Despite a string of successes in Chicago, bankruptcy lawyer Nancy Alquist says she always knew she would come home to the East Coast.
"I grew up in southern Maine and went to college and law school in Philadelphia, so the East is really home for me," the 37-year-old lawyer said recently, only days after she had settled into her new office at the Baltimore firm of Frank, Bernstein, Conaway & Goldman.
"Besides," she added, "I have a sailboat on the Chesapeake Bay. In fact, it's been docked in Annapolis since last October -- so I had to come take care of it."
Ms. Alquist left Winston & Strawn, one of the nation's largest firms, last month to join Frank, Bernstein's growing bankruptcy department. She brings with her Deniz N. Gursoy, an associate who was a member of Ms. Alquist's bankruptcy "team" at Winston & Strawn's Chicago headquarters.
The two lawyers "see a lot of professional promise here in Baltimore," Ms. Alquist said. Also, Frank, Bernstein -- with 200 lawyers -- is less than half the size of the 475-lawyer Winston & Strawn, which will make getting acquainted with new colleagues "a lot easier," she said.
A 1975 cum laude graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Ms. Alquist received her law degree from Temple University School of Law in 1978. After law school she joined the litigation department of Clark, Ladner, Fortenbaugh & Young in Philadelphia.
There, her specialization in bankruptcy developed "through happenstance," she said.
The U.S. Bankruptcy Code had just undergone a major revision when Ms. Alquist's partners, who had not had time to study the new provisions, gave her a bankruptcy case to handle.
"I was young and terrified and energetic, so I learned the new bankruptcy code and as a result was taken very seriously," she said with a laugh. "Since the code was new, people who had learned it were at a premium. I began to lecture and write on the subject, and there I was."
In 1985 she was approached by Winston & Strawn, which was in the process of building its bankruptcy department. There, she was involved in several widely-publicized bankruptcy cases, including those for Jartran Inc., American Freight System Inc. and A. H. Robins Co., the Richmond-based manufacturer of the Dalkon Shield, an intrauterine contraceptive device.
With former Vice President Walter Mondale, Ms. Alquist represented many of the women injured by the Dalkon Shield in their effort to impose a class action on the Robins' bankruptcy. The experience moved her greatly, she said.
Many of the women claimed they had been rendered sterile by the device. Those injuries, she said, "really made you think about the bankruptcy process and how you balance the rights of a company to a fresh start against the rights of claimants who have suffered injuries of that magnitude and that nature. That balancing is a very difficult issue."