Bankruptcy law may not sound like the sort of legal work that many aspirational lawyers would necessarily seek out as a way to achieve legal stardom, but for Kirkland & Ellis partner it is a combination of litigation and commerce that provides challenge and excitement for Christine Okike.
Christine Okike has recently managed a $1 billion restructuring deal along with a major Chapter 11 case for a transportation company as well as eliminated more than $1 billion in debt for a major information technology company, all of which lead to her being named as a Law360 MVP award winner.
But awards and recognition for the New York-based Kirkland & Ellis partner abound.
A graduate of Brown University and with a JD from Columbia Law School she has been named she was named as one of Crain’s New York Business’ 2021 Notable Women in Law, as well as an “Emerging Leader” by The M&A Advisor in 2019 and “Outstanding Young Restructuring Lawyer” by Turnarounds & Workouts in 2018.
In 2017, Christine was inducted into the International Insolvency Institute NextGen Leadership Program, which recognizes the most prominent rising stars in the international insolvency area.
She also was selected in 2017 as an “Emerging Leader” in the American Bankruptcy Institute’s inaugural 40 Under 40 initiative.
Most recently, Law360 selected Christine as one of six “Bankruptcy MVPs” for 2022. Corporate Counsel selected Christine as an honoree in the “Collaborative Leadership” category as part of the 2022 Women, Influence & Power in Law Awards. The Deal also selected Christine as one of its 2022 “Top Women in Dealmaking.”
She was also chosen by Global Restructuring Review in its 2022 “40 Under 40” list of the world’s top young restructuring professionals and Savoy recognized Christine as one of its 2022 “Most Influential Black Lawyers.” The New York Law Journal also honored Christine in 2022 at its New York Legal Awards for “Best Diversity Initiative.”
Big Restructuring Deals
But her career trajectory has become further elevated with her major work with Kirkland & Ellis where she has worked on multi-billion dollar restructuring deals and bankruptcy matters.
The appeal in this work has been her ability to apply both litigation and commercial and financial law skills to her work, which she finds dynamic and challenging.
“People sometimes say that restructuring is the last bastion of a generalist, and I do think that’s true,” she told Law360.
“I get to negotiate deals, but also advocate in the courtroom. I get to work with my colleagues in pretty much every other practice area. I get to learn about different companies and industries and try to come up with creative solutions to what are oftentimes really complex problems.”
Helping to restructure debts, save jobs and assist companies to survive is also a powerful motivator in the work she does.
Dealing with literally thousands of stakeholders in restructuring deals means finding a middle ground and by doing so there is a consensus among everyone who are working towards achieving a common goal and permitting a company to survive and prosper.
Working to restructure Riverbed Technology for instance saw $1.1 billion in debt removed from the company’s balance sheet, which was done over a 60 day period during the pandemic. The result was highly successful once more for the young bankruptcy/restructuring law star.
Advice For Younger Lawyers
She also has some sage advice for younger lawyers who may be thinking about the sort of legal work she handles, or indeed any legal work.
Younger attorneys need to work hard and to persevere, she says. By remaining focused on your goals and remaining resilient is a key to achieving legal success.
“I think resilience is really one of the most important qualities you can have for long-term success,” Okike said. “Particularly in the early years, it can be sort of like a roller coaster. There are highs and there are lows.”