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Brittani Bushman ’21 is helping people learn that bankruptcy can be a chapter—not the ending—of a story.
And her passion is being noticed.
Bushman was recently named the recipient of the American College of Bankruptcy’s Distinguished Bankruptcy Law Student Award. The professional organization selects only a handful of students around the country for the prestigious honor. As this year’s Second Circuit winner, she was chosen out of all nominees from circuit’s territory: the states of Connecticut, New York, and Vermont.
“The Second Circuit has a lot of the cutting-edge law that comes through the city, so there are a lot of bankruptcy professionals and students that could have been selected. To know that out of everyone that was nominated for this, to have me chosen, it was honestly so surreal,” she said.
She’s finding ways to weave bankruptcy law into her coursework—last semester, she wrote a paper for Professor Mary Lynch’s Domestic Violence Seminar on the role of bankruptcy as a tool to help survivors find freedom—and into her work on the Albany Law Review, for which she is exploring the intersection of bankruptcy and federal marijuana law, particularly as states continue to legalize the recreational drug.
“What I like about bankruptcy is that, in some respects, all areas of law tie into bankruptcy. You have contracts and family law. In some cases, the debtors might be divorcing. There are issues with property law. I find that so interesting that all these fields interconnect,” Bushman said.
Her curiosity was piqued with a required financial literacy course at her Utah high school. While many of her classmates thought the material to be boring, she found it to be the beginning of her journey into the financial world.
She continued her studies and earned a bachelor’s degree in Family, Consumer, and Human Development with a family finance emphasis from Utah State University. Bushman then expanded her learning about family law–related issues such as divorce, mortgages, and division of assets.
In her first post-graduation job, she worked with a nonprofit that helped people plan to get out of debt. Often, those meetings included weighing the pros and cons of filing for bankruptcy.
“Bankruptcy is an option provided to us in the Constitution,” she said. “It’s interesting that there is a stigma around it. People don’t like to talk about. But it serves a purpose and it’s a resource to a lot of people.”
She helped more and more people, and soon the idea of going to law school came to mind. While browsing books at Barnes and Noble, she came across one detailing the top law schools in the country.
After reading the book’s statistics about Albany Law School, she applied “on a whim.” But after an on-campus visit and a scholarship offer, her decision was an easy one.
“Albany Law was so welcoming,” she said. “Other schools I toured, I was there for maybe an hour. Some let me sit in a class. At my visit to Albany Law School, I was here for four hours. They had me meet with admissions, the career office, the clinic, and I also sat in on a class.”
The class was taught by Professor Jenean Taranto. Bushman is now her teaching assistant.
While some days, it’s tough to be so far from her family—particularly her 8-year-old nephew—it’s all part of her long-term plan to become a bankruptcy judge.
“I know I am here for a reason. This award just goes to show that. I don’t know if I would have been able to get this type of award anywhere else,” she said.