RealJobs: Michael A. Makinde

Hello everyone! I actually have my own blog that is focused on politics, pop-culture and life in New York City, so this feels rather natural in a way. Anyway, I am just wrapping up my day here at Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP where I am a Bankruptcy and Corporate restructuring Paralegal. Before I describe exactly what that even means I am going to tackle two essential questions: How did I get here and what are my future plans?

After graduating from BC where I played football and studied political science, I was very unsure about what to do next. The NFL wasn’t calling and the only thing I wanted to do more than play wide receiver for the Packers was to become an attorney. I wasn’t yet sure how I would do this yet, but I knew I wanted to work before I went on to law school. I applied to do graduate studies at BC where I pursed my Masters in Education in the Lynch School of Education. While earning my masters degree I learned two things. The first was that there was a lot I didn’t know about how public schooling functions, and the second was that the classroom wasn’t the venue where I could make the most impact in trying to help anyone. After this realization, I worked closely with the good people at the career office, and I moved to New York to begin working as paralegal in mid-town.

The issue of my future plans is a question more easily answered. I will be attending law school in a few months and I plan to practice law hopefully either in Boston or New York.

At Kramer Levin LLP the attorneys are all very talented and the work we handle is very interesting. I have been fortunate enough to wok on some of the most poignant and notable bankruptcies and restructuring efforts of our times: Bally Total Fitness, Chrysler, General Motors, Tribune Company, Lehman Brothers, Saint Vincent’s Hospital, and I have even worked on matters related to some Madoff litigation. We even did Jay-Z’s taxes and Kate Winslet’s immigration work. No, I haven’t met either one of them, however I did meet Lisa Kudrow in an elevator while a movie was being shot in our office (The Other Woman). Even though, like most of you, I am somewhat sick of Natalie Portman by now, I will see this movie just to see my building!

My department usually either will represent the creditors committee (a group of people who are owed A LOT of money and have claims against the debtor) or the actual debtors themselves. We also represent individual clients like Ms. Winslet.

Bankruptcy law is very unique and moves at a fast pace (in comparison to litigation cases). I like to describe it as a combination of corporate law and litigation. We get to argue motions in court just like in litigation; I will try and talk more about hearing preparation in subsequent posts. The way we usually get cases and clients is by going to pitches, which is very similar to a frenzied meeting where law firms court a distressed company that plans to file for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy. I recently attended the A&P (Pathmark) pitch.

Today was a rather typical day for me. I came in around 9:15am and did the usual house keeping tasks: Check my mail, check my physical inbox, and review my voicemails. This doesn’t take long and there are usually no surprises since I have a company blackberry which I affectionately refer to as “the gift & the curse.”

I like to think of my day in 2 separate halves, very much like a college basketball game, with lunch representing halftime. The length of time both segments last is almost is never certain and lunch can happen anytime between 11am and not at all.

The first half of today I spent working on a chart for a bank. There is money being disputed from when Bank A was purchased by Bank B, so we are creating a Stock Purchase/ Sale Timeline. I drafted the timeline, I populated it, and it is my baby that I am very much responsible for. Even though I completed most of the chart on Friday, I reviewed it today and amended it because it must be precise. There is real money involved here. When I felt the chart was completed I met with one of the Associates who was waiting for the chart so she could populate it with information related to announcements that were disclosed to the public via the news and company reports during various days before Bank A was acquired by Bank B. This is a large project and will probably creep back onto my desk.

My work day alternates between managing large projects like the one previously mentioned and smaller tasks. Once I have been assigned to a case or a matter I manage my own time and negotiate deadlines. If I’m not at my desk, I’m probably in a large formal meeting in a conference room or in an attorney’s office meeting informally one on one. After I finished with the Stock Purchase/Sale chart, I then set up a court call for a few attorneys for a hearing in Delaware. I ran a search on several objections to claims filed in the bankruptcy courts documentation service for a Lehman Brothers matter. Then I had to speak to the helpdesk to get access to a shared folder related to “Barletta”. I have no idea what that means but I’m sure that I will be briefed very soon. I also sent an email to the Technology Service Group… the printer I’m using on the 28th floor looks like it may be running out of ink.

Halftime. I went to lunch at around 2:30 and spent the hour at the gym running and lifting weights. It’s pretty tight in terms of time and getting in and out of the gym is usually the most stressful part of the day! Some days I have to work right through lunch. On these days I will grab something quick from the Europa café on the 23rd floor in our building.

Finally I worked on a second large project for the second half of the day. We normally send bills out to our clients monthly. However, with a bankruptcy case, the bills are first filed with the court so that the judge can provide an order directing that the fees and disbursements be paid. This also allows a fee auditor time to review the bill if one has been appointed in the case and it also allows other parties a chance to file objections to the fees. I spent a few hours editing and reviewing a bill for errors and inaccuracies this afternoon. When you are sending out a bill for $719,000.00 for 30 days worth of work, you want to be sure that everything looks right. It conveys to the client that care has been taken with the rest of the case as well. Personally, I think it just boils down to the fact that if you are going to send someone a bill for a million dollars, you better have spelled their name right!

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