UM Carey Law is fortunate to count so many talented scholars and leaders among its faculty, one of whom the American Bankruptcy Institute Journal named among "the rising scholars in commercial bankruptcy." Michelle Harner, Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Business Law Program, had no previous business experience and went straight from a BA in English and Political Science at Boston College to Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law. But she then followed a path to success in both private practice and the academy.
Harner credits her mentor, Nancy Rapoport, now at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas's William S. Boyd School of Law, with helping her see the intellectual challenge in business law. Within the field, Harner specializes in commercial bankruptcy, which she enjoys because of its varied and collaborative nature. She compares it to a "complex chess game" involving different constituencies. "It touches so many different areas of the law," including family law and litigation, Harner notes. She calls bankruptcy "the closest thing to a general practice that a large law firm has." She credits Rapoport with introducing her to this specialty as well: "She inspired me to think of restructuring as a field of opportunity."
For prospective students of business law, Harner recommends awareness rather than any specific coursework: "The best way to be prepared for law school is to be cognizant of the world around you." She recommends that students read the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal to, she says, "have a general understanding of the environment we're in." And once you're in law school, Harner advises, enjoy it: "Immerse yourself in the experience."
Harner began her career with Jones Day, where she became a partner. She transitioned into academia in 2006, taking a position at the University of Nebraska College of Law. The changed proved a positive one, especially for Harner's students, who voted her "Professor of the Year" two years in a row. In 2009, Harner joined the faculty at UM Carey Law. In July 2011, she became co-director of the school's Business Law Program.
Harner's most recent achievement is her election to the American Law Institute, one of 19 new members elected this year. Members include eminent judges, practicing lawyers and law professors from the United States and abroad. The institute drafts, discusses, revises and publishes restatements of the law, model codes and principles of law that influence both courts and legislatures, as well as legal scholarship and education. In addition, she was recently selected as a reporter for the American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI)'s Commission to Study the Reform of Chapter 11. The ABI is a nonpartisan research group composed of more than 12,000 attorneys, accountants, lenders, judges, bankers, academics and others working within the field of bankruptcy. The Commission formed to suggest revisions to the present U.S. bankruptcy code, which was written in 1978 and has begun to show its age. The Commission consists of 20 leading practitioners and scholars from courts, law schools, and major firms. Harner calls it a "phenomenal panel," adding, "It's a pleasure to work with them." The reporter, who usually comes from academia, assists the Commission in all its efforts, "from researching to facilitating discussions to actually drafting the report," Harner says.
Though Harner has not served as a committee reporter before, she is a member of the Administrative Office for the United States Courts working group for the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and helps with researching and writing the group's reports. She is looking forward to her Commission responsibilities, particularly for their multidisciplinary character: "I find real value in collaborating with the private bar because it helps enhance my scholarship and how I teach students."
Rachel W. W. Granfield