The job I got coming out of law
school was in the insurance defense
area at another large firm in town,
Schwabe, Williamson. I worked there
for a couple years doing insurance
defense practice, but I wanted to do a
more business-based practice. There
was an opening for a bankruptcy
associate at Miller Nash, and I thought
bankruptcy would be a great way to
use the litigation skills that I had but
also get into a more business-oriented
practice. I started doing bankruptcy
work in ’87, and I’ve been doing
something like that ever since.
Northwest College of Art. In that capacity
I do a lot of volunteer work for them.
Portland is, by and large, a small
community, but it has a great cultural
community, and the arts college is really
a catalyst for that. My mother was an
artist, and that’s what attracted me to it.
We teamed up with the borrower’s
former farm workers and formed a
block that presented a joint Chapter
11 plan that froze the borrower out. I
can’t remember another time when a
lender has joined up with the employees
to get what both of them wanted.
It’s always great for me to go to the
college and see creativity in a different
way. As turnaround consultants,
turnaround professionals, we’re
creative in one way. But going over
into an arts college and seeing the
students and just feeling the energy
of the place, you feel creativity in a
much different way. It’s a really nice
balance to the kind of practice I have.
Q Who inspires you professionally and personally?
MillS I’ve been very inspired by my
father, who was one of the brightest
persons I’ve ever known, and my wife,
Carmen Calzacorta, who’s also a lawyer
Professionally, the person who ran the
bankruptcy area when I came over was
Kevin Padrick. He is a very impressive
individual, extraordinarily smart, very
energetic. He was a large influence in
terms of me staying in this practice area.
I’m also on the board of Partners in
Diversity. It supports professionals of
color coming into Portland. Because
Portland is a fairly homogenous
metropolitan area, it’s good to have
a support structure, especially for
folks who are coming in from out of
town. They put on events throughout
the year where people of color can
experience a supportive community so
they don’t feel lost in Portland because
we’re pretty different than Chicago
in terms of our cultural make-up.
But time and again, you have a
borrower who’s really dug in, and you
have a lender who’s also pretty well
dug in. If you can figure out a method
for continuation of the enterprise
or liquidation of the assets in which
the lender is able to give back to the
borrower, the borrower may agree to
the lender’s end result in a quicker and
less costly fashion. Incentive targets,
among other things, can sometimes give
the lender patience and encourage the
borrower to do what the lender wants.
Q Has your TMA membership played any significant role in your career?
Chris Carlson was a senior partner
at Miller Nash and also very bright,
very hard-working, and he was
deeply involved in the community.
He was a big inspiration to me in
getting involved in the community.
Then, one of the best bankruptcy judges
in the country is Elizabeth Paris. She
wasn’t a mentor, but she really was
a model. Pretty much all bankruptcy
practitioners in Oregon look up to her,
in terms of knowledge, professionalism,
and giving back to the practice.
I’m also on the board of the TMA
Northwest Chapter, and I do a lot
of volunteer work for conservation
organizations such as The Nature
Conservancy, Sierra Club, and for Metro,
which is the regional governmental
agency for the Portland metropolitan
area. For years, my wife and I have
been doing a spring bird census in
certain areas that Metro owns to develop
a baseline in terms of bird species
that exist in those areas. Hopefully,
those number will be of value after
they develop the surrounding area.
MillS I cannot trace a direct
monetary benefit, but that’s not why
I’m a member. TMA has benefited me
for a lot of different reasons. It’s a great
organization for meeting and talking
with people who have a variety of
different insights in the area. Instead
of just a bunch of lawyers, it’s lawyers
and accountants and consultants—
workout people of all sorts—and lawyers
from the debtor’s side, as well as the
lender’s side. When you mix that with
the collegiality that we have, it has
been a great benefit to me. You learn
a lot in terms of people’s outlooks.
These people are all really smart, they’re
all really hard-working, and all of them
give back to the community in their own
ways. They make sure that’s part of their
lives—being engaged in something other
than their profession. The balance of
the two, working hard in your practice
but giving back to the community when
you can, is really important to me.
Q Among your cases, do you have some favorites?
MillS The best cases are the ones you
come into and figure out a creative way
to bring everybody together. You
recognize a variable that no one else was
looking at and bring it into the equation,
and that brings the parties together.
When I’m able to do that, I feel I have
We have educational dinners, and we
have the Cross-Border Conference. The
topics and the speakers are all really
good. The Cross-Border Conference
is always fascinating because you get
to hear what’s going on in Canada.
At the Cross-Border Conference
that we just had in Vancouver, I was
sitting next to a person who does
foreclosure work in Vancouver. To
compare and contrast the outlook
and the procedures for foreclosure in
Canada and the U.S. was fascinating.
Q You are involved with a lot of different charities, correct?
The perspective, the education
opportunities, the social opportunities—
all of those are very important for
my practice, both on a personal
and a professional level.
MillS I don’t consider it charity work;
I consider it community work. I’m on the
board of an arts college here, Pacific
An interesting example of such a case
was one in Eastern Washington in which
I was representing a lender against a
cantankerous agricultural borrower
who wasn’t going to yield on any issue.
Q What advice would you give someone who was either new to
the industry or in law school and
thinking about getting into the industry?