With an array of legal experience and varied sector backgrounds, from being an M&A lawyer in private practice, to a senior officer at the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), our guest talks to Lawyer Monthly about the personal and professional rewards of being an Investment Funds lawyer and teaching this subject at Harvard Law School.
In the interview, Norman Champ, a Partner in the Investment Funds Group at Kirkland & Ellis LLP in New York, details his legal life, the experiences that brought him to be a leader in his specialist area, and the impact each encounter has had on his professional development and job satisfaction in the world of law.
What led you to embark on a career in the legal profession? What draws you to your specialist areas of corporate & investment funds?
I wanted to be a lawyer since I was a kid. I’m not sure exactly what motivated me, but I think it may have had to do with books I read about lawyers. In my book, ‘Going Public’, I describe my decision to pursue a law degree instead of a Ph.D. in History.
After clerking in the Southern District of New York, I worked at Davis Polk & Wardwell, where I practiced in several groups, including litigation. I ultimately became a mergers and acquisitions lawyer and represented several investment funds in transactions. Later, I formed a family of funds for a client and then ended up leaving Davis Polk to be the General Counsel and a partner in Chilton Investment Company, an adviser to long/short equity hedge funds.
Within these segments, is there a particular legal sub-category you are more passionate about? Please explain.
Currently, I focus on advice to investment funds concerning the regulatory environment. With the SEC conducting exams and bringing enforcement actions against private funds, I am passionate about helping these funds comply with the law.
If you never chose to be a lawyer, what other profession might you have pursued and why?
If I hadn’t been a lawyer, I think I would have pursued a career as a professor of history. After college, I obtained a master’s degree in military history at King’s College London, and I think I would have gone on to get a doctorate. The nice thing is that I get to fulfill my desire by teaching my investment management law class at Harvard Law School.
What is the most rewarding part of your job, both professionally and personally?
With my prior experiences at a law firm, as a partner in a private fund and as a senior officer at the SEC, I am well prepared to advise clients on regulatory issues. I find it quite rewarding to be able to provide timely and helpful advice to clients.
Personally, it is rewarding to have added tremendous talent at Kirkland to continue to grow the firm’s regulatory practice. Aaron Schlaphoff and Jamie Walter have joined as partners after we worked together at the SEC. Ammani Nagesh also joined from the SEC to help with client relations. It is a pleasure to practice with such great colleagues.
What would you say have been the most valuable legal experiences or cases that have brought you to where you are today?
When I was at Davis Polk, I stayed a generalist for as long as possible. I worked on financings, securities offerings and litigations before becoming an M&A lawyer. That broad foundation of my legal career has been invaluable in later roles as a private fund general counsel and a senior officer at the SEC.
How did being the Director of the Division of Investment Management at the SEC impact your legal career?
Being Director of the Division of Investment Management will always be a highlight of my career. I enjoyed the opportunity to influence policy in the investment management area. The position also gave me a much wider perspective on the financial services industry, as I interacted with the Federal Reserve and other agencies and many entities regulated by the SEC such as broker-dealers, credit ratings agencies and national securities exchanges.
You also teach Investment Management at Harvard Law School; how does it feel to be paving the way for the future investment management lawyers? What key advice do you have for them?
I enjoy teaching my class and have been doing so since 2008. It is one of the few investment management courses at a US law school, so it is a privilege. I try to urge the students to get as broad an experience in law as possible. That being said, I also urge them to take lots of tax courses because so much of business ultimately is driven by tax. I stay in touch with many former students and enjoy advising them on career decisions.
To what extent have you had a hand in developing or implementing new or amended investment legislation in the US?
In my book, I describe my role in money market mutual fund reform in 2014 and the Volcker Rule in 2013. While I was at the SEC, the US Financial Stability Oversight Council focused on the systemic risk of the asset management industry, so it was an eventful time.
Do you have further future goals? Are there avenues you still wish to explore in the global legal sphere?
I’m enjoying building the investment funds regulatory group at Kirkland. We have the largest group of investment funds lawyers in the world, and I value my relationships with my clients and my team. I look forward to continuing to help build the best group of investment lawyers in the world.
Your book titled ‘Going Public’, about your experiences at the SEC is due out from McGraw-Hill Education in 2017; what do you hope will be the overall response?
I hope readers will appreciate the progress that the SEC has made since the financial crisis at being a better and more data-driven regulator. I discuss some of the issues the agency faces, but also the improvements that have occurred. At the end of the book, I have the chance to present my ideas for reforms to make the government less harmful to markets.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
The SEC is conducting examinations of private funds at an accelerated pace and we are fortunate to have a deep regulatory group of more than 20 lawyers to help clients structure their operations to comply with SEC rules. We spend time with clients preparing for and responding to SEC exams. We also spend time helping clients in the registered fund space resolve complicated legal issues.
To learn more about ‘Going Public: My Adventures Inside the SEC and How to Prevent the Next Devastating Crisis’, and to pre-order a copy, visit www.goingpublicbynormchamp.com.