LOS ANGELES— Kenneth Klee literally wrote the book on U.S. bankruptcy law. But when he’s not busy restructuring corporate debt, you can find him restructuring chakras at his home energy-healing practice. WSJ’s Michael Corkery reports.
Kenneth Klee’s longtime law partner had spent weeks in the summer of 2010 typing up a voluminous report on the Tribune Co. TRBAA -0.33% bankruptcy, and his hands ached.
The 64-year-old Mr. Klee, who is described by peers as one of the most respected bankruptcy lawyers in the U.S., closed his eyes, peered through his “third eye” and waved his “energy hand” above his colleague’s outstretched arms. Almost immediately, the hurt was gone.
“All I know is that I was in pain and he did his thing and I felt better,” said Lee Bogdanoff, the lawyer treated by Mr. Klee.
By day, Mr. Klee inhabits the world of high-stakes bankruptcy cases, charging clients such as Jefferson County, Ala., about $1,000 an hour for legal advice. At night, Mr. Klee holds energy healings in a small room of his elegant, one-story home in the leafy Brentwood section of Los Angeles.
Mr. Klee said he can talk to spirits, mend broken bodies and wounded souls and, if necessary, perform exorcisms. The suggested donation for a two-hour session is $300.
Alternative medicine and other New Age practices and philosophies have many followers in the corporate world, particularly in Southern California. But it is unusual to find a white-shoe lawyer like Mr. Klee who so publicly embraces his connections to the metaphysical.
“I am just a vessel,” said Mr. Klee, sitting in his office on the top floor of a 39-story skyscraper with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. “I just bring through this energy.”
Mr. Klee said he heals some people by removing bad energy and infusing them with better vibrations. To do this, he uses a combination of oils, crystals, a tuning fork and other objects, such as a fish fossil. He infused his law partner, who was the principal author of the bankruptcy examiner’s report on Tribune in 2010, with “liquid living crystal.”
At a recent healing, Mr. Klee told an electrical contractor that the man’s sorrow came from his past life as a woman who had lost a baby in childbirth. Mr. Klee placed a tray of crystals on the floor to cut off the dark energy flowing up through the man’s bare feet and then hurried them out to his backyard so as to not contaminate the room.
Healing clients said Mr. Klee has helped them overcome the direst of illnesses. But medical professionals say while these kinds of alternative procedures might make people feel better temporarily, there is no proof that they provide cures.
“There is a difference between anecdotes and evidence,” said Richard Sloan, a professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University Medical Center in New York. “The real issue is whether there is any evidence of therapeutic efficacy. As far as I can tell the answer to that is no.”
A principal draftsman of the U.S. bankruptcy code in the 1970s, who is described as a “dean of the bar” in a recent international ranking of restructuring lawyers, Mr. Klee said he tries to separate his healing and law practices. But sometimes his metaphysical and legal skills overlap. During Texaco Inc.’s bankruptcy case in the late-1980s, Mr. Klee said he had the ability to predict what was going to happen.
His client, Pennzoil Co., agreed to a $3 billion settlement. As a show of gratitude, his legal colleagues gave him a letter opener engraved with the words “The Oracle.”
In the corner of a conference room at his law firm, Klee, Tuchin, Bogdanoff & Stern LLP, sits a white crystal that is meant to help harmonize opposing sides in a negotiation.
Another large crystal on a window sill of a young lawyer assigned to the Jefferson County case protects the office from bad vibes. Mr. Klee believes they emanate from a nearby condominium building. He declined to elaborate.
“How are you feeling today, Marisela?” asked Mr. Klee, as he passed the firm’s office services manager one recent morning.
Marisela Atrian mentioned how her shoulder still hurt after a fall from her bike. Mr. Klee waved his hand above her shoulder and then flicked his fingers toward the floor as if he were shaking off water.
“I know her energy,” said Mr. Klee, who has worked on Ms. Atrian before, mostly over the phone. “I can do it remotely.”
Mr. Klee became interested in healing in 1997 when he signed up for a massage at a law-firm retreat and experienced the “radiance technique,” in which he said a therapist “activated” energy within him. Since then, he has studied various forms of alternative healing from teachers in the Philippines and St. Petersburg, Fla.
Even his wife, Doreen, used to be skeptical at times about whether his healings had any real effect.
But he overcame her doubts when, he said, she was “possessed by an earthbound spirit and I did an exorcism to get it out of her.”
After a bad car accident in late 2004, Mrs. Klee developed a rash. She agreed to lie on Mr. Klee’s table in his healing room, while he placed discs called “pulsors” on her. After a while, she went limp and had to be helped into bed. The next day, she said, the rash was gone. The spirit was gone, too, Mr. Klee said.
“There are these spirits, and they look for warm bodies,” Mr. Klee explained over dinner with his wife. “Some of them want to go to the light…This one went to the Astral plane. It was a really lowlife type of spirit.”
“It still freaks me out,” said Mrs. Klee.
Mr. Klee doesn’t attempt to hide his healing work from legal clients. In Jefferson County, which filed for bankruptcy protection in November 2011, a local newspaper and a blogger picked up on Mr. Klee’s healing hobby, but the writers praised Mr. Klee’s legal work as Tribune bankruptcy examiner and the county’s lead bankruptcy lawyer. Earlier this year, Mr. Klee helped strike a deal with creditors that could help the county exit bankruptcy.
“Say what you will. This guy has his finger on the pulse—or waving somewhere above the pulse—of what ails this county,” wrote Birmingham News columnist John Archibald.
Still, some clients tell Mr. Klee that rival lawyers vying for business have tried to use his healing work against him.
“I’ve never had a client turn us down,” because of the healing work, said Mr. Klee, whose firm vied unsuccessfully to represent the city of Detroit in its bankruptcy case.
When he retires from his legal practice, Mr. Klee says, he wants to help develop an apparatus that could measure the energy contained in people and objects. That device, he says, would convince skeptics that the energy he feels through his hands is real. “It would change the world,” he said.
Taimie Bryant doesn’t need to be won over. A law professor at University of California, Los Angeles, Ms. Bryant recalls losing her patience at some students for arriving late to class. Mr. Klee, who also teaches at the law school, agreed to harmonize the class and their professor.
“The next day, there was so much ease in the classroom,” said Ms. Bryant. “It was eerie.”
Write to Michael Corkery at firstname.lastname@example.org