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W&L Law Professor Margaret Howard to Lead Major ABI Research Project

Margaret Howard, Law Alumni Association Professor of Law at Washington and Lee University School of Law, has been tapped to lead a major empirical study for the American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI). The project will focus on individual filers for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The ABI is the country’s largest multi-disciplinary, non-partisan organization dedicated to research and education on matters related to insolvency. Howard was the ABI Scholar-in-Residence in 2002 and was named to the ABI’s board of directors in 2006. In 2009 she began a three-year term as vice president, executive committee member and chair of the Research Grants Committee.

Part of the ABI’s mission is to explore how the bankruptcy system works. The Research Grants Committee serves that mission by funding projects that will explain the operation of the system and how it affects people. Howard’s new project is an empirical study examining, among other issues, how and why individuals decide between Chapter 11 or Chapter 13 when filing for bankruptcy.

“One of the things we want to explore is why an individual would file for Chapter 11 in the first place,” says Howard, noting that filing for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 is more expensive and more complicated that a filing under Chapter 13.

As Reporter for the project, Howard will have overall responsibility for the general research, including examining the jurisdictional and legal differences at play in these bankruptcy cases. She will also be the chief author of the report. Ted Eisenberg of Cornell Law School, one of the foremost authorities on the use of empirical analysis in legal scholarship, will lead data collection and analysis for the study.

The project will also rely on an advisory group of practitioners, judges and professors to help frame the questions and other research parameters of the project. Howard says the ultimate goal is to make the Chapter 11 filing process better for both debtors and creditors.

“One key issue we will explore is how we can make a statute written for corporations work better for the increasing number of individuals choosing to file bankruptcy under Chapter 11,” says Howard.

Founded in 1982 to provide Congress and the public with unbiased analysis of bankruptcy issues, the ABI has over 11,000 members, including attorneys, bankers, judges, professors, turnaround specialists, accountants and other bankruptcy professionals. Since the ABI Endowment Fund was created in 1989 to provide resources for research and education, over $650,000 has been transferred to the Research Grants Committee to fund research relating to bankruptcy and insolvency issues, the scholar-in-residence program, and student prizes for bankruptcy moot court competitions.

Margaret Howard received her undergraduate degree from Duke University and her J.D. from Washington University. She also received an LL.M degree from Yale University. From 1981 to 2001, Howard was a member of the faculty at Vanderbilt University School of Law.