by Trina Mannino
Alan Resnick, the Benjamin Weintraub Distinguished Professor of Bankruptcy Law, began teaching at Hofstra Law when he was only 26 years old. While this esteemed educator of 40 years has many achievements and honors under his belt, he continues to radiate enthusiasm for teaching.
“As a dean I cannot imagine a better faculty member than Professor Alan Resnick. ALAN IS A SUPERB TEACHER, MENTOR, SCHOLAR AND CONTRIBUTOR TO THE BANKRUPTCY LAW COMMUNITY.” — Dean Eric Lane
In 1975, when he was relatively new at Hofstra Law, Resnick fortuitously fell into teaching bankruptcy law. The professor who had been teaching the course no longer wished to teach it, which left the youngest and newest faculty member, Resnick, to step in.
Aside from taking one bankruptcy class while he was receiving his LL.M. at Harvard Law, the young educator had a limited knowledge of the area of study. He admits that in the beginning he was learning on the job, but despite the challenge, Resnick enjoyed it. “The combination of complex transactions and litigation, the economic and social policy aspects, and dealing with both the consumer and corporate sides of bankruptcy, as well as controversial proposed changes in the law, fascinated me,” he says. “Within a few months of teaching the course, I realized that this is what I wanted to focus on for the rest of my career.”
“Alan’s first day and his first class as a law professor was my first day as a law student, and his was my first class and he was my first law professor. It was a memorable and most special day for both of us and the start of a 40-year collaboration and best friendship. I HAVE NEVER STOPPED LEARNING FROM ALAN, and he has never terminated his role as my professor. I could not have or ask for a better teacher and friend.” — Brad Eric Scheler ’77
Instead of resting on his laurels once he found his rhythm in the classroom, Resnick immersed himself in every aspect of the field. “I have a very holistic view of being a law professor,” he says. “It’s important that you know what is going on in the practice world — you must know how deals get done and how decisions are made.”
The expert multitasker has acquired most of his practical experience by serving as of counsel for the law firm Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP, where Resnick has been consulting on challenging bankruptcy matters in the firm’s New York office for the past 25 years. Former student Brad Eric Scheler ’77 — who was in Resnick’s first Contracts class in 1974 and who has become chair of the firm’s bankruptcy & restructuring department and a leading bankruptcy practitioner — called his former professor in 1989 to invite him to join the firm. Dean Eric Schmertz, who viewed this opportunity as beneficial for Hofstra Law, encouraged Resnick to accept. “I cherish my friendship with Brad and the unique and extraordinary professional relationship I have enjoyed with Brad and other Fried Frank lawyers, who have taught me a great deal about the practice of law,” he says.
“I found Professor Resnick’s passion for teaching and bankruptcy law to be inspiring. Besides teaching me bankruptcy law, for which I am forever in his debt, he was, more importantly, an early example of how to balance career and family. PROFESSOR RESNICK’S DEVOTION TO BOTH WORK AND LIFE BEYOND WORK SETS A WONDERFUL EXAMPLE FOR HIS STUDENTS AND THE PROFESSION.” — Larren M. Nashelsky ’91
Resnick attests that, along with hard work and continual fascination, luck has also played a key role in his success. Constantly encouraging his students to network and participate in an array of organizations and events, Resnick believes that one may never know where the next big break may be, and he graciously acknowledges the individuals who mentored him and who gave him a chance. “I stand on the shoulders of giants,” he says. “The people I met along the way really helped me to succeed.”
One notable chance Resnick was given occurred in the 1970s when he was asked to speak on a bankruptcy law panel at the Nassau County Bar Association. Due to this speaking engagement, he received one of the biggest opportunities in his career: A judge in attendance later recommended Resnick to a nationally prominent bankruptcy practitioner, Benjamin Weintraub, who was seeking a co-author to write a book on bankruptcy law.
The respected treatise Weintraub & Resnick’s Bankruptcy Law Manual is the result of their collaboration.
“Alan is THE TEACHER THAT MADE THE DIFFERENCE IN MY LIFE. Beginning in law school and throughout my career he encouraged me to write and speak on bankruptcy law, and gave me the opportunity to teach at the Law School. He has been an excellent mentor, devoting countless hours to giving me sage advice.” — Hon. Louis A. Scarcella ’77
Their professional partnership was honored in 1984 when Hofstra Law designated Resnick as the Benjamin Weintraub Distinguished Professor of Bankruptcy Law to commemorate their shared accomplishments in the field. Weintraub and Resnick continued to write books and articles together until Weintraub’s death in 1995 at the age of 89.
Resnick’s activities grew to encompass law reform when, in 1984, he was elected to membership in the National Bankruptcy Conference, an organization of 60 leading practitioners, judges and professors who regularly propose and assist Congress in drafting legislation to improve the bankruptcy laws. (Resnick now serves on the executive committee and chairs the drafting committee of the conference.) He also testified at congressional and commission hearings on bankruptcy legislation. His law reform activities expanded when, in 1987, he was appointed by Chief Justice William Rehnquist to serve as the reporter to the Advisory Committee on Bankruptcy Rules of the Judicial Conference of the United States. “In that capacity, I played a role in drafting the procedural rules for implementing bankruptcy law,” explains Resnick, who held the position for 12 years and then served as a member of the committee for another six.
“Alan is the rare person who ALWAYS PUTS THE INTERESTS OF HIS STUDENTS AND COLLEAGUES FIRST. In addition to being an extraordinary professor of mine in law school, he was instrumental in helping me start my career at Fried Frank and has been an invaluable mentor and resource for me ever since.” — Vivek Melwani ’95
Resnick has also continued to engage in scholarship throughout his career. In addition to writing law review articles, he served as the scholar-in-residence of the prestigious American College of Bankruptcy, and since 2003 he has been the editor-in-chief of Collier on Bankruptcy, the leading treatise in the field.
While making contributions through his practice, law reform activities and scholarship, Resnick expanded his teaching audience by speaking at professional conferences, including the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges. “One of my most enjoyable teaching assignments,” he says, “was when I taught in a training program sponsored by the Federal Judicial Center — the educational arm of the federal judiciary — for newly appointed bankruptcy judges.”
“I consider all of the work that I do as class preparation,” says Resnick. “When I first started teaching in 1974, I used to read an article or two and the assigned reading before class and considered that my class preparation, but later my most effective class preparation has been being heavily involved in many aspects of the world of bankruptcy law. It all comes together in the classroom.”
Despite the various roles he had taken on, Resnick’s involvement with Hofstra Law never waned. In fact, he even served as interim dean from 2004 to 2005. “Getting to know and appreciate the high quality of our faculty and the enormous contributions they make to the improvement of the law in their areas of expertise was one of the most significant and memorable benefits of serving as interim dean,” reflects Resnick. Though valuing his time as interim dean, Resnick, a teacher at heart, was happy to return to his former way of life and, above all else, put much of his energy into the classroom.
“Alan was an excellent contracts law professor, but he was an absolutely brilliant bankruptcy law professor. HE TAUGHT ME TO THINK LIKE A LAWYER, and for that I will be eternally grateful.” — Nancy J. Burner ’88
Resnick finds it a privilege to connect with his former students, many of whom are successful bankruptcy practitioners. Sharing a recent memorable experience, he mentions witnessing former student Louis A. Scarcella ’77 being sworn in as a U.S. bankruptcy judge for the Eastern District of New York and having the honor of speaking at the ceremony. With all of his students, Resnick derives immense pleasure from seeing them obtain jobs and “really making a difference” in the legal profession.
Although some professionals in the venerable professor’s shoes might think the final chapter of their career is near, Resnick wants to continue his work in the bankruptcy law world. “As long as I have the ability to do it,” says the celebrated educator, practitioner and advocate, “I want to continue to teach and stay active in this field for as long as I can.”