Building the Future of Law and Business through Experience

Author: 
Robin I. Mordfin

The Doctoroff Business Leadership Program successfully launched last fall to equip more University of Chicago law students with the knowledge, skills, and experience to lead in the world of business. Both the Financial Times and the Economist have singled out the Doctoroff Program as one of the most innovative in legal education today. At the core of the program are an intensive business curriculum, enrichment opportunities, business mentorships, and specially chosen and matched business internships. While knowledge and skills are, of course, critical to building business leaders, it is the experience—previously nearly impossible for law students to get—that comes from actually working at a high level in a business environment that will bring together all the training Doctoroff students receive.

Over the summer of 2014, all eight members of the inaugural Doctoroff cohort served business internships at some of the most prestigious and influential companies in the world. As a result, the rising 2Ls garnered experience, built business networks, and had their eyes opened to new experiences.

“We have gathered a truly exceptional group of alumni to work with our students as mentors, graduates who have built extraordinary careers in the business world and who are eager to pass along their knowledge and experience to the next generation,” explained Dean Michael Schill. “They helped their mentees to find challenging and fascinating internships that truly show these students how valuable their legal educations can be in corporate America.”

Erin Steigerwald, ’16, who holds an undergraduate degree in music performance, had decided in college that she did not want to perform full time. Still, she wanted to work in the entertainment business because she loves working with and around creative people. She had worked at Viacom Media Networks before arriving at the Law School and so had already begun to explore the corporate end of communications.

After considering her interests and experiences, Steigerwald was fortunate to be assigned Dan Doctoroff, ’84, CEO of Bloomberg and the program’s sponsor, as her mentor. He was eager to find a place for her in the conglomerate and sat down with her on a number of occasions and helped her figure out which areas of the business would most interest her. Eventually, Steigerwald was settled into strategic services on the media side of Bloomberg that sells and distributes local versions of their programming to outlets all over the world. She worked on large-scale deals in Canada and South America.

“It was a great work experience. I got to work with all different types of contracts, I did a lot of drafting and redlining, and it was really nice to get the business end of things,” Steigerwald explained. She learned to work with term sheets and got to really explore negotiation. “I learned about what to offer and what to expect in return and about absolutes.”

“This is precisely the kind of experience we want our students to have as part of the Doctoroff program,” said faculty director Douglas Baird, Harry A. Bigelow Distinguished Service Professor of Law. “They really have the opportunity to see how law and business work together, and it prepares them to take on leadership positions when they graduate.”

Lauren Faraino is one of only two students from the class of 2016 who entered the Doctoroff Program without previous business experience. She had been thinking about pursuing a career in private equity for a while, but wasn’t sure where to begin. Fortunately, when she entered the program she was paired with Michael Friedman, ’88, who is Managing Director at Ocean Tomo, an intellectual-property-focused merchant bank. The company provides different services related to intellectual property, including litigation testimony and IT portfolio assessments.

“They look for IP-based transactions—so if there is a merger going on and one of the companies has a strong IP portfolio, Ocean Tomo works to maximize that portfolio,” Faraino said.

Faraino spent a lot of time working on communications-based technology. Her biggest project was working with a communications company that was spun off from its parent company. The communications company brought with it 4,000 patents. Faraino’s team combed through the patents and categorized them in an attempt to monetize them. They also worked on strategy, examining how the patents fit into the new company, and made decisions about whether to hold onto patents or to abandon them. “It was fun, because I had never read a patent, and I got to learn more about technology and the financial side of things,” she added.

The majority of the Doctoroff students are planning to enter law firms upon graduation, but Ryan Zielinski, ’16, enjoyed his Doctoroff internship so much that he is planning to go to work in the corporate world right away. He is going to join JPMorgan Chase as an associate. “My mentor is Mike Cavanagh, ’93, who was JPMorgan’s Co-Chief Executive and is now Co-President and Co-COO of The Carlyle Group. We spoke before I took my internship and he was really a catalyst for getting me interested in investment banking because it is a good marriage of law and business,” Zielinski noted. “Working as an investment banker is the best training for a future in finance.”

Over the course of the summer, Zielinski worked on a sell-side mergers and acquisitions transaction for a private auto-parts supplier in their attempt to effectuate a dividend recapitalization transaction. As part of the transaction, his team helped the company to compile a ratings’ agency presentation that could be presented to Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s, Fitch, and the like for debt ratings. He also had the chance to learn to analyze a company by using a sum-of-parts valuation analysis. Zelinski also had the opportunity to learn about marketing by creating decks—visual presentations that are used to sell a product or service to a client. He made one on the global state of the commercial light-vehicle industry and another on the motorcycle industry.

Darell Hayes, ’16, spent his summer working for United Airlines, where his internship allowed him to rotate among many different departments in the company. Hayes spent time in corporate real estate, legal, as well as strategy and development, where he spent time working on a customer loyalty program. His mentor, Brett J. Hart, ’94, Executive Vice President, General Counsel, and Secretary for United, helped to place him in departments that particularly held his interest.

“It was an incredible experience. Through my rotations, I saw how different business groups worked and how their capacities differed. United operates in a heavily regulated industry; so the lawyers work closely with the business functions. I saw this collaborative environment while working on an aircraft purchase agreement with a foreign bank. During the deal, I learned that to give great legal advice you have to understand the underlying business economics. My United mentors debriefed not only the legal issues but also the nuances and strategy behind the transaction. Plus, my mentors introduced me to many business managers who happened to be lawyers. I saw the diverse careers these lawyers had at United, which spoke to me about the cross-functionality of legal skills,” Hayes said.

In the summer of 2015, the Doctoroff program will send fifteen more students to internships that will put them right into the action and allow them to use their educations in new ways. “Because they will see the whole picture, not just the legal department of a business,” Schill said, “these UChicago graduates are going to be an important part of the future of corporate America.”