The recent failure of large financial institutions on Wall Street, not to mention the Enron scandal and the resulting Sarbanes-Oxley Act, will generate more regulation and work for corporate attorneys. “You might have called Sarbanes the ‘Lawyers Full-Employment Act,’” says Justin Klimko, a shareholder with Butzel Long in Detroit. “The new regulations may be good for a law practice, but whether it is for business will require a proper balance between protecting the public interest and not suppressing business activity.”
Since joining Butzel Long out of Duke University Law School in 1980, Klimko has built a reputation as a leading attorney for mergers and acquisitions, securities regulation, corporate financing, and governance.
Last year, Klimko and several colleagues represented longtime client Covansys, which was sold to CSC in a blockbuster $1.3-billion deal. He also quarterbacked the sale of Macomb County-based defense subcontractor Burtek to an American subsidiary of an Israeli company in a transaction wrought with U.S. security and defense implications.
“These deals can be very stressful and intense when you’re working around the clock with a lot of moving pieces,” says Klimko, 52. “But I enjoy the intellectual challenge. Unlike litigation, where someone’s going to win and someone’s going to lose, in transactions, both parties are trying to do something very significant and pull toward the same place.”
With the emergence of private equity and increased international investments by U.S. companies, the mega deals have become more complex, and corporate attorneys are now expected to know even more.
“On large deals, the main document can be hundreds of pages long,” Klimko says. “But then you might have 40 or 50 collateral documents. If you change one, you need to know the implication on all the other documents, plus the foreign aspect of it. Besides the legal technicalities, it’s the quarterbacking that’s often the challenge.”
Asked for the key to his success in handling arduous negotiations, Klimko pauses before answering. “I think it’s a combination of understanding what my client is really trying to accomplish and knowing that what I’m doing is going to achieve that business goal,” he says.