Law Practice Management

Shrinking law firm asks feds to take over its pension plan

The Detroit law firm Butzel Long has asked the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. to take over its underfunded pension plan.

The firm, which has lost about 100 lawyers since 2009, filed papers seeking the takeover on Saturday, the National Law Journal (reg. req.) and Crain’s Detroit Business report. Butzel Long currently has 140 lawyers and is about $9 million short of its pension target, firm president Justin Klimko told the NLJ.

The pension plan has a market value of about $33 million and serves 450 participants, including 350 people who no longer work at the firm, Klimko said.

A request for a pension takeover is sometimes filed in conjunction with a bankruptcy, but Klimko told the publications there are no plans for a bankruptcy filing. He told Crain’s that eliminating pension obligations will allow the firm to pay higher wages and aid recruiting. “We can now continue to grow,” he said. The firm currently has four offices in Michigan, as well as offices in New York and Washington.

According to the Crain’s story, Butzel lost lawyers after the firm added a New York office in 2007. Sources told the publication that the firm’s growth strategy, implemented under a prior chairman, resulted in smaller bonuses and lawyer dissension.

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