Job One: U-M grad specializes in employee benefits, executive compensation

 By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News
Ken Sachs planned to be a labor and employment lawyer – until the day he waited in line at the Supreme Court for an advance copy of an important pension benefit decision for the firm where he worked as a law student. 
“It was exciting to get the decision at the Supreme Court, jump in a cab and take it back so that all the firm’s pension lawyers – and a lowly law school student – could gather in a conference room to read and discuss the latest decision affecting a national client,” he says. “I found this area fascinating as it combined both employment/labor and taxation concerns – and from that point on, I knew I wanted to work in the employee benefits area.”
A principal with Miller Canfield in Troy, Sachs has extensive experience with employee benefits and executive compensation, including the design, implementation and administration of tax-qualified and non tax-qualified retirement plans, funded and self-funded welfare plans, and other fringe benefits. Many companies and high net worth individuals are not aware of the available tax strategies to help them efficiently accumulate large sums of money for retirement, he notes – and as an example, cites the firm’s work to help many physicians save, on a tax-deferred basis, hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for retirement. 
“This work is very rewarding, as the client is often not aware of these opportunities and the value-added is readily apparent,” he says.
He enjoys working with a variety of clients. 
“Working with private, closely held companies allows us to help owners establish tax-deferred wealth strategies and to develop plans and programs to motivate the company’s workforce,” he explains. “We also work with large entities, and this work is largely motivated by union, human resource and other concerns; and we work with many tax-exempts and governmental entities – these employers have their own unique challenges and issues, not to mention significant political issues.”
Miller Canfield’s significant international merger and acquisition practice provides the opportunity for Sachs and his colleagues to handle employee benefit and executive compensation issues arising in business transactions. 
“This is particularly interesting as the firm’s clients are international, so we often have to take into account many different laws and regulations,” he says.
Over the last 18 months, Sachs has been actively involved in analyzing pension and welfare matters in the governmental bankruptcy area. 
“This was extremely fascinating and challenging, as Miller Canfield and other firms handled ground-breaking matters,” he says. 
His area of practice is constantly evolving, he notes. 
“I’m not always sure what I’ll be working on in 18 months, but the inevitable changes will require our clients to monitor and revise – and, hopefully improve – their benefit plans and executive compensation programs,” he says. “For instance, it’s difficult to say with any certainty where Health Care Reform will be in a few years. But we know companies will need an employee benefits attorney to help them make their plans legally compliant, economically efficient and to motivate their employees.
“Change is constant, and to help our clients stay on top of these changes and to properly administer their plans and programs is very rewarding,” he adds. “Each client is very different and the challenge of devising tailored solutions for each of them keeps me energized. It’s very rewarding to know you’re making a difference. I treasure these personal relationships.”
Named among DBusiness Magazine Top Lawyers and Best Lawyers in America, Sachs earned his undergrad degree in history from the University of Michigan, and his J.D. from George Washington University Law School in D.C., where he received the Seibel Award for Excellence in the Study of Labor and Employment Law. During his time in the nation’s capital, he also had the privilege of working at the U.S. State Department. 
“It was exciting to walk through the State Department and work on active legal matters,” he says.
Sachs, who earned an LLM in taxation from Wayne State University, teaches an employee benefits course as an adjunct professor at Walsh College. A past chair of the Oakland County Bar Association Employee Benefits Committee, he has served on the Great Lakes Area Tax Exempt and Government Entities Council of the Internal Revenue Service since 2008.  
The Southfield native enjoys being back on home turf. “When I left for Washington, D.C, I never thought I would return,” he says. “But, this is truly a wonderful place to live, work and raise a family.”
He and his wife, Jessica, a partner at Harness Dickey in Troy, make their home in Bloomfield Village, with daughter, Talia, 8, and son, Evan, 7. 
In his leisure time, Sachs enjoys numerous sports – primarily golf and tennis in summer, and basketball and squash in winter.

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