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Thursday, Jun 1, 2023

Keith Zimmet

As a lawyer handling large real estate and financial transactions, Keith Zimmet knows he’s not being hired to make memorable pleas before a judge. Clients come to Zimmet because they have a business or piece of property they want to buy, sell or finance. “It’s my job to guide them through that process and point out issues they might not have otherwise thought of,” Zimmet said. Real estate and financial law may not be the most eye-grabbing of legal areas yet it goes more to the important nuts and bolts of the typical day in the business world. Zimmet has racked up an impressive list of deals he coordinated, including the sale in 2006 of large hotels in Orange County and San Diego County and the purchase and sale of large shopping centers in Las Vegas and Hawaii. Zimmet was the lead counsel in the refinancing of a retail complex in Agoura Hills and to the borrower in the first California Statewide Community Development Authority Revenue Bonds issued in the city of Calabasas. In addition to his legal duties, Zimmet is managing shareholder of Lewitt, Hackman, Shapiro, Marshall & Harlan. Transactional law and being the manager of a law firm appeal to Zimmet because both allow him to use his financial background as well as legal skills. Zimmet earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from CSUN before attending USC law school. He worked at a Los Angeles law firm before joining Lewitt, Hackman in 1991. Zimmet was named managing shareholder in 2001. While at law school and his first job, Zimmet said he realized he enjoyed the business side of law; sitting in a room negotiating a deal as opposed to writing briefs or litigating a case in a courtroom. The role of the transactional lawyer is to be a problem solver and to spot issues that could be problems down the road, Zimmet said. In commercial deals, for instance, there are issues involving employees, the taxes of both the buyer and seller, and seeking approval of local, state and sometimes federal agencies. Sandra G. Wilkinson, an attorney in Dallas who is representing a lender in a $22.5 million refinancing of a shopping center in which Zimmet represents the borrower, said she finds Zimmet to be business-oriented and doesn’t get too legalistic in negotiations. “I think he’s really patient and calm under pressure willing to do what it takes to get the deal done,” Wilkinson said. “He works late, works weekends; he’s really dedicated.” As one who enjoys seeing businesses succeed and grow, there is an excitement when the negotiating takes place, Zimmet said. “Unlike litigation both sides want to have the deal closed,” Zimmet added. “Everyone is happy when the deal closes so you are trying to achieve the goals for the company.” Lewitt, Hackman itself has seen a 75 percent growth in the past five years and employs 21 lawyers practicing in a range of disciplines. But Zimmet said he is not looking to accelerate the growth rate at the firm. “One of the things that I took from my finance background is an understanding that most companies will fail because they grow too quickly not because they grew too slowly,” Zimmet said. “I believe in a steady, managed growth.” Mark R. Madler

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