Doing the Right Thing Is Always the Right Thing
Todd Maynes (BA ’84, JD ’87) spends a lot of his time with unhappy people as an expert in tax and bankruptcy law. He comes into companies’ lives when they are on the brink of going out of business, so emotions are high, and people on all sides are concerned for their well-being. Even so, he loves his job. “What I do for a living is try to help troubled companies survive,” Maynes says. “That's how I look at it. If you can take a company and keep it thriving and make it strong again, then people can keep their jobs.”
A unique set of skills allows Maynes to do that. There are tax lawyers and there are bankruptcy lawyers, but there aren’t many tax-bankruptcy lawyers. The idea of finding a job at a crossroads of skills came to Maynes early on, but originally in a different form. With bachelor’s degrees in journalism and economics, he was going to be a journalist, specializing in economic topics. After deciding that many of the most successful people he knew had advanced degrees, Maynes decided to go to law school, so he could write about law as well. But when he took Cliff Lemming’s tax class at BYU, Maynes was hooked, and decided to practice tax law. What sold him? “It's the most clear area where what you have to do is problem solve,” he says. “I like to play games and I like to be able to figure out how to win. My wife always says that she thinks I'm conspiring against her, and I say, ‘I'm not conspiring against you. I'm trying to win.’” In his law practice, Maynes has become adept at finding solutions that help everyone win.
Looking for solutions is what led Maynes to his tax/bankruptcy niche. He was hired in 2002 to handle the United Airlines bankruptcy and worked closely with the pilots’ union. “[I] just made a real effort to listen to their perspectives,” Maynes shares. “The next thing I knew I was getting hired by every airline, because the pilots’ unions were insisting that they work with me,” he says, “That's just an example of how trying to do the right thing is almost always the right thing to do in business.” Now, bankruptcy work makes up about 80% of Maynes’ caseload, which he loves. He has been counsel on some of the largest bankruptcies of all time, including TXU (Energy Future Holdings), Conseco, Calpine, Charter Communications, Visteon, Tronox, Linn Energy, and WR Grace.
Aside from being a lawyer, Maynes is also a husband and father. He and his wife, Susan, have three children; a daughter who is an immigration attorney in Oregon, a son who is a data scientist in Kansas, and a son who is an investment analyst in Idaho. Maynes is thrilled at how his children are turning out. “I'm just real proud of the way my kids have grown up,” he says. Maynes credits his wife Susan with the success of his family: “You don't have to be married. But if you are married and you don't have a supportive spouse, you've got a problem. . . Having a supportive spouse is not just important. It is essential.”
Maynes and his family live outside of Chicago, a city that he loves. “Chicago is a lively, dynamic city. . . . I think it is a wonderful, wonderful place to live. . . . ” Although his family has loved living in Chicago, it’s not a perfect city. Like many cities, it has a problem with homelessness. “If I drive down a street somewhere and I see a homeless person, it breaks my heart,” Maynes laments. One day, Maynes met a student in an airport who happened to be an intern at Lawyers for Better Housing, a Chicago organization aimed at helping the homeless. The student connected Maynes with the organization, and he eventually became its chairman. As chairman, Maynes was especially concerned with the female population. As more and more single-occupancy housing is torn down to be replaced by more expensive condos, it’s becoming harder for women (who make up 80% of the homeless population), especially seniors, to find low-income housing. Though he isn’t the chairman now, he is still involved with the organization. Because in business and in everything, doing the right thing is always the right thing.