Seton Hall Law at Work: Finding Career Success at Goldman Sachs
“Since I graduated from Seton Hall Law, I’ve come to appreciate just how varied the practice of law can be,” says Elizabeth Roseman ’06 as she describes a career path that led her from private practice at Shearman & Sterling LLP and Sullivan & Cromwell LLP to her role as an Assistant General Counsel at Goldman Sachs. Pictured with Roseman are, from left, Julian Leone '04, Bob Emer '93 and Scott Purrelli '97.
The Seton Hall Law alumni who work alongside Roseman at the New York bank-holding company and its wholly owned financial-counseling subsidiary, The Ayco Company L.P., concur. From administration and compliance, to investment management and financial planning, every day these Seton Hall Law alumni appreciate how their law degrees opened doors for them along their career paths.
Karen O’Keeffe ’99, now Vice President, Employee Relations at Goldman Sachs, had always planned to attend law school. She discovered employment law through Professor Charles Sullivan, taking every course he offered on the subject. It was an area that “made more sense” to her, based as it was on people and their livelihoods. “All that just seemed more practical,” she says. Offered a position after graduation at Gibbons P.C., where she had served as a Summer Associate, O’Keeffe was assigned to the employment law group. “It fell exactly where I wanted it to be,” she says. O’Keeffe was fortunate enough to spend part of her time at Gibbons on counseling work, which appealed to her. “I liked helping clients take action to avoid lawsuits, not just defend them after the fact,” she says, and soon after, discovered that employee relations specialists serve a vital role in large organizations like Goldman Sachs.
O’Keeffe was ready to make the move when the wife of a Seton Hall Law classmate alerted her to an opportunity in the Employee Relations group at Goldman Sachs. Now, her days are shorter but more intense due to the very personal nature of human resource-related issues. She says, “In a law practice, you’re a bit removed from the situation. I really enjoy being here in the thick of things.”
Keefe’s experience isn’t lost on Roseman. “One of the most important things I learned at Seton Hall Law was the value of your legal network and professional community,” she says. “I learned about the opportunity at Goldman from a friend and former colleague. My mentors have been instrumental at all stages of my career thus far.” Roseman’s decision to leave private practice was difficult, but Roseman notes that “I learned over time that my skill set – being able to manage different projects at once, thinking ahead to avoid pitfalls, rather than solving a problem after it arises – was well suited for a corporate counsel role. And the opportunity to work with the best and the brightest at Goldman Sachs was too good to pass up.”
Robert Bacon ’00, Senior Vice President, Counseling, who oversees the Midwest region of Ayco, came to Seton Hall Law to make a career change after service in the Army and running a South Carolina retail business. “I wanted to be a bit more successful financially and in life, so I decided to go to law school,” he says. The target was Wall Street, specifically M&A legal work, which would connect his law degree with his undergraduate degree in finance. Through Seton Hall Law’s Office of Career Services he encountered Ayco, “one of only two financial firms that were interviewing on campus.” It turned out to be a great fit. “One, it was intellectually stimulating. We work in so many different areas: estate planning, taxes, investments and insurance, for instance, so there is a lot of variety. The people are phenomenal. And the job is rewarding because we help families. We sit down with senior executives and their families and help them plan for the next 20 or 30 years.”
Law school was something of a late decision for Scott Purrelli ’97, now Vice President, Counseling at Goldman Sachs Family Office, the Ayco business that serves as personal financial counselors for Goldman Sachs partners. Armed with an undergraduate degree in mathematics/statistics, Purrelli considered pursuing an M.B.A. or a law degree. Law won out because he reckoned it would offer both more flexibility and a greater diversity of opportunity. After graduation he accepted a New Jersey tax court clerkship for the Hon. Peter D. Pizzuto. He says, “Tax seemed like it would be a good fit with my background, and also offer the potential to branch out of the traditional legal field and into the world of finance.”
After the clerkship, it was decision time again, and again the prospect of further schooling helped frame the choice. As he considered pursuing a graduate degree in taxation, he responded to an Ayco ad in a law journal about an opportunity in Southern California. “Ayco seemed to be a really strong fit with what I was looking for,” he says. In the end, it was his openness to opportunities that made the difference. “The first job I took after my clerkship turned out to define my career path. I’m fortunate that it led me to Ayco and this niche.”
Matt Heckler ’07, Senior Financial Planner in his fifth year at Ayco, also has a tax and mathematics background and sought a graduate degree that would enable him to amass skills to “go to the next step” and decided “a J.D. would give me the most options,” he says. He now uses his Seton Hall Law-acquired tax expertise to apply Ayco’s philosophy of taking a comprehensive approach to a client’s financial-planning needs – both building their portfolios and achieving tax-advantaged results. “Investment performance is only part of the picture. When I give a client estate planning advice that leads to significant savings, we monetize the benefit of our services.” It also helps when talking with a client’s attorneys regarding such issues as estate planning: “Having a law degree, myself, I can advocate for my client because I speak the language.”
Scott Fleisher ’05, Vice President, Compliance, Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Group, left private practice after a short while and landed in legal staffing at Bear, Stearns & Co. conducting document review. When he realized he had a developed a strong skill, he went to Citigroup Private Bank, where he was supervised a team responsible for assuring the completeness of annual review packages, and then to Pershing LLC, where he also served in AML Compliance before joining Goldman Sachs, where, he says, “I’ve learned to refine my craft.” Though not practicing law, he says his law degree enables him to synthesize facts and to draw and present conclusions concisely. “All divisions come to Compliance,” he says, where his job is “to protect the firm and recommend preventative measures.”
Bob Emer ’93 has had a varied career during his 20 years at Goldman Sachs – exactly his plan, when he decided to attend law school in the early 1990s. He joined Goldman Sachs in 1987 as a CPA, a certification he earned while working at leading accounting firm Deloitte and Touche. After a few years at Goldman Sachs, he realized a law degree would allow him to expand his career options, and since graduating from Seton Hall Law degree, he has: as Vice President, FICC Management & Strategy Group; in the Special Situations Group; Global Chief Financial Officer ? Business Services, Corporate Services and Real Estate group; and now, the Vendor Management Office. Some of his assignments have had “more connectivity” with the law than others, he says. Still, “law school enhanced my ability to analyze a problem and a situation from multiple perspectives, especially helpful when I need to argue a perspective that may be counter-intuitive,” Emer says.
The Office of Career Services brought Vincent Giliberti ’06, Associate of Financial Planner Development, and Ayco together. At his interview, “the recruiter made a compelling point that, if you’re not necessarily interested in the attorney lifestyle, if you don’t think it’s for you, and you want to go into the financial industry, we’re your option,” he says. And so Giliberti made the decision “to take myself away from ‘the law.’” Now he conducts training for financial planners, yet he sees how his legal degree is interwoven with his work at Ayco: “When we talk with our clients about estate planning, the law is there. When we talk about tax planning, the law is there. When we advise a client on the benefits of forming an LLC or a partnership, the law is there.”
Kimia Mousavi Steed ’11, Financial Analyst, always knew she wanted to be a corporate lawyer. At Seton Hall Law, she had unprecedented opportunities: serving on CIRCUIT REVIEW, and participating in the Impact Litigation Clinic with Professor Romberg, where she had the honor of presenting before the Second Circuit, something many seasoned lawyers never get to do. Joining Ayco last year was “an unexpected opportunity that enables me to apply my legal skills and the concepts I learned in law school.”
Julian Leone '04, Vice President and a Private Wealth Advisor in his sixth year at Goldman Sachs, didn’t have to decide between an M.B.A. and a law degree; he acquired both degrees on part-time basis while successfully navigating a full-time career. “I knew the law degree would be harder,” he says, “and so I went for that one first.” He worked full-time as a tax accountant while attending law school.
In his last year at Seton Hall Law he took an internship at the State Attorney’s Office, which turned into his first legal job after school, conducting securities fraud investigations for the office and soon after, was recruited by Goldman Sachs to work in their Compliance Division. After several years in that position, he transitioned to the firm’s Investment Management Division, a transition made smoother thanks to his past experience and academic background. “Getting a law degree was like learning a second language, one I use every day in helping our clients navigate the complex investment landscape.”
At the firm, he has also been active on the management committee of the internal network for military veterans, a cause that resonates for him. Leone enlisted in the New Jersey National Guard shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and served for ten years, with a one-year tour of duty in Iraq. "We do a lot of recruiting and recently launched a Veterans Internship Program providing returning veterans training and education coupled with great networking and full time job opportunities,” he says. “We also work with veteran support organizations to help them navigate the firm’s resources.”
Similarly, he is giving back to Seton Hall Law. He recently was elected to the Alumni Council and looks forward to helping law students take advantage of the same opportunities that he has had. As he explains it, he came to Seton Hall Law when he had already found career success as a tax accountant. Yet, as he says, “I knew a law degree would open doors. I didn’t know where those doors would lead. I just wanted them opened and I was confident that I would be successful with whatever opportunities they offered.”