After 19 years with downtown L.A.-based Stutman Treister & Glatt, leading bankruptcy attorney Kenneth N. Klee has left to start his own firm, along with two partners from Stutman Treister, Michael L. Tuchin and Lee R. Bogdanoff.

Klee Tuckin & Bogdanoff will be based in Century City and will handle cases involving bankruptcy, reorganization and asset acquisition, representing both debtors and creditors. The partners will bring a number of clients with them from their former firm, including Viacom, The Gap, Prime Matrix and the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team.

Along with two associates who had left Stutman earlier, the new firm has taken on four additional Stutman associates. Despite all the departures, Klee says of his former firm, "They have a strong firm and a good solid core. I have nothing but high regard for the Stutman firm and good wishes for them. We will be very busy and they will be very busy."

Klee says management differences are responsible for the defections, referring to compensation practices as the chief culprit.

"It really came down to philosophical differences of how the younger lawyers, who were bringing in the business, ought to be treated," Klee said. "They had a lockstep system: After you become a senior partner after 13 years, you're paid the same as every other senior partner until you retire."

Klee and his partners wanted to start a firm in which compensation is based on merit.

He joined Stutman Treister in 1980 and became partner in 1981. He reverted to of-counsel status in 1997 when he was offered a full-time professor post at UCLA law school. He will continue to teach while working at the new firm and said he will leave the management duties of the firm in the "quite capable" hands of Tuchin and Bogdanoff.

Klee is one of the authors of the 1978 U.S. Bankruptcy Code, which updated the existing bankruptcy laws from 1898. "It was the first comprehensive overhaul of bankruptcy laws," he says. "It modernized the law to deal with the realities of everyday life and to try to encourage people to re-enter the economy, to become productive members of society."

Jolie Gorchov

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