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August 01, 2009

August 2009: Joseph J. McMahon, Jr., Esq.

Bankruptcy lawyer with hearing impairment considerate of disability.

Joseph J. McMahon, Jr., Esq. has been practicing bankruptcy law for thirteen years after graduating from Villanova University School of Law, most of them with the United States Department of Justice, Office of the United States Trustee in Wilmington, Delaware. The number of chapter 11 cases administered by the U.S. Trustee has increased four-fold from last year. Large corporations and public companies tend to favor Delaware  as a bankruptcy venue and rank prominently among these cases. The current economic climate provides Joe with work that also exposes him to various other subject matter areas in the law. Although Joe does not require any accommodations for his hearing impairment at work, he realizes that his impairment does have an effect on his life and those around him.

For nearly a decade, Joe has been an attorney for the U.S. Trustee, the federal official charged with administrative oversight of bankruptcy cases in the District of Delaware.  The United States Trustee’s Office in Wilmington, Delaware handles a large number of the nation’s chapter 11 (corporate reorganization) bankruptcy filings because Delaware is a preferred state for incorporation and state of incorporation is a basis for venue under the Bankruptcy Code. “While the analogy is not perfect, in some ways we are the state troopers of the bankruptcy highway,” Joe commented.  “We work to ensure the efficient and just administration of bankruptcy cases.”  Bankruptcy law touches on other subject matter areas in the law due to the nature of the companies involved and the fact that all of their pre-bankruptcy disputes follow debtors into bankruptcy court.  “Each company that files for bankruptcy protection brings its own unique issues with it,” he observed.  “For example, a company may be party to ‘bet the company’ litigation which threatens its survival, or it may be seeking bankruptcy protection to sort out pressing balance sheet issues.  The pace of a bankruptcy case can vary as well.”

Joe has been hearing-impaired, but not deaf, in both ears since birth. He does use hearing aids, but he uses no other accommodations at work, even though accommodations are available. At first, Joe was reluctant to accept his disability. “In grade school, I resisted the idea of being different than my classmates,” he recalled. “Eventually my teachers and mother helped me understand that I needed this assistance by noting on the ‘personal conduct’ side of my report card that I had some room for personal growth.” Today Joe is aware of his disability and the effect it has both on his colleagues and those in the hearing-impaired community. “I am conscious of the fact that I don’t want to impose my disability upon those with whom I am speaking. For example, I am extremely conscious of asking others to repeat themselves,” he stated. “Also, I don’t trumpet the fact that I am hearing-impaired because I don’t want to detract from the more pressing needs of others in the hearing-impaired community.”