U.S. Trustee Program Expands Training Opportunities

U.S. Trustee Program Expands Training Opportunities

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The U.S. Trustee Program (USTP) can accomplish its mission of overseeing the integrity of the bankruptcy system only if our employees have the opportunity to develop their leadership, management and technical competency; enhance their skills and experience; and successfully respond to changing times and new responsibilities. The National Bankruptcy Training Institute (NBTI) was established to facilitate the achievement of these goals, as well as to allow USTP employees to share the benefits associated with being a part of the nation's largest law firm—the Department of Justice.

The USTP is a relatively young and wide-ranging agency with more than 1,100 employees located in 95 offices across the nation. Our employees are far and away our most valuable resource. The challenges of providing them with uniform, professional training led to the creation in 1998 of NBTI as a component of the Executive Office for U.S. Trustees. When NBTI's first course was presented in February 1999, it represented the realization of a long-term goal for the USTP: to institute a professional, regularized training curriculum for all USTP employees. Since that time, NBTI has grown as a resource both for USTP employees and for others in the bankruptcy community.

NBTI is located in Columbia, S.C., on the campus of the University of South Carolina in the Department of Justice's (DOJ's) National Advocacy Center (NAC). The NAC is jointly run by the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Education and the National District Attorneys Association. The NAC is a residential education facility tailored to meet the training needs of the DOJ's attorneys and other personnel. It offers state-of-the-art training facilities including three large lecture halls, a multi-purpose assembly room, two computer labs, a video-production studio and other specialized space for training. In addition, it has a residential component with 264 single-occupancy guest rooms, a dining hall, a guest lounge, exercise facilities and other related services.

At NBTI, the USTP conducts training courses designed to enhance professional development for all USTP employees, including secretaries, legal clerks, legal data technicians, case management specialists, computer specialists, standing trustee coordinators, paralegals, administrative assistants, financial analysts and attorneys. During FY 2002, the NBTI presented 16 training courses attended by more than 700 U.S. Trustee staff members. Since that first class in 1999, NBTI has presented more than 50 courses on topics ranging from support-staff development to management training. The philosophy of NBTI is that attendees learn not just when they are in the classrooms, but also at lunch, during breaks and in the evenings by spending time with their colleagues from around the country and discussing issues of mutual interest. During the past four years, almost every USTP employee has attended training at NBTI, making it the crossroads of the USTP. Through this centralized training, the USTP has been able to enhance standardization and professionalization in our offices across the country.

The faculty for courses at the NBTI include USTP employees as well as legal scholars, bankruptcy judges, practitioners and private trustees. During the past year, courses were enriched by the participation of a number of nationally known speakers, such as Prof. G. Ray Warner (St. John's University School of Law; Jamaica, N.Y.), one of the country's foremost bankruptcy scholars, who analyzed bankruptcy legal trends for the chapter 11 course; Herbert Cohen, who shared insights gained as a negotiator in situations ranging from domestic labor negotiations to the Iranian hostage crisis; and David Malone, who has conducted advocacy programs across the United States and England, and who taught discovery skills and tactics to USTP employees in a lecture and learn-by-doing interactive presentation. Additionally, a number of federal district judges and bankruptcy judges spoke on various issues including trial advocacy, pending bankruptcy legislation and the financial troubles of the high-tech economy.

Enforcement Is Top Priority

In October 2001, the USTP announced the launch of its Civil Enforcement Initiative, focusing resources on enforcement to address concerns raised by Congress and the bankruptcy community. Since that time, the USTP has made enforcement its highest priority. Accordingly, we have developed a number of training courses to help implement this mission by providing the knowledge and skills needed to most effectively address fraud and abuse in the bankruptcy system. Along with courses dealing directly with the substantive law of enforcement, we have designed courses to foster and enhance litigation skills, including training sessions on trial advocacy, communication skills, civil trial practice and negotiating skills.

In addition, NBTI has scheduled a criminal enforcement course for the spring of 2004. Criminal enforcement is an integral part of the continuum of USTP enforcement actions, which range from pursuing civil remedies to making criminal referrals and assisting U.S. Attorneys in prosecutions. The USTP's success in civil enforcement has underscored the need for increased criminal enforcement, as civil remedies alone are not adequate to redress the most egregious abuses. Some debtors deserve a more severe sanction than dismissal of the case or denial of discharge. The criminal enforcement training will focus on detecting bankruptcy crimes and referring them for prosecution.

Expanding NBTI's Use

Building upon the experience gained over the past four years, the USTP is moving forward to use NBTI for purposes beyond the training of USTP employees. In May, NBTI hosted a bankruptcy symposium on the cutting-edge topic of claims trading in chapter 11 and 13 cases. The USTP invited representatives of various groups within the bankruptcy system who are involved in or affected by this developing practice. Symposium participants included standing and panel trustees, bankruptcy judges, creditors, practitioners and USTP personnel. The discussions gave everyone, including USTP employees who monitor claims trading, a better understanding of this practice and its effects.

Further, in June NBTI presented its first training course for non-USTP personnel—a three-day seminar for recently appointed chapter 13 standing trustees. Attendees included the new trustees, a number of experienced chapter 13 trustees and USTP staff involved in chapter 13 supervision. The seminar allowed USTP employees and standing trustees not only to train together, but also to get acquainted and develop a greater appreciation of one another's responsibilities. The seminar was so successful that NBTI plans to present a similar course for newly appointed chapter 7 panel trustees later this year.

Since 1999, when NBTI presented a grand total of four courses for USTP employees, the NBTI has become fully integrated into the USTP's overall mission and activities. Its professionally run training sessions help foster communication within the USTP and encourage employees to disseminate information about our mission and accomplishments outside the USTP. NBTI provides an environment that encourages all employees to participate, learn and grow. With its expanded use, others in the bankruptcy community will have the opportunity to address important issues that arise now and in the future.


1 Steve Goldring heads the U.S. Trustee's National Bankruptcy Training Institute in Columbia, S.C. He was appointed to the post in 1998 after serving for 10 years as Assistant U.S. Trustee in Pittsburgh. Before joining the U.S. Trustee Program, he worked for 12 years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Pittsburgh, including seven years as First Assistant U.S. Attorney. Return to article

Journal Date: 
Monday, September 1, 2003