Corporate cognition: Lawyer handles major private equity deals

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

With the aim of becoming a neurologist, Philip Desai earned his undergraduate degree with a double major in Brain, Behavior and Cognitive Sciences, and in Sociology, from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. During those years, he worked as a research assistant in the U-M Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology and in the Department of Neurology.

"While I found and still find that field interesting and enjoy learning about new findings in the cognitive science field, I decided a career in research was not for me," he says.

After talking things over with mentors and taking an undergrad environmental law class Desai made the decision to head to law school. He earned his juris doctor from Boston College Law School, where he was managing editor of the Environmental Affairs Law Review, and worked as a legal intern at Fidelity Investments.

"Using the law and legal principles to help people was appealing to me," he says. "I knew that with a law degree, there are many different ways to accomplish this and at the time, several were interesting to me, including transactional, human rights, environmental, and intellectual property law."

After working as a summer intern at Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn in 2010, a year later he joined the firm full time, and in January of this year made partner.

Based in the law firm's Detroit office, where he is a member of the Corporate Department, Desai focuses his practice on advising clients on corporate governance matters, mergers, acquisitions and divestitures, corporate restructuring and financing, and general corporate matters.

His work includes some mind-boggling transaction values, such as assisting a private equity firm in a $395 million sale of a company that provides services in the hydraulic fracturing industry. He has also represented a private equity fund in a $25 million add-on acquisition of a printing company; and assisted in closing a $44 million sale and merger of a portfolio company of a private equity client.

Desai enjoys learning about businesses and working on deals generally.

"With private equity clients especially, there's ample opportunity for this kind of experience, as I'm often working on teams with a goal of acquiring or selling a business," he says.

"In addition to working on deal teams, I'm also able to develop relationships with the management-level employees of our clients' portfolio companies. It's satisfying to be able to draft and negotiate an agreement to purchase a business, and then provide guidance and solutions for issues that may arise in the operation of that business."

Desai would recommend the corporate field to law students and new lawyers.

"It's broad, and there are plenty of fields in which a lawyer can specialize of course, being a generalist in corporate law can be just as, if not more, rewarding," he says.

A fan of Detroit sports teams and the U-M Wolverines, Desai has fond memories of his undergrad years in Ann Arbor.

"Being able to attend a prestigious university with other people from all over the world and with all kinds of different backgrounds and life experiences was probably the most enjoyable aspect," he says. "I think U-M provides many great opportunities for unique learning experiences and avenues for personal growth. And, of course, rooting for the football and basketball team!"

The Trenton native lives in Royal Oak, with his wife Yashmeen, and is witnessing the resurgence of the Motor City.

"Going to work in downtown Detroit every day puts me at the center of the Detroit renaissance and it's gratifying to be able to see the positive changes in the city with my own eyes," he says.

Passionate about travel and exploring new places, in the last two years Desai visited three countries that were new to him Mexico, where he and his wife visited ancient Mayan ruins and went parasailing in Playa del Carmen; Thailand, where they enjoyed zip lining in Chiang Mai, spending time on the beaches of Krabi and Phi Phi islands, and taking a Thai cooking class in Bangkok; and a trip to Brazil that included a couple of nights in a lodge in the Amazon jungle, hiking, canoeing and piranha fishing, as well relaxing on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro.

Published: Wed, Apr 13, 2016

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