Just three months after retirement, the former co-chair of the bankruptcy and corporate restructuring practice at Skadden, Arps, Slate Meagher & Flom is back in Big Law.
J. Gregory Milmoe, who retired from Skadden on Dec. 31, recently joined Greenberg Traurig as a partner in New York and Boston.
“I love it, I just enjoy practicing law,” Milmoe said Tuesday. “It’s been part of my life for as long as I can remember.”
Milmoe began his career at Skadden in 1971 as a mailroom assistant before becoming an associate at the firm following his graduation from Fordham University School of Law in 1975. After practicing corporate law for several years, Milmoe eventually moved into the restructuring and bankruptcy space, where he built a formidable practice.
Over the years, Milmoe and his restructuring team at Skadden would take on some of the most high-profile bankruptcies, leveraged buyouts and corporate restructurings.
Milmoe represented hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management LP on its collapse nearly decades ago, as well as New York-based financial services company Refco Inc. on its bankruptcy filing in 2005 and subsequent sale of the broker’s assets that earned him Dealmaker of the Year honors from The American Lawyer in 2007. Milmoe also advised the National Hockey League on the bankruptcy sale in 2009 of the troubled Arizona Coyotes franchise and global accounting giant Deloitte on its acquisition three years later of Monitor Company Group, a strategic consulting firm founded by business guru Michael Porter.
In 2011, Milmoe was part of a Skadden team retained by commodities and financial derivatives broker MF Global Holdings Inc., whose bankruptcy was one of the largest in history with debts of almost $39.7 billion. (Milmoe worked with lawyers from Sullivan & Cromwell and Weil, Gotshal & Manges in the MF Global case, which generated millions in attorney fees.)
But after nearly five decades at Skadden, Milmoe was coming up against the firm’s mandatory retirement age of 70. After a few months of rest and relaxation, which included a trip to Australia, Milmoe decided he was ready to return to Big Law.
“I spoke with my wife, who is a retired attorney, [about] it and she was very emphatic [that] if you love something and you’re able to, you ought to keep doing it,” said Milmoe, who tapped Major, Lindsey & Africa managing director Robert Zinn to broker his late-career lateral move.
After getting an offer he couldn’t refuse, Milmoe, a former barroom pianist, said he decided make the jump to Greenberg Traurig.
“It’s a very comfortable, cultural fit,” said Milmoe, noting that he has worked and been well-acquainted with several Greenberg Traurig lawyers over the years, including the firm’s current senior chairman Cesar Alvarez and the senior chair of its global mergers and acquisitions practice Dennis Block, the latter of whom came aboard in 2011.
The ability to work in Boston, as well as the cross-discipline and collaborative working environment at his new firm, was also key for Milmoe’s restructuring practice, he said.
“In the restructuring world, sometimes I think you need to be a mile wide and an inch deep, because every kind of legal problem sooner or later will float to the surface,” Milmoe said. “And having a firm that approaches life in that way, and always has, is just a terrific place for a restructuring lawyer to be.”
While the bankruptcy landscape has gone through many changes during Milmoe’s career, he does hope to continue at least one tradition at his new home: Getting started an ice hockey team at Greenberg Traurig, a global legal giant whose roots are in Miami.
Milmoe, who spent two years in his childhood living in St. John’s, Newfoundland, later played hockey at Cornell University alongside Ken Dryden, a future Hockey Hall of Famer considered one of the greatest goaltenders in NHL history. (Dryden later quit the sport to become a politician and lawyer, working at leading Canadian firm Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt.)
“We’re working on it,” said Milmoe about his plans to start a hockey team at Greenberg Traurig.
And while Milmoe may have hung up his own hockey skates, for the time being, his return to Big Law is just an indication that there’s still plenty of time left on his own career clock.
“I realized that as a 69-year-old I had no business trying to skate around the 23-year-olds,” Milmoe said. “[But] practicing law is too personally rewarding not to do it.”