Interviews with NABL Members from NABL News
David Unkovic, McNees Wallace & Nurick LLP, Lancaster, PA
McNees Wallace & Nurick LLP
Tell us a little about yourself - your family, your hobbies, etc...
My wife Cathleen and I met in law school. She was a terrific corporate lawyer and is now retired. My son Alec, 28, is an administrator at a contemporary art museum in Philadelphia. He is the token linear thinker at the museum and gets all the linear tasks done right. My daughter Clare, 25, is studying actuarial science. When she plays Chopin on the piano she sees colors (synesthesia).
I like doing yard work, the messier the better (like George W. Bush). I line up my five pair of shoes every Saturday morning and shine them, which I learned from doing so for my Army Reserve father. I love reading American history, particularly about the lesser known presidents like the tenacious James K. Polk of Tennessee and the miraculously reborn Chester A. Arthur of New York. But my favorite hobby is just observing and trying to figure out people.
What first interested you in law?
I was born into the law. Grandfather/father/brother/sister/uncle/cousins – all lawyers. When I went to college, I first tried pre-med, until I realized I wasn’t good enough at science. Then I tried economics, until I realized I wasn’t good enough at math. So I punted and studied political science and medieval history and applied to law school. The Fates left me no choice.
What was the best career advice anyone ever gave you
When I first started practicing, I represented an old college friend who owned a book business. One day I complained to him about something related to my law firm. He told me that, although he is a friend, he is also a client, and I should only say positive things about the firm I represent. Great advice. I never made that mistake again. I went on to other mistakes.
What has been your favorite moment of your career so far?
I was the first of two state-appointed receivers in the workout of the City of Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania. This was the super-advanced course in public finance. I intentionally defaulted on a GO bond issue in order to pay the employees and maintain liquidity – only a handful of people in the country can say they defaulted on a GO bond. The main lesson I learned is that people who really are passionate about their community, like the citizens of Harrisburg, can turn things around no matter what the obstacles. Today, Harrisburg is in good shape and the city is alive and thriving – all without resorting to Chapter 9.
How long have you been a member of the NABL? What’s your best experience thus far?
About 39 years, I think. My best experience was doing a three-year stint as chair of an ethics panel at the Bond Attorney Workshop. Each year, I would lead three sessions, and I used a different panel of lawyers for each session. It was a lot of fun interacting with lawyers from all over the country – from the deathly serious Northeasterners, to the earnest Mid-Westerners, to the free-spirited Californians, to my favorite – the mannerly Southerners. A great experience.
How has your participation and membership in NABL been of value to you and your practice?
NABL has helped me keep up on all the important developments in the world of public finance. NABL accomplishes that task in so many ways, thanks in large part to the excellent staff, and thanks to the many individual practitioners who devote their time to projects and presentations. I also learn a lot from talking with bond lawyers from other states – it’s amazing how the same issues are handled differently in the 50 states.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a panelist at one of NABL's conferences?
1. Just do it! You’ll love the experience. 2. If an audience member asks you a question, repeat the question before you answer. 3. Talk into the microphone! 4. Remember, in addition to substance, you are putting on a show – say something outrageous just for the hell of it.
As a member of the 2018 BAW Steering Committee would you tell us about your plan for your panel
I agreed to do a one-year hitch as chair of the Issuer’s Counsel panel. The panel is entitled “The Role of Issuer’s Counsel in a Bond Issue” and we have some all star in-house and out-house issuer’s counsel participating. We are going to follow Isabel Ignacio, General Counsel of the Jefferson Housing Financing Authority, through five hypotheticals as she deals with selecting underwriter’s counsel, dealing with some odd bond lawyers, protecting her client from a dubious financial advisor, negotiating her legal opinion, and tackling post-issuance compliance challenges. Audience participation is mandatory – I like to call on people I know, if necessary, to kick-start the discussions. Please come.
From the questionnaire made famous by Bernard Pivot and James Lipton, "What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
After 39 years of being a public finance lawyer, I would love to become a monk living in a stone hut on one of the islands off the west coast of Ireland. Please, no Jedi’s allowed on the island.