A month in at Winston & Strawn

Office2Just about a month ago, I started my new job at a large law firm in Chicago, Winston & Strawn.  The time has definitely flown by.

In general, the legal market is heating up.  Lots of my friends have gotten calls from recruiters.  More corporate roles than litigation roles but in general many people I know are being solicited.

I didn’t leave my firm due to a random call since I had a recruiter friend I’d know for a bit.  But I did go through the process and I decided to join the firm in a pretty niche role, unlike many of the other opportunities for  young lawyers.

In general, I came here to support the growth of two brand new groups (with primary support for one group initially).  A borrower’s side finance group and a technology transactions group.

For the former, I help represent companies and entrepreneurs in lending and other types of financing transactions.  More often than not these are high-growth portfolio companies of Private Equity firms, but in general the types of companies are pretty broad.  We help them negotiate agreements with the banks who make the loans as well as help explain and document the entire process of the transaction.

For the latter group, the work stream is more general but the industry is more specific.  In general, I help represent 1) technology companies in a full range of activities, including raising money, exit, IP, general matters and also 2) non-tech companies who undertake certain tech-based activities such as licensing, joint venture agreements, etc.  3) Finally we also help represent investors in those companies, which could be angel or venture investors.

I’ve been on a few projects and deals thus far, and everything has gone smoothly.  One lesson I’ve learned for a second time now, is that it does take time to get fully integrated, like it would anywhere. I’ve had a few interesting things going already but I know there is a whole lot more to come over the next year.  Once a few interesting things start popping up, I’ll do my best to share any lessons learned along the way.

One thing I like about the role (and sought out) is that I am part of a small team, since I really just work with the one person in each group.  In a big firm it can be easy to get lost, so I purposely sought out working with micro-teams.  The benefits here are very clear – a smaller heirarchy, few people you rely on, easier to have discussions, and more speed and innovation than you could have in a big team.  This means that work can happen faster, feedback can be better and communication with the client can be more seamless.  It’s also good because there’s more alignment with workstream and scheduling leading to greater happiness of the team members.

My one piece of advice to anyone reading, is to seek that out.  Ever smaller teams where each person has ever more responsibility.

Stay tuned to hear how things go!  I am excited for the new beginning.


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Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 Careers No Comments

The Role of Local Counsel

lawphotoOne question that often arises in the practice of corporate law is whether you really need to hire local counsel for commercial deals? The answer is an unequivocal yes.  Here is the short answer for why.

Local counsel is the lawyer or law firm that is qualified to do business in a certain geography.  They are often hired becuase the laws of that geography might be critical to facilitating a deal, including a commercial finance deal, a secured lending transaction, or real estate deal just to name a few.

In many transactions law firms will hire local counsel because their clients have business going in other states. As a general rule, a lawyer can only work on a legal matter if he or she is qualified to practice law in that state.  If the deal takes place in a state where there lawyer is not qualified to practice law, then the lawyers would not be able to work on the deal.  On the other hand, if the deal takes place in a state where the lawyers are qualified to practice, but parts of a deal may involve an additional state, then a firm may hire local counsel to assist.

One reason local counsel should be a part of any relevant deal because, without hiring them, lead counsel may be engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.  Anothe reason to hire local counsel is because counsel should also have more knowledge and experience in the states that they practice.  Without getting too far into the weeds,  local counsel is  very important because they provide opinions that give comfort to lendeers and induce them to move forward in transactions that ar eoutside their borders.  These opinions are relied upon to deem the transaction as valid, to show that it complies with all aspects of local law, and that the debt is secured by verifiable collateral in that specific state.

While the folks at many big firms on a deal are certainly smart enough to do such work, they wouldn’t be as close to the matters as local counsel would be and that’s the role of local counsel.


Saturday, July 13th, 2013 Business School No Comments

Business doesn’t like law, law doesn’t like business

It’s true much of the time. Think about it. Ask a business person a legal question and here’s what you’ll hear, “that sounds like something the lawyer should deal with. I don’t have time to think about such small details. I’m a big picture person.”

The lawyer is just the opposite. She responds, “the details can make or break the whole deal. But business, that is just nonsense. It’s just guesswork and unpredictable.”

Because the business person does not like law, that person will inevitably fail to consider all the risks, or think about what’s possible with a little more time, planning and leverage. Especially with game-changing ideas that require more attention.

Because the lawyers don’t like business, that person holds back, relies on a rigid roadmap, follows the existing path and may never understand how big an idea might be if they just embrace ambiguity.

You see these personalities play out all the time in business school and in law school.

On the other hand, what if a person could do both: combine the detail orientation and ability to see risks with the ability to understanding the market, hedge on the good risks and scale their idea.

Just a thought.

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Tuesday, August 14th, 2012 Business School No Comments

Now what?

What do I do now? That’s the question people a lot of people are asking themselves.  MBAs that just finished business school. Law students that just finished the bar exam. Friends and colleagues that finished their big project that kept them captive at work.

Often times, we encounter big taks and we have to go face to face with really hard work. And the harder the work the busier we all become.  And I suspect that the trend never really ends. But  every time there comes a point where it all comes to an end. Life has to go on. And we have to figure out what to do next.

In most cases that’s easy with a little advanced planning. That’s why most people plan trips after a big exam. Family vacations after your big project at work. Places you’ve always wanted to go if you decide to finally quit the job you’ve always wanted to quit.

But what happens when the work is harder than you thought? When time slips away? Then you find yourself asking, “now what.”

Advice from someone smart that has been there: “Enjoy your freedom. It’s not going to last.”

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Thursday, July 26th, 2012 Business School, Careers No Comments

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Jeremy C Wilson is a JD-MBA alumni using his site to share information on education, the social enterprise revolution, entrepreneurship, and doing things differently. Feel free to send along questions or comments as you read.


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The contents of this blog are mine personally and do not reflect the views or position of Kellogg, Northwestern Law, the JD-MBA program, or any firm that I work for. I only offer my own perspective on all issues.
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