A Feast for Lawyers

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Sol Stein, who is the author of eight novels and was formerly the president of his own publishing firm, Stein and Day, is very bitter about his experiences with Chapter 11. He believes that the majority of the lawyers who specialize in bankruptcy litigation are mainly concerned with lining their own pockets. While there are frequently only two lawyers involved in court cases, the lawyers representing all the various creditors in a large bankruptcy proceeding may take up several rows of front seats. Instead of helping the troubled firm remain in business, most are intent on snatching whatever they can before someone else gets it, not unlike vultures around a fresh carcass.

Stein evidently felt that basing his expose entirely on the case of Stein and Day would be inadequate, since the reader might consider him unqualified to view his own tragedy objectively. Therefore, Stein has elected to include parallel discussions of three other recent bankruptcy cases. He is most effective when he describes his own experience; the reader is reminded of the interminable deliberations at the Court of Chancery in Charles Dickens’ BLEAK HOUSE. As in Dickens’ day, lawyers still charge for their time, so it is to their advantage to prolong the proceedings rather than to reach amicable agreements. When Stein gets involved in explaining the cases of Texaco, Neptune World Wide Moving and Storage, and Chipwich, Inc., he is less persuasive; he is not a legal or accounting expert, nor does he possess extensive business knowledge outside the publishing field. He is understandably reluctant to name offenders by name, since he is ruffling the feathers of some very high-priced legal talent.

Stein offers valuable advice to any executive who might be facing Chapter 11. His best advice is to avoid it altogether if there is any possible alternative.