Shareholder, Tucker Arensberg Attorneys | TMA Member: Two years
SNIDER: It was just by chance. I graduated from law school in 2005. My undergrad education was in Hispanic language and culture, and I also studied French and Portuguese. I had dreams of becoming an international lawyer, but I didn’t really understand what international law was at the time. International law weaves into all different types of practices. It’s not one particular area of law.
When I got out of law school, the market was extremely oversaturated, especially in Pittsburgh, because there are two law schools here pumping out three graduating classes each year. I was doing product liability defense litigation at a large firm, mostly e-discovery work and translating documents. The project I was working on was starting to slow down, and I knew that product liability work was not what I wanted to do.
A recruiter placed me with a small boutique bankruptcy/creditors’ rights firm. Primarily my practice there was bankruptcy-based—Chapter 11, business restructuring and reorganization, with a bit of commercial foreclosure and receiverships mixed in. I really liked it. It clicked for me. It was just a good fit. I had been doing product liability litigation and, before that, consumer defense litigation. In the restructuring area the work made more sense to me.
In Pittsburgh, the bankruptcy legal community is wonderful. It’s a large but close-knit group. The people were accepting and helpful, and it was a good place to be at that point in my career, four years out of law school.
Preference actions were a large part of my practice when I got into this industry. I’ve litigated more than 100 preference actions. They can be tough to prosecute and defend. The majority of my practice is centered around bankruptcy litigation, and preference actions were my first introduction into it. It was very interesting. It is a whirlwind when you’re looking at these issues and calculating days to pay for an ordinary course of business defense and new value defenses. It’s a little bit of everything. You’re not just a lawyer; you’re also an accountant at that point. You’re looking at statistics. That was another reason I liked the restructuring industry—it’s not just research, writing, and appearances. I had no idea how to use Excel until I started litigating preference actions. Then I became an Excel master.
SNIDER: I do a lot of creditors work, but some commercial debtor and restructuring work as well. I do a balance of both, but more so from the creditors’ perspective. The most gratifying engagements I have are family-owned businesses and small minority-owned businesses—businesses that have been around for 40, 50, or 60 years, and then something unexpected happens. You’re a mom-and-pop hardware store and Home Depot moves in five blocks down the street, or you’re a local pizza shop and a strip mall opens up with 10 difference restaurants—circumstances that they didn’t see coming but that cannot be avoided.
When I’m working with these people to restructure their business so it can go on for another 40 or 50 years, they are also the most appreciative of the bankruptcy and restructuring services that we can provide. Not only are you representing them but you’re also educating them on what has happened and what they can do in the future to attempt to prevent those issues from reoccurring.
Throughout my career, I’ve represented landlords, trade creditors, and utility companies in large cases. It’s not that those engagements are not satisfying experiences or that the people who work there don’t make great clients, but with the intimate, more personal cases, you can help someone who is about to lose not just their business but also their livelihood. You’re helping them save themselves, not just their business.
SNIDER: The turning point in my career, which was when I got into the restructuring industry, came when I was 29 years old and my 25-year-old brother died of a drug overdose. It was horrifying circumstances. It was not only a turning point in my career but also a turning point in my life. I thought to myself, “I’m either going to move forward and continue to do what I’m doing or make a change.” I decided to make a change. That’s when I went to the recruiter and got into the law firm that did the restructuring work, which led me to where I am today.
When something like that happens, it changes you. You look at life differently. I learned to speak up more. I learned to have more confidence. I learned to get involved with organizations like TMA and the International Women’s Insolvency and Restructuring Confederation (IWIRC), which is similar to TMA. You begin to live every day like it could be your last. It’s important because life is so precious.
Not a day that goes by that I don’t think about my brother in one way or another. It’s like they say, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I truly believe that, after having gone through what I’ve gone through.
SNIDER: I made shareholder at my firm when I was on maternity leave. This is a very competitive industry, and it is tough to have that work/life balance. I had worked at two small bankruptcy boutique firms doing restructuring work, creditors’ rights, and foreclosure, primarily, and in 2013 I joined Tucker Arensberg as their senior associate.
At that point, I had been out of law school for eight years and had been doing restructuring for five. Within two years, I made shareholder at the firm, and during that same time I had two children 19 months apart. It was a lot of work, but it was worth it. I still got to spend a lot of time with my children and my husband, who is a very patient man.
When I had my second child in August of 2015, I was on maternity leave. I had made partner that year because of how hard I had worked. I hope that I inspire other women in my position to do the same. I have had other women say to me that they believe that they could be passed over because they have children. I do not believe that is true. I can’t tell you how happy my mother and grandmother were when I called and told them I made shareholder. They were probably happier than I was.
SNIDER: It’s played an important role in my career. I have met so many people through TMA, and not just clients or potential clients—I’ve met people that I call my friends.
I think TMA is a great organization. TMA is a worldwide organization, which is great. I sit on the board of our chapter here in Western Pennsylvania, but the other chapters are so welcoming. I have never been to a TMA event outside the United States, but I appreciate that there are several national events each year. This gives you the opportunity to meet people outside your little legal community and grow your practice nationally. TMA promotes people coming together on a national and international level to make the restructuring industry a better place all over the world.
SNIDER: I would encourage everybody to educate themselves about this industry before getting involved in it, to look at organizations such as TMA and meet with someone you know who is in the industry. A lot of people have misconceptions about what our industry really is. People I talk to outside our industry do not understand that bankruptcy can be about restructuring and putting a business back together. Rather, people often think of bankruptcy as simply liquidation and dissolution.
Someone who is thinking about getting into the industry must educate themselves on what it really means before they get involved. Reaching out to a TMA member to talk to them about it would be a real good first step in the right direction.
SNIDER: I consider myself an outdoorswoman. I spend as much time as possible in the outdoors. I do a lot of camping and hiking. We do a lot of primitive camping—sleeping under the stars, building shelters and fires, those sorts of things. You could say that I like to test my survival skills.
You may be familiar with the show “Naked and Afraid” on the Discovery channel. Let’s just say that I will not be on “Naked and Afraid” anytime soon, but I can definitely build a fire and a primitive shelter. I’m not a big hunter. I’m more of a forager than a hunter. I like to test my endurance. The only reason I don’t think I could go on “Naked and Afraid” would be the bugs. Even as an outdoorswoman and survival person, I still have a hard time with the bugs.
SNIDER: I grew up in Edinboro, Pennsylvania, a farm town. Edinboro University is there, but other than that it is a lot of farms and grass and camps. My brother, father, and I did a lot of sleeping out in the woods. I started doing that at a young age and continued to do it as I got older.
My husband is really big into it. He could be on the next “Naked and Afraid.” He’s more of a survivalist than I am. When I met him, all we did was camp and take survivalist trips. Now we have a 4-year-old and a 5-year-old. We have them involved in it as well, and they absolutely love it.
SNIDER: Around here, we spend a lot of time in Laurel Highlands, which is about an hour southeast of Pittsburgh and the closest to us. They have primitive shelters you can rent. You hike in a couple of miles and bring all your gear and sleep under the stars, and it’s beautiful.
We go to West Virginia all the time. Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, is a wonderful place. I would love to own a camp there someday. We also go to Ohio often because my husband’s from there. Salt Fork State Park in Ohio is a beautiful place. We usually stay within the Maryland-West Virginia-Pennsylvania-Ohio areas, just for travel purposes. Neither one of us likes to be in a car for longer than four hours.
SNIDER: Yes. We go to Harper’s Ferry a lot. It’s where West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia all meet. There are several rivers in that area, and we do a lot of rafting, canoeing, and those types of activities, too.
SNIDER: I love to cook. I really think it’s important to know what you’re putting in your body. That really has inspired me to cook because I used to eat out a lot. When I was busy and younger, I would never cook. Learning about nutrition and how calories and carbohydrates work really changed my perspective on eating and cooking.
I love it. I can salsa and peppers, and I do it with my kids. From the time my son was little, I had him out there in the highchair, watching me make and jar salsa for six hours on a Sunday in the summer.
I also love to travel. I have been all over the United States, Central America, the Caribbean Islands, and some parts of South America. Most recently, my husband, the kids, and I went to Cuba, which was an unbelievable experience. We spent two days in Havana via a cruise ship. We spent a lot of time just exploring the city and learning about its history. The Cuban people are so kind and welcoming.
I ended up bringing some Cuban pesos back, not realizing that you can’t exchange them anywhere but in Cuba. I’ve tried to exchange the pesos at a bank and at the airport, and they would not accept them. We also went to Canada this summer and tried to exchange it there, but were unable to. Now I’m trying to donate it, and I can’t even figure out how to donate it.
One of my cousins is very active in the Red Cross. She’s worked with both the American and Mexican Red Cross, and she’s trying to figure out a way for me to get it to a similar organization in Cuba. We have not been successful in doing that yet, but we’re trying. If anyone reading this article can help me get this money back to the Cuban people, please reach out to me.
SNIDER: When you work in a professional industry, people don’t really see you for who you are. I’m a mother, a wife, a sister, a best friend—I’m all of these things outside my professional career. I’m out there on a Sunday morning at the 9 o’clock baseball game with my son, and then at 2 o’clock I’m on the phone with a client prepping them for their testimony on Monday. It is a delicate work balance lifestyle, and I work very hard to keep that work/life balance. It’s not all business all the time.
My kids are really my life. I had my son at 34 and my daughter at 35, and I wish I had done it sooner and had more. It’s so rewarding and so wonderful to have them and to see them grow. My daughter looks just like me. Sometimes I feel like I’m arguing with a mini version of myself. My kids are my life and legacy.