Michael Clayton, a high-priced-law-firm's fixer, leaves a late-night poker game, gets a call to drive to Westchester, and watches his car blow up as he's taking an impromptu dawn walk through a field. Flash back four days. He owes a loan shark to cover his brother's debts (Michael's own gambling habits have left him virtually broke). His law firm is negotiating a high-stakes merger, and his firm's six-year defense of a conglomerate's pesticide use is at risk when one of the firm's top litigators goes off his meds and puts the case in jeopardy. While Michael is trying to fix things, someone decides to kill him. Who? Meanwhile, his son summarizes the plot of a dark fantasy novel.
Michael Clayton is Mr. Fix-It for his law firm, Kenner, Back and Odeen. A former District Attorney, Clayton uses his contacts in the police and the criminal justice system to bail out the firm's wealthy corporate clients. When one of the firm's senior partners, Arthur Edens, has a nervous breakdown while taking a deposition in a lawsuit against a major agrochemicals company, Clayton is dispatched to bring him home. What Clayton soon learns is Edens not only has doubts about defending the lawsuit but that the company may be acting on its own to ensure a positive outcome.
In New York, the divorced attorney Michael Clayton has been working for many years fixing messy situations for the law firm Kenner, Back and Odeen. He has never been invited to become a partner due to his conflictive personality of poker gambler and alcoholic that left him completely broken. Michael's addicted brother owes a high amount to a dangerous loan shark and Michael is trying to find a means to cover the debts. When the brilliant attorney Arthur Edens that has been ahead of the U-North case, a complicated three billion dollars lawsuit, for six years has a nervous breakdown and is arrested naked in a parking area in Milwaukee, Michael tries to help his friend, and is involved in an evil scheme plotted by Karen Crowder, the legal counsel of U-North.
Michael Clayton is an in-house fixer at one of the largest corporate law firms in New York. A former criminal prosecutor, Clayton takes care of Kenner, Bach, & Ledeen's dirtiest work at the behest of the firm's co-founder, Marty Bach. Though burned out and hardly content with his job as a fixer, his divorce, a failed business venture, and mounting debt have left Clayton inextricably tied to the firm. At U/North, meanwhile, the career of litigator Karen Crowder rests on the multi-million dollar settlement of a class-action suit that Clayton's firm is leading to a seemingly successful conclusion. But when Kenner Bach's brilliant and guilt-ridden attorney Arthur Edens sabotages the U/North case, Clayton faces the biggest challenge of his career and his life.