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Kyle Kashuba: View from the West

Kyle Kashuba
Partner, Head of Corporate Restructuring and Advisory Practice in Calgary
Torys LLP

Know a restructuring professional that can ride a bull? How about a restructuring professional that can ride a bull AND has a collection of 650 ties. Kyle Kashuba is likely the only one that can make that claim. Kyle shares us with his thoughts on what makes a great insolvency lawyer and the current mood in the industry out West.

1) How did you get into the restructuring industry?

I was always interested in the field, particularly after taking the insolvency, CCAA, and secured transactions courses in law school. I have a lot of fond memories from those times. I did well in those courses, but my heart and head were in the criminal law practice at the time. After practicing in that area during my summers in law school, I wanted to expand my horizons, although I still was dedicated to remaining a Courtroom lawyer. At Macleod Dixon (where I articled), I quickly noticed those lawyers that were marching down to the Court house morning after morning. Those were the insolvency guys in the litigation group, and that’s immediately where I knew I wanted to be. The insolvency and restructuring practice provides an opportunity to be ceaselessly creative, to think outside of the box, and to appear before the Courts on a regular basis.

2) What are some of the restructurings you are most proud of and why?

I’ve been very fortunate to have come up in a group in my earlier years that was teeming with great insolvency and restructuring work. We had small files and massive files, which ranged greatly in dollar value and complexity. For example, one of my first files involved an engagement for a receiver that was operating an oil and gas company by the name of CML Resources. This was a file that spanned 3 years, where I learned the ropes of insolvency law. It was my first file acting for a receiver that I handled on my own. On the other end, files such as Tirecraft, Caliber Systems and BA Energy were much larger matters where I was given an opportunity to work closely with the senior restructuring folks at my own firm and at the insolvency/accounting firms that were involved. The files all garnered great results, and a respectable recovery for the key stakeholders, but it’s the fellow professionals that I worked with that make them stand out. These people are among those that I call some of my closest friends and clients today.

3) In your opinion, what are the differences between a good lawyer and a great lawyer in the restructuring space?

A good lawyer answers the client’s questions, sets a strategy and is adept on their feet in Court. A great lawyer foresees changes coming in the industry and in the restructuring practice, and has the respect of the Bench, the Bar and the best professionals with whom he or she practices.

4) How would you describe the mood in the corporate restructuring world out West at the moment?

In any room you are in, someone can cite you the morning’s WTI crude oil pricing per barrel of oil. There is and always will be some consternation and apprehension in the energy industry, but where there’s turmoil there’s opportunity. That applies to the oil and gas practice, the corporate practice and the restructuring practice alike. Sometimes that results in a very busy insolvency environment, but in other cases this can create hesitation and a “wait and see” scenario. In some respects, we are seeing much of the latter in Alberta and out West, presently. With depressed oil and gas prices, a low Canadian dollar, and a potentially shifting regulatory scheme, there is a speculative market, and with uncertainty comes a reluctance to commit to a restructuring plan. But at the same time, there will be files, loans and new mandates that need attention and cannot sit by the wayside. There are other industries that rely to a great extent on oil and gas, and they are now seeing the ramifications of the cyclical, volatile and presently hampered energy market. There are many energy service, trades, real estate, and retail mandates, such that we have not seen in many years. There will be plenty of occasion for good and interesting work for those who are ahead of the curve, and that’s where I strive to be.

5) You’ve made a move across law firms fairly recently. How has the transition been? What are the advantages and disadvantages you see in switching firms mid-career?

I’m grateful for everything that I learned and the practice that I was fortunate to build at my former firm, which was one of the finest firms out West. At the same time, I could not be more ecstatic about my new role with the great firm of Torys, heading up the restructuring practice in Calgary. I’ve been able to hit the ground running, and there’s a lot that can be said for that. I’m often asked what I miss most, if anything, and that answer is simple – you miss the relationships and the good people that you work with and across from every day. But if you’re lucky and so inclined, you might be able to keep those relationships as you trudge ahead, and build new ones. I’m delighted to say that I’m part of all that I have met so far, and I still have a long runway in front of me.

6) What is one thing that most people you work with would not know about you?

I’m from a small town outside of Calgary, by the name of Drumheller. It is an oil and gas town, a dinosaur town, the badlands — it’s jeans and t-shirts, 24-7. But when I’m at the office, I’m all business, and practically a different person. I boast a tie collection of around 650 presently. While most of my friends and family growing up have never seen me in a suit, my colleagues, clients and contacts in the city have rarely seen me not in one. Most of my present colleagues and clients could not picture me riding a bull, for example, which was one of my favorite recent memories outside of the office.