PAUL ARONZON, 54
FIRM: Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy LLP
LAW SCHOOL: Southwestern Law School
CLIENTS: Lehman Bros., Station Casino, Aleris International, PG & E
Paul Aronzon left law and tried his hand at investment banking for two years, but realized he missed the legal life and decided to return to his old firm, Milbank Tweed.
The first day back was Sept. 15, 2008. Lehman Bros. had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and the U.S. Trustee’s Office needed a legal representation for the investment bank’s creditors. Aronzon took a night flight to New York City to lead Milbank’s pitch and didn’t come home for three weeks.
Helping to restructure Lehman after the biggest bankruptcy filing in history was quite a welcome back.
Other lawyers sometimes think bankruptcy attorneys are different because they bring business concerns to the table in addition to legal matters, Aronzon said.
“Some lawyers would look at us like we have a third eye,” he said.“ But our business is all about moving money, and helping people whose businesses are in trouble, helping to clean up. It’s all about preserving jobs and making business work again.”
Restructuring bankrupt firms requires the skills of a litigator with the know-how of an executive.
“On any given day we’re dealing with financial issues, tax issues, employee issues,” Aronzon said. “We ingrain ourselves right into the business activities that are going on in our cases.”
Aronzon never studied bankruptcy law. His introduction to this type of law involved “a big luck factor.”
He was working at a small West Los Angeles firm that was acquired by bankruptcy specialists Gendel Raskoff Shapiro & Quittner. In order to fit in, he needed to master a new field.
Milbank recruited Aronzon to a new branch in Los Angeles when the firm set up shop here in 1989. He worked as a partner at Milbank for 17 years before leaving to run Imperial Capital, an investment bank, for two years before returning.
“I’m really happy to be back doing this,” Aronzon. “My job is to help people so I’m doing what I do.”
The Los Angeles native lives in Santa Monica with his wife Leslie and three young sons. His free time is dominated by “boy stuff,” such as soccer, surfing, and skiing.
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