New at the Top
Position: Partner and co-head of the Washington office of Proskauer Rose, a law firm with more than 700 lawyers worldwide.
Career Highlights: Partner, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati; associate, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati; associate, Latham & Watkins; and accountant, tax and audit program, Arthur Andersen.
Education: BS in commerce, McIntire School of Commerce, University of Virginia; JD, University of Virginia School of Law.
Personal: Lives in Oakton with wife Vivian and son Dylan, 4.
How did you get to where you are?
I've always had an interest in both business and law. After graduating from business school, I knew I wanted to go to law school. However, I knew I wanted a short but intense period of exposure to financial and business issues. So, I worked for Arthur Andersen for two years before going back to law school. That experience has proved to be immensely valuable to me as a business lawyer in many different ways. It's the marriage of deep legal skills and the ability to think strategically as a business person. The best business lawyers combine each as business advisers. In other words, the ability to see the big picture.
I've always worked with entrepreneurs my entire career, both at Arthur Andersen and as a business lawyer. This is particularly true during my time with Wilson Sonsini, where I worked in both Silicon Valley and the Washington area with many technology executives. As a young partner at Wilson Sonsini, I saw an opportunity to help the firm open and build their first office on the East Coast. I created the business plan and marketing study and, with a number of other partners, helped build that office for Wilson Sonsini. We opened the office in early 2000 and as a team built the most-profitable office for the firm outside Palo Alto. The office has tremendous collegiality and wonderful people. So, I wasn't in the market to change firms, but Proskauer Rose approached me to help grow their office in Washington, D.C. It was intriguing to me for a number of reasons. Proskauer Rose has a diverse business but growing strength in private equity, venture capital and technology, which are my areas of practice. They also are making a very strong push to expand internationally. I've historically done transactions in many countries. So, I found this compelling.
I've worked with a number of funds historically that Proskauer Rose represents on the fund side. New Enterprise Associates and Core Capital are two notable examples. There are a lot of potential synergies. I also look forward to playing a meaningful role in helping the office grow. This is a new chapter for me but also an opportunity to leverage on my prior experience of building an office. I like to build, and I like to be around people who build. It's what gets me up in the morning, and I really enjoy it. The difference is that I will not be building from scratch but instead starting from a well-established platform. With the local office [at Wilson Sonsini], we went from a standing start of no attorneys and grew the office to approximately 50 attorneys. This time included working through a very challenging period after Sept. 11 and the significant downturn in the economy. The partners worked closely together to successfully meet those challenges and ultimately create an office that has become highly profitable, with a diverse number of practices. We were able to turn a number of small private companies into public companies, including Luna Innovations, which is the second-largest sponsor of research at Virginia Tech. The antitrust group grew from no attorneys to having one of the most-highest profiles in Washington, D.C., led by Susan Creighton, former head of bureau of competition of the FTC.
My biggest break occurred when I was recruited from Latham & Watkins -- where I started my legal career -- by Barry Taylor, a senior partner at Wilson Sonsini. I thought it was my worst interview of the day. He thought otherwise and personally recruited me to work for him and shepherded my career. Barry ultimately left Wilson Sonsini and now runs the West Coast office of Warburg Pincus, one of the largest private-equity firms in the world. I basically owe my career to him.
-- Judith Mbuya