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Shortly after Ernest Patrikis became general counsel of the insurance giant American International Group, Inc., in 1998, he heard rumblings of discontent among the talented lawyers in AIG’s domestic brokerage group. Some reportedly felt overworked; others had nothing to do. Factions were developing. The group as a whole felt underappreciated. And headhunters were reportedly getting calls. Because AIG’s domestic brokerage attorneys are vital to the company-they draft AIG’s insurance policies-Patrikis knew he had to move fast. The department, he says, needed “a dramatic reorganization.” And, the GC recalls, “it needed it right away.” Looking for someone to lead the charge, Patrikis settled on associate general counsel Kenneth Harkins. The lawyer had earned great reviews from superiors and knew AIG cold; at the time, he’d already been with the company for eight years. But what really wowed Patrikis was that Harkins, had taken night classes about the insurance industry. That fact “said he both knew the industry and approached his job with a standard of excellence,” says Patrikis. “It really impressed me.” Patrikis tapped Harkins and never looked back. “He was outstanding,” Patrikis says. “He worked very hard, and, within a few months, the group was much more coherent and better organized.” Patrikis kept Harkins at the helm of “DBG” until last June, when he promoted him to AIG’s deputy general counsel. Harkins’s new job is big. He manages the legal work for all of AIG’s property and casualty companies, which annually generate tens of billions of dollars. Harkins re-ports directly to Patrikis, oversees the work of more than 60 lawyers, and, for the first time in his career, makes litigation decisions. Those who know Harkins don’t flinch at the thought of the longtime corporate lawyer leading settlement talks. “Ken lives and breathes this stuff,” says Michael Goldman, a partner at Chicago’s Sidley Austin Brown & Wood who has done transactional work with AIG for years. “He stays well versed on the industry to a degree I really find extraordinary. He’s the consummate business lawyer.” The soft-spoken, sardonic Harkins, 43, says that his new job requires more hand-holding and “playing psychologist” than anything else. “But I suppose I’m hanging in there,” he says, with what colleagues call his characteristic humility. Harkins, who moved into the insurance field from New York’s Stroock & Stroock & Lavan in 1990, may hang around long enough to get the top spot in AIG’s legal department. One lawyer close to the company re-ports that Harkins is “being groomed” for the GC job-even if Patrikis, whom he’d replace, is still relatively new. “Ken is adored [at AIG],” the source says. “If and when he gets the job, he’ll have good support.” And those night classes will have paid off, too.

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