him to develop this tool.

“One thing I learned from all my courses was the importance of creativity and thinking about the policy and philosophy behind a statute and examining what it is trying to accomplish,” he says. “The policies behind enacting the bankruptcy code were to reorganize companies, maximize return to stakeholders and give everyone due process. I thought that the way restructuring was being done when I started practicing was inefficient, wasteful and harmful to companies. I was determined to come up with a better way.”

Goffman enjoys doing his work in his home state. “The best thing about working in New York is the opportunity to work on the biggest, most complex situations anywhere in the world,” he says.

While he loves living in New York with his wife of 27 years and 13-year-old son, Goffman says that he feels very fortunate to have gone to Carolina Law. “I feel a real loyalty to the school; I have been pretty lucky to end up in a good spot in life, and I owe a lot to my Carolina education.”

Goffman returned to the law school in March to teach a bankruptcy class. “It is fun to give students a sense of what it’s like to practice in the real world,” he says. “I want to encourage them to figure out what area really interests them the most. Life is fun when you are doing what you enjoy. I get to work in what I think is the best firm in the world, focusing on exciting and complex situations with some very smart and creative people. I feel very lucky; I love what I do.”

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