Finding his niche Wayne professor specializes in nuances of corporate law

By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News

When Eric Zacks was preparing to begin his teaching career at Wayne State University, the overwhelming feedback from faculty members was that he would love teaching there.

"It's certainly been true, the students at Wayne are simply fantastic," he says. "They're bright, motivated, and appreciative, and I'm always impressed with all they juggle, including in many instances family and work obligations in addition to numerous extracurricular and community activities, not to mention classes."

Zacks, an assistant professor, teaches Contracts, Corporate Finance, and Corporations, and enjoys being involved in the field of business law where students can immediately make a difference in the community.

"Wayne Law is a Detroit institution, and it's exciting to see the impact the law school can have as an active participant in the city's new and existing businesses, through its Small Business Enterprises and Nonprofit Corporations Clinic, as well as through students practicing in the city after graduation."

After earning a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Michigan, Zacks received his juris doctor degree from Harvard Law School. When he entered law school, he was unsure whether he wanted to practice, go into business, or pursue an academic career.

"I wanted a degree that would provide me with flexibility," he says. "I knew a law degree would provide the credentials to pursue different careers. It has, fortunately, worked out that way."

Although he now operates from a different part of the classroom, then as now he enjoyed the interaction between professor and student.

"I was always impressed with the passion of my favorite professors and their commitment to the students," he says.

Although Zacks always knew he wanted to practice law as a business advisor or counselor rather than as a trial advocate, he did not foresee developing an expertise in mergers and acquisitions. This was a niche he practiced as a partner in the corporate and securities department at Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn in Detroit. Starting his practice when the Sarbanes-Oxley Act was signed into law, he was assigned the task of getting the department and the department's public company clients up to speed on the law's various corporate governance reforms.

As the firm began to represent more and more private equity funds, his time was increasingly spent on their acquisitions and divestitures. During the last couple of years, he spent the bulk of his time focused on the acquisitions and divestitures of one fund in particular and its various portfolio companies, where he developed close relationships with various individuals at the fund that extended beyond the boardroom.

"The fund managers were extremely bright, sophisticated and motivated, and I'm sure I learned as much about business and acquisition strategy from them as they learned about the legal documentation and legal risks from me," he says.

In 2008, Zacks was named a "Rising Star" by Michigan Super Lawyers & Rising Stars, and in 2009 was singled out as "extremely diligent" when the firm received a top tier ranking for its Mergers and Acquisitions Practice Group in the Legal 500 Midwest regional ranking -- the only Michigan law firm to be ranked in the top tier in that category.

In 2005, he teamed with NYU Professor Joshua Blank for the article, "Dismissing the Class: A Practical Approach to the Class Action Restriction on the Legal Services Corporation." The article has been cited in two U.S. Supreme Court briefs, including the recent Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., a sexual discrimination lawsuit brought as a civil rights class action suit on behalf of approximately 1.5 million women.

He also authored "Unstacking the Deck? Contract Manipulation and Credit Card Accountability," examining and critiquing the revised legal framework for interpreting and enforcing consumer credit card agreements under the federal Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009. Credit card issuers have historically prepared credit card agreements in their favor in a "race to the bottom," regardless of regulatory requirements or enforcement mechanisms, he says.

"Many reforms mandated by the CARD Act may be ineffective, or at best, incomplete, with respect to the stated goal of creating effective and informed contracts," he says.

A native of West Bloomfield, Zacks met his wife Renee when they were undergraduate students -- he from U-M and she from Penn State - studying at Israel's Tel Aviv University. The couple has three children, Asher, 5, Micah, 3, and 1-year-old Leah.

Outside of work, Zacks is an active member of Congregation Beth Shalom in Oak Park, where he currently serves as a vice president and on the Board of Directors. He also is show director of the Spray Masters Water Ski Show Team, an amateur team based out of Davisburg, near Clarkston. The team has about 70 members and puts on 10 to 12 shows per summer, with 35 skiers performing stunts involving pyramids, barefoot waterskiing, waterski jumping, skiing around the boat stunts and more.

"We usually perform our shows on lakes around the Oakland County area, although we've also traveled and competed throughout the Midwest," Zacks says. "My family and I spend our summers living on the same lake where the team practices, so it keeps us busy."

Published: Tue, Jul 19, 2011

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