Featured Members

Sonya Van de Graaff

How did you first become involved in the world of restructuring and insolvency?

Back in the day, I worked in the special situations team at Bear Stearns. It was a great introduction to the exciting world of distressed investing (and a welcome escape from the tedium of drafting finance documents). In 2008, when Bear itself avoided insolvency only by JP Morgan’s good grace to buy us for $2/share, I returned to private practice. Lehman’s dramatic demise shortly thereafter, together with my wonderful Bear diaspora contacts, meant that my practice soon evolved into R&I.

What is the best part of your job?

I&R law and practice endlessly changes and I find the area interesting (WAY more interesting than finance). I like being part of a system that values pragmatism and negotiation (e.g. Schemes and Restructuring Plans). Also, there is quite a close community of I&R lawyers and advisors, and I enjoy that.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

I often find myself in a ‘hurry up & wait’ mode. When the starting gun finally fires, time is precious.

If you had not been a lawyer what other job would you have done, would you have enjoyed that job better and would you have been any good at it?

GOOD QUESTION!!! Over the years, my ‘dream job’ has changed - from being a vet, to a wall painting conservationist (my latest!). My idea of excitement is finding and uncovering a medieval fresco on a local church wall. I have no doubt I would love it but I’m not sure I would be successful at it (chemistry was not my best subject at school). I am however aware of a 4 year full time course at the Courtauld Institute. Maybe one day…

What is your most memorable career moment?

Representing a group of pensioners caught up in an aggressive bank restructuring. We did it on a contingency basis and won. It was a beautiful moment.

What do you think are the greatest challenges in our profession in the next 10 years

Hopefully too much work!

What is your favourite novel, film and piece of music?

The Sea, The Sea’ by Iris Murdoch, Hedwig & The Angry Inch; currently Eugen Onegin by Tchaikovsky

If you were able to repeal or change one insolvency rule or principle, which one would it be and why?

I’m sure there are ways of continuing to improve the relief granted in cross border cases…

What do you do in your ‘down time’?

Endless walks with my 2 fabulous Cretan dogs (and, insanely perhaps, I continue putting the finishing touches to my first novel)

Jam or marmite?

Vegemite (with lots of butter) please!!!

If you were able (and could afford) to retire tomorrow, what would you do?

Open a dog rescue in the Mediterranean, find a church wall to uncover and write novels at night

What prompted you to join the ILA and what benefit of membership would you most recommend to someone who is thinking of joining?

A colleague told me the ILA was where the ‘great and the good’ of the profession hang out and of course I was curious. I joined and I’ve found it to be a friendly and helpful forum where thoughts on the law, practice and public policy are shared.

Sonya Van de Graaff

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