Michael Klerer – AECOM
In hockey, there’s a name for when a player scores a goal, tallies an assist and gets in a fight in the same game: the Gordie Howe hat trick. Howe, one of the best players in NHL history, not only wowed fans and mesmerized opponents with skill and grace, but also with toughness—he played his last game when he was 52.
As the region chief counsel for Canada for AECOM, Michael Klerer helped the infrastructure firm ensure a new bridge connecting Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario, in Howe’s honor is as tough as he was. Recently, Klerer’s responsibilities shifted from covering Canada to the Eastern U.S. But the goals remain the same.
“Winning such marquis projects requires top-notch technical staff, creativity and the fortitude to tackle such complex work,” Klerer says.
AECOM, headquartered in Dallas, is one of the largest publicly traded engineering consulting firms in the world. It designed the Gordie Howe International Bridge, Canadian and U.S. ports of entry and the Michigan Interchange, which includes road improvements and construction of connecting ramps between the U.S. port of entry and Interstate 75.
When completed, the 2.5-kilometer bridge will be the longest cable-stayed bridge in North America and will also set the record for longest composite steel and concrete cable-stayed bridge deck in the world.
Delivered by the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority, the bridge features two A-shaped towers built on the banks of the Detroit River, six lanes for vehicle traffic and a bicycle and walking path.
Keeping people working
In addition to the bridge project, AECOM recently was appointed owner’s engineer by the Toronto Transit Commission for the Bloor-Yonge Capacity Improvements project, which will expand and modernize one of Canada’s busiest transit hubs.
“I have a tremendous team that is bright and more than capable of doing a lot of the day-to-day work on all our projects,” Klerer says. “That allows me to take a big-picture view and step in when there are significant problems.”
A lot of Klerer’s work is managing his team of lawyers, contract managers and paralegals. There’s a high retention rate among attorneys at AECOM, and Klerer has worked to ensure there are paths for growth in the company.
Legal work on the Toronto subway station project included negotiating with contractors and vendors to finalize the work. Thanks to the company’s foray into digital and remote operations, Klerer says he has no problem handling projects in Canada while living in New Jersey and working for a company based in Texas.
Meetings for these and other projects are done using Microsoft Teams, and Klerer says he spends a lot of his time fielding calls and emails from different departments throughout the company.
Getting the projects going
As a member of Ontario Transit Group (comprised of Ferrovial Construction and Vinci Construction Grand Projets), AECOM is providing design services for the Ontario Line South, a planned 15.6 kilometer, 15-stop rapid transit line that will create more than 40 other transit outlets—including regional trains, subways and light rail.
Klerer supports the company’s continued goal of winning bids for other projects, like a light rail transit project for downtown Montreal and a high-speed rail project connecting Edmonton and Calgary in Alberta. He helps with negotiating contracts, providing legal counsel to his operations team on the myriad issues that arise and ensuring documents meet legal standards.
“My core skills are negotiating and recognizing the potential risks to the company whenever we prepare to bid or solicit a project,” Klerer says.
The life he wanted
In the classic TV show The Brady Bunch, the father, Mike Brady, was an architect. Klerer says he enjoyed the show so much that he set his own sights on a career in architecture. But in high school he was told he needed to know advanced math and physics to be an architect, which didn’t appeal so much to him.
“I enjoy analysis, puzzles and putting things together, and I thought law school might be a good fit,” he says.
While at Rutgers Law School, Klerer says he knew he wanted to be a litigator because he enjoys arguing and persuasion. Following his graduation, he spent two years as a litigator for Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney and then four years as a construction associate at Greenberg Traurig. He then held the same role for a year at Arent Fox.
“I knew I wanted to go in-house but felt that I needed more experience on the developer side, and I worked in Manhattan for Arent Fox representing owners and developers,” Klerer says. “I got to see the other side of the construction coin that year.”
He took his first in-house position as regional counsel for URS Corporation, a company that performs engineering, architecture and professional consulting services. He held that job for six years until the company was acquired by AECOM in 2014.
After the acquisition, he was appointed senior area counsel at AECOM and became senior counsel for the company’s alternative and integrated delivery practice group in 2016. In 2017, he was promoted to vice president and assistant general counsel for Canada and was named region chief counsel for the company’s U.S. central region, as well as for Canada.
“I’m proud to be part of a team involved in such iconic projects and absolutely love my legal team,” he says. “I look forward to the future here at AECOM.”
View this feature in the Vanguard Winter IV 2023 Edition here.
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