Christopher J. Azzara

Shareholder
P:(412) 281-5423
F:(412) 281-8264
E:cazzara@smgglaw.com

Biography

Christopher J. Azzara is a shareholder at Strassburger McKenna Gutnick & Gefsky and chair of the firm’s Banking, Creditors’ Rights and Insolvency Group. Mr. Azzara is one of nine lawyers in Pennsylvania to be board certified as a creditors’ rights specialist by the American Board of Certification. This certification recognizes a limited number of attorneys who have met or exceeded rigorous certification standards relating to experience, continuing legal education, integrity, and peer review, in addition to demonstrating a sophisticated understanding of the law in their specialty area. Mr. Azzara’s certification and experience makes him one of the region’s go-to lawyers when a creditor’s rights are affected or threatened.

In the bankruptcy and creditors’ rights arena, Mr. Azzara is known for his outstanding command of the law and ability to work tirelessly for his clients. He has extensive experience representing secured and unsecured creditors, as well as trustees, landlords and small businesses, in all aspects of Chapter 11 business bankruptcy cases and Chapter 7 and 13 individual bankruptcy cases. He has successfully represented clients in business and real estate transactions, including the acquisition, sale and leasing of real estate and has vast experience representing both national title insurance companies and homeowners in all aspects of title insurance matters and claims.

Mr. Azzara’s practice is not limited to bankruptcy law. He also represents small to mid-sized companies in numerous industries with their banking, construction, creditors’ rights, public sector, real estate and commercial litigation matters. His attention to detail is praised by his clients as is his energy to learn the client’s business thoroughly so as to be the most effective advocate on their behalf and to get them the best strategic bargaining position. Mr. Azzara routinely advises mid-market financial institutions and businesses in financing matters, including the preparation and negotiation of loan documents, workouts and foreclosures. His representation of for-profit and nonprofit businesses includes the negotiation and drafting of governance documents, formation of entities, general business consultation and litigation. Mr. Azzara also represents several local and national corporations in the collection of business debts. He counsels various construction clients, including owners, developers, contractors and subcontractors, on private and public projects and has substantial experience in contract negotiation, claims for delay, mechanics’ liens and all types of contractual disputes.

A frequent writer and speaker to legal groups, Mr. Azzara is the author of the mechanics’ liens and fraudulent transfers chapters of the 2014 primer entitled Pennsylvania Commercial Litigation, which was published by American Lawyer Media’s The Legal Intelligencer.

Additionally, Mr. Azzara serves as Chair of the firm’s Technology Committee.  A native of Watertown, Connecticut, he now lives in the North Hills of Pittsburgh with his wife and children.

Experience and Representative Matters

  • Successfully represented Fortune 500 company in collection matters involving the reclamation of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

  • Representation of regional property developer in all aspects of property management and leasing issues with an eye towards reducing legal expenses and exposure to litigation.

  • Successfully represented national real estate investment company in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy relating to leases with a national franchised restaurant resulting in the recoupment of lease termination damages.

  • Successfully negotiated settlement on behalf of a bankruptcy trustee against a national financial services company relating to the treatment of debtors during the pendency of their bankruptcy cases resulting in substantial credits and reimbursements to the debtors.

  • Successfully represented national title insurance underwriter in the collection of unpaid insurance premiums in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy totaling over $600,000 dollars.

  • Represented interested party/landowner in the successful formulation and prosecution of a Chapter 11 Plan of Reorganization to facilitate the continued operation of a large scale printing facility.

  • Successfully negotiated a resolution for a gas station lessee regarding lease disputes with its landlord who filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy resulting in a renegotiated lease to enhance lessee's profitability.

  • Reorganized corporate structure of local distributorship to enhance profit margins and profitability.

  • Successfully negotiated a settlement for gas station lessee whose right of first refusal was wrongfully terminated resulting in lessee's multi-million dollar acquisition of the underlying gas station.

  • Represented property developer in the development of a planned community including acquisition, formation, zoning, financing, permitting, public offering and declaration matters.

  • Represented client in the review and cleanup of title issues and issuance of title policy for a large scale car dealership allowing the client to refinance its debt obligations and expand its operations.

  • Successfully represented various mid-market lenders in foreclosure actions.

  • Represented lenders in the drafting and negotiating of loan documents for various commercial transactions including real estate acquisitions, U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, equipment, facility, and inventory financing, and various other commercial loans.

  • Successfully negotiated a favorable settlement on behalf of a national construction company in bond litigation over multi-million dollar public projects recouping hundreds of thousands of dollars for the client.

  • Represented various construction companies in the successful establishment and enforcement of liens against real estate resulting in reimbursement of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

  • Represented national religious non-profit organization in its merger with its canonical entity and restructured its real estate portfolio to effectuate a large scale lease project with a regional health care provider.

Certifications

  • Board Certified in creditors’ rights law by American Board of Certification

Speaking Engagements

  • Collections and FDCPA Compliance: Defining Commercial vs. Consumer Collections, National Business Institute, 2014
  • Collections: Seeking and Collecting a Judgment - Identifying Fraudulent Conveyances, National Business Institute, 2012

Professional Affiliations

  • Allegheny County Bar Association - Member of the Construction Law and the Bankruptcy and Commercial Law Sections
  • American Bankruptcy Institute
  • American Bar Association
  • Pennsylvania Bar Association
  • Turnaround Management Association

Community Activities

  • Board of Directors of Vincentian Collaborative Systems, Member

Publications

  • "Chapter 14: Mechanics' Liens." In Pennsylvania Commercial Litigation, by Harry F. Kunselman. Pittsburgh: The Legal Intelligencer, 2014.
  • "Chapter 16: Fraudulent Transfers." In Pennsylvania Commercial Litigation, by Harry F. Kunselman. Pittsburgh: The Legal Intelligencer, 2014.

Recognition & Awards

Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Rating of AV Pre-eminent in the field of Real Estate, Bankruptcy and Commercial Litigation

Pennsylvania Super Lawyers Rising Star 2016 – Creditor Debtor Rights

Education

  • J.D., Duquesne University, 2006
  • B.A., Fairfield University, 2002

Admissions

  • Pennsylvania
  • Ohio
  • U.S. District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania
  • U.S. District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania
  • U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Western District of Pennsylvania
  • U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania