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Lindsey L. Smith on the emotional burden of bankruptcy

Published in 2015 Southern California Rising Stars magazine

When Lindsey L. Smith looks clients in the eye and explains that filing bankruptcy means their lives will immediately become an open book to the public, they usually cringe. In that moment, some decide to skip it even if bankruptcy is the only way to potentially salvage their businesses, homes and the lives they’ve built.

“It’s very emotional,” says Smith, an associate at Levene, Neale, Bender, Yoo & Brill. “They’ve invested their whole lives into what they’ve done.”

This is especially true for high net worth clients. In an ongoing case, a couple who owned 19 skilled nursing facilities in California decided to file for bankruptcy and sell the properties for $62 million, subject to limited adjustments. “Even though it worked out well for the creditors and owners and all parties involved, it was still an emotional decision for the principals to let go of their life’s work,” says Smith, who is working on the case with a small team at Levene Neale. At 30, she’s often the youngest attorney in the room.

After earning a degree in political science from Boston University, Smith went straight to Loyola Law School. During summers, she worked at family law firms but was always more interested in the financial side of things. She joined Levene at age 25.

“Bankruptcy is a very specialized area of law, which is one of the reasons I like it,” she says. “Things generally go as they were planned and discussed. Obviously things come up, like in any other kind of law, that may change the course. … An example would be where you were going to go sell the assets but they sold for less than anticipated. … [Then] you have to revamp your game plan.”

Outside the office and the courtroom, Smith spends most of her time with her husband and their rescue dog, Indiana. About three years ago she learned about the treatment of animals in shelters and went through orientation at a shelter through an organization called No-Kill Los Angeles. She’s passionate about rescuing animals from shelters and has raised several thousand dollars to support the cause through a charity walk, “Strut Your Mutt.”

As much as she loves her day job, she says, “It’s really important to have separation between your work life and personal life—it grounds you and makes you a happier person.”

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