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Pottow, John A. E.

John Philip Dawson Collegiate Professor of Law

971A Legal Research

John A. E. Pottow, the John Philip Dawson Collegiate Professor of Law, is an internationally recognized expert in the field of commercial law. His award-winning scholarship concentrates on the issues involved in the regulation of cross-border insolvencies as well as consumer financial distress, and his extensive public service work focuses on international trade and pro bono representation of bankrupt debtors. On behalf of the United States, Professor Pottow serves on the delegation to the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) and serves on the State Department's Advisory Committee on Private International Law. In addition, he co-authors of one of the leading bankruptcy textbooks in the country: The Law of Debtors and Creditors (8th edition, with The Hon. Elizabeth Warren, Professor Jay Westbrook, and The Hon. Katie Porter). Pottow has published in prominent legal journals in the United States and Canada and testified before both Houses of Congress. An oft-invited lecturer, he has presented his works at academic conferences around the world and frequently provides commentary for national and international media outlets, such as NPR, CNBC, CNN, C-SPAN, Al Jazeera America, and the BBC. His pro bono representations have ranged from bankruptcy court to the Supreme Court, where he successfully argued on behalf of the respondent in Executive Benefits Insurance Agency v. Arkison (2014).

Professor Pottow joined the faculty in 2003. Prior to coming to Michigan Law, he worked at several prominent firms in private practice, including Weil, Gotshal and Manges of New York and the former Hill & Barlow of Boston. His practice focused on debtor representation in complex Chapter 11 restructurings. He was also an active litigator whose trial work included representing a gender-based asylum seeker from Afghanistan in U.S. Immigration Court.

He holds an AB in psychology, summa cum laude, from Harvard College and a JD, magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School, where he served as treasurer of the Harvard Law Review. Professor Pottow clerked for the Rt. Hon. Beverley McLachlin, Chief Justice of Canada, and the Hon. Guido Calabresi, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. He is licensed as a barrister and solicitor in Ontario and as an attorney in Massachusetts and Michigan. In 2005, he was presented the L. Hart Wright Award for Excellence in Teaching and, in 2012, received a pro bono award from the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Michigan. He is an elected member of the American Law Institute, American College of Bankruptcy and International Insolvency Institute.

Recent Publications

More Publications...

The Law of Debtors and Creditors: Text, Cases, and Problems. 8th ed. E. Warren, J.L. Westbrook, and K. Porter, co-authors. Aspen Casebook Series. New York: Wolters Kluwer, 2021.​​

"Cross-Border Corporate Insolvency in the Era of Soft(ish) Law." In Research Handbook on Corporate Bankruptcy Law, edited by Barry Adler, 329-63. Edward Elgar Publishing, 2020.
Full Text: SSRN

"The Dialogic Aspect of Soft Law in International Insolvency: Discord, Digression, and Development." Mich. J. Int'l L. 40, no. 3 (2019): 479-503.
Full Text: MLaw Repository | Lexis | Westlaw | SSRN

"Fiduciary Principles in Bankruptcy and Insolvency." In The Oxford Handbook of Fiduciary Law, edited by Evan J. Criddle, Paul B. Miller, and Robert H. Sitkoff, 205-25. Oxford Handbooks. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019.
Full Text: Oxford Handbooks Online (UMich users) | Oxford Handbooks Online

"Bankruptcy Fiduciary Duties in the World of Claims Trading." Brook. J. Corp. Fin. & Com. L. 13, no. 1 (2018): 87-98.
Full Text: MLaw Repository | HEIN (UMich users) | HEIN | Lexis | Westlaw | WWW

"A New Approach to Executory Contracts." Tex. L. Rev. 96, no. 7 (2018): 1437-72.
Full Text: MLaw Repository | HEIN (UMich users) | HEIN | Lexis | Westlaw | SSRN | WWW

"Rethinking Criminal Contempt in the Bankruptcy Courts." J. S. Levin, co-author. Am. Bankr. L.J. (2017): 311-74.
Full Text: MLaw Repository | HEIN (UMich users) | HEIN | Lexis | Westlaw | SSRN

"International Insolvency Law's Cross-Roads and the New Modularity." In United Nations 50th Anniversary World Congress Collection, edited by Caroline Nicholas, Vienna, July 4-6, 2017. Modernizing International Trade Law to Support Innovation and Sustainable Development, 4. Vienna: United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, 2017.
Full Text: WWW

"What Bankruptcy Law Can and Cannot Do for Puerto Rico." Revista jurdídica de la Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico 85, no. 3 (2016): 689-704.
Full Text: MLaw Repository | HEIN (UMich users) | HEIN | Lexis | Westlaw | WWW


Invited presenter at United Nations Commission on International Trade Law conference on choice of applicable law, Vienna December 2020 (virtual).

Invited presenter at conference on financial resolution authorities in developing economies, Vancouver, September 2020 (virtual).

Invited presenter at conference by European Commission on choice of international commercial law, Zagreb, September 2020 (virtual).

​Invited keynote speaker at International Comparative Insolvency Symposium, Miami, Florida, November 2019.

Invited chair of Academic Plenary Session for International Insolvency Institute Annual Conference, Barcelona, Spain, June 2019.

Invited commentator at Culp Colloquium for minority junior legal scholars, Durham, North Carolina, May 2019.

Invited chair and commentator at DebtCon conference on sovereign debt, Washington, D.C., April 2019.

Invited presenter at the American College of Bankruptcy panel on cross-border insolvency issues, San Diego, California, March 2019.

Invited keynote at the Jay L. Westbrook Annual Conference, Austin, Texas, November 2018.

Invited presenter at the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges panel on international insolvency issues, San Antonio, Texas, October 2018.

Invited presenter for Brooklyn Journal of Commercial Financial and Commercial Law Symposium on Decision Making and Legitimacy in Public Bankruptcies, Brooklyn, New York, March 2018.

Convener (and presenter) of Festschrift for Professor Jay Lawrence Westbrook, possibly the largest U.S. academic bankruptcy conference ever assembled, Austin, Texas, February 2018.