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How to Make It in Private Equity

Business Law Society panel offers lessons and anecdotes from a booming field.


Private equity firms across Boston are in the midst of a veritable post-COVID boom, with more companies than ever looking to take advantage of the favorable market conditions and either sell or grow their businesses as quickly as possible.

Such was the message of the October 26 panel hosted by the Business Law Society, which featured Boston lawyers in the field, several of them BC Law alumni. The panel comprised Gregory Fine ’02, member at Mintz Levin; Katya Daniel, associate at Mintz Levin; John Quinn ’16, associate at Goodwin Procter; Phil Cosmos ’16, associate at Cooley; and Pat Argenio ’16 (above), associate at Cooley. The panelists took questions from the audience and supplied advice and anecdotes from their time in the industry.

By all accounts, this year has been a whirlwind of deals and negotiations for equity firms, especially those in the technology and biotech industries, which have seen understandable surges in growth. While some companies were hampered by the shift to work-from-home arrangements and Zoom meetings, Cosmos said that because of the general shift across the industry toward more flexible work during the pandemic, he himself had become quicker and more efficient.

Fine, who has not been back into the office since may 2020, has come to believe that their kind of work can be done from anywhere, which has opened up opportunities to close deals outside of the normal bounds of the office or even the regular five-day workweek.

When asked about the most surprising aspects of working in private equity, Quinn discussed the outdated perception of their industry as “corporate raiders” who merely sought to extract value and sell off their purchases. “Our clients are looking for help in growing and expanding their business; private equity is about cultivating partnership and helping others to achieve their vision with the advisory and financing they need,” he explained.

Some final words of advice to the students from the panel:

“Don’t hand me anything that isn’t partner-ready,” Daniel said. She underscored how important attention-to-detail is in a first-year associate and the issues of credibility that arise when you don’t triple-check grammar and punctuation in your memos.

Argenio’s advice was a little more upbeat, though equally important: “Everyone is happy to sit you down and walk you through, so ask questions. If you don’t, then people won’t tell you what you need to know.”