Randy Kominsky is a member of Temple Law’s Class of 1979. Mr. Kominsky was a staff editor for Volume 51 and an associate research editor for Volume 52 of Temple Law Review. His case note, Housing Discrimination – The Appropriate Evidentiary Standard for Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, was published in 1978. After graduating, he moved to Miami, Florida, to clerk for Judge James Jorgenson at the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida. He then served as assistant general counsel at Ryder System, Inc., a Fortune 500 company based in Miami. After thirteen years of practice, he left to join Coopers & Lybrand (now PricewaterhouseCoopers), an international accounting and consulting firm in New York City. For three years, he served as their national partner in charge of the restructuring consulting practice. He then started a consulting firm in 1996, advising on mergers & acquisitions (M&A), investment banking, and reorganizations and serving as an interim chief executive officer or executive.
Mr. Kominsky has had an incredibly varied career in both law and business: he led the successful restructuring of one of the world’s largest airlines, Continental Airlines (now United Airlines); he served as the chief investment officer to the owner of a major league baseball team; he owned and was the chief executive officer of a wealth management and investment banking company; has been involved in many bankruptcies, turnarounds and out of court restructurings as a chief restructuring officer, chief executive officer, or advisor; he has been on boards of directors of both public and private companies; he is active in philanthropy, and he has published numerous articles. On October 17, 2022, he published an article on businesslawtoday.org, the premier digital platform of the ABA Business Law Section. The article summarizes his forthcoming book on career success and can be found here. The following are edited excerpts from his interview with Temple’s Business Law Magazine, The Temple 10-Q. The full podcast episode can be found here.
In Temple 10-Q&A Episode 15: A Lifetime of Lessons in Law and Business, Randy Kominsky (LAW ’79) shares why clerkships are invaluable to transactional attorneys, what it was like navigating one of the largest airline bankruptcies in history, and how every young professional can improve their odds for career success.
Nate Trager (LAW ’22; MBA ’22)
Randy Kominsky (LAW ’79)
Senior Executive and Consultant at Alliance for Financial Growth
Most future transactional attorneys do not think to pursue clerkships. Can you tell us what you see as the value of clerking for an aspiring transactional attorney?
Mr. Kominsky relates how clerking, a once-in-a-lifetime experience, improved his legal reasoning, made him a better draftsman as a transactional attorney, and strengthened his network. Arising from a connection with one of his law professors, Mr. Kominsky began clerking for a trial court judge who worked closely with him and acted as a mentor. There, as his legal skills grew, so did his legal network. Because of his position as a law clerk, he made connections with other lawyers in the region, eventually leading him to different career opportunities.
I found the clerkship extremely valuable for many reasons. The judge was an excellent teacher, and he really continued my learning process. We would analyze the law and apply it to the facts. He would talk to me, and I really continued growing my legal reasoning. And that was a very valuable skill. I saw that litigation was over documents and words, and I saw how important words were. I became a better draftsman knowing that someday the words I write might be subject to litigation.
I also had some other intangible benefits of the clerkship. It allowed me to live in a different location, and that was great to experience Miami. And it taught me what I didn’t want to practice. I used it kind of like career selection. For example, I determined that I really did not want to practice criminal law.
How and why did you decide to start your career as an in-house attorney, rather than at a law firm? What skills allowed you to excel early on in your career?
Mr. Kominsky places great emphasis on developing interpersonal skills, the importance of being likable, and how such skills can both land and retain clients. Mr. Kominsky also shares how and why he decided to transition from being a law clerk to working as an in-house attorney for Ryder. He highlights the importance of setting career goals early on and, ultimately, how to follow up on those goals.
The first thing I did was set career goals. I think it is important to have a plan and figure out a direction. Too many people just take the first job they are offered, and then figure: well, I’ll get the next job, the third job, and then I’ll get on my path.
The importance of being likable . . . using that word very broadly: improving my interpersonal skills, my soft skills, etc. I think it is critically important to learn from someone. And so, my mentor and I developed a plan as to how I could become more likable.
Can you speak to the similarities between handling bankruptcies and M&A transactions?
Drawing from a wealth of personal experience, Mr. Kominsky compares handling M&A transactions with bankruptcies. He describes the differences in the number of competing parties, their corresponding interests, and what that means for the negotiation process. Particularly of note is the emphasis Mr. Kominsky places on having skills and knowledge relating to business generally.
First, [in bankruptcies] there are not just two parties. You have all kinds of interested parties. Bankruptcies also encompass most transactional practices [e.g., financing, real estate, etc.].
Negotiation is a skill that I think is in a separate category all by itself. Transactions involve negotiation, but it is really only with one other party. In a bankruptcy, the negotiations are with everyone. For example, you have to deal with employees, the U.S. Trustee’s office, different kinds of creditors, etc. So, learning and honing these negotiation skills is critically important in bankruptcy.
Can you speak to your experience leading the successful restructuring of Continental Airlines? How did you balance so many competing stakeholder interests?
Mr. Kominsky details his experience as co-chair of the Unsecured Creditors Committee during the Continental Airlines bankruptcy. He describes the differences in handling claims varying wildly in monetary value, how such claims are negotiated, the personal connections he made during that time, and ultimately what guided him as he managed so many competing stakeholder interests.
When they filed for bankruptcy in 1991, they were one of the largest airlines in the world. They had revenue of about five or six billion dollars, operations on every continent, tens of thousands of employees, and hundreds of thousands of people dependent on the airline.
I got off the plane in Houston, where their headquarters was, and I looked around the airport, and I saw nothing but Continental planes, tens of thousands of people in the airport. And I knew by the end of the day, all of these people could be out of a job, and it could be totally dark. And I said to myself I’m not going to let that happen. I’m going to use every skill that I have learned throughout my entire career to try to save these employees.
What motivated you to leave the practice of law and move into business, and how did you successfully do that?
He explains why he was unhappy with just practicing law and wanted to move into the larger business and transactional world—emphasizing the importance of setting career goals, weighing risks, and always having a backup plan. Moreover, he describes what drew him into the financial world and his time at Coopers & Lybrand (now PricewaterhouseCoopers).
And then I had a backup plan. If it did not work out, I could always practice law again. Before quitting that job or any other job, I balance how much time, money, and effort I have put into it against what I have to gain.
Because to me, becoming a consultant was much broader than practicing law, and personally more enjoyable using a whole set of skills than being a targeted lawyer.
What is one piece of advice you would give to law students, new lawyers, and seasoned practitioners?
Mr. Kominsky leaves us with his most significant piece of advice: connect with more people and care about them. He sheds light on how genuine connections he made throughout his life and career have made his life fuller and his career more robust.
Probably the best thing that I’d recommend is to keep in contact with your connections. Creating new relationships and networking has been really important in my career. I believe in an old expression, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” And it always rang true for me.
I never looked at this as an obligation, or a job, or a thing I had to do. I like to do that. I really want to stay in touch with people . . . I want to help them. I want them to help me if I have a problem, I want to be able to call an old classmate and say, what would you do in this situation? And that is the way I’ve developed my personal and business life: listening to other people, asking, and staying in contact with them.
Randy Kominsky (J.D. ’79) serves as a senior executive or consultant to companies and is based in South Florida. After working as an in-house attorney at a Fortune 500 company early in his career, he has specialized in turnarounds and corporate restructurings for over thirty-five years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Randall G. Kominsky, Housing Discrimination – The Appropriate Evidentiary Standard for Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, 51 TEMP. L.Q. 929 (1978).