From Coast to Coast Rachel Stoian ‘09L, ‘10LL.M. Finds Success as a Bankruptcy Lawyer


Rachel Stoian never imagined that she would move back to the small California beach town where she grew up. But life has its twists and, after years of living and working in the New York City area, she and her young family were ready for a change. 

 As she started her job search, Stoian reached out to the Career Development Office at St. John’s Law, where she had earned her J.D. in 2009 and an LL.M. in Bankruptcy in 2010. “My interest in bankruptcy law sparked at St. John’s, when I joined the American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI) Law Review as a 2L,” Stoian says. “I found the content of the articles I was editing interesting and pursued that interest by taking courses in creditor’s rights and secured transactions, both of which I really enjoyed.” 

Stoian continued to hone her bankruptcy knowledge and skills during her 3L year. “I served as Executive Notes and Comments Editor on the ABI Law Review and, in that role, helped to launch the ABI’s Bankruptcy Case Blog,” she recalls. “I also joined the Bankruptcy Law Society and took upper-level courses offered through the Law School’s LL.M. in Bankruptcy program. 

St. John’s has the nation’s only LL.M. program devoted to bankruptcy law, and Stoian decided that earing the advanced degree was the right next step on her career path. When she graduated from the LL.M. program the following year, she was well prepared for the demands of the profession. “I was able to enter private practice with a solid understanding of the Bankruptcy Code and a sense of the practice,” Stoian says. “So, while I was green as an attorney, I at least had a confidence in my understanding of the law and knowledge of good sources for learning more.” 

Over the next seven years, Stoian built a busy bankruptcy practice. When the time came for a change, she hoped that her experience would take her from coast to coast. “I spoke to Laura Schwartz, an Associate Director of Career Development at St. John’s Law who advises students and alumni interested in bankruptcy and restructuring,” Stoian says. “She suggested that I apply for a judicial clerkship in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Once Laura gave me the idea, I saw how a clerkship would be a perfect way to transition my practice.” 

Stoian applied for clerkships and accepted an offer with Hon. Hannah L. Blumenstiel in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California. Looking back, she says it was the perfect way to segue into West Coast work. “In my two years as a law clerk, I gained a familiarity both with the local bankruptcy bar and with local practice. It was a great introduction.”

When her clerkship ended, Stoian started as an associate in Dorsey & Whitney LLP’s Palo Alto office in June, where she represents parties in all aspects of the bankruptcy and financial restructuring process, including fiduciaries, debtors, and creditors, in California, New York, and elsewhere. Working remotely from her home in Santa Cruz, she sees the rising tide of bankruptcy cases stemming from the pandemic. 

“We’re getting ready for a surge,” Stoian says, “with the biggest challenge potentially just being able to stay afloat when the wave actually hits. For now, I’m very happy to be settled into life and work in my hometown, and am fully embracing this next professional chapter.”