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Mark Williamson
Mark Williamson moved into business law after starting out as a litigator.

Breaking the Ice: M&A work moving at ‘unbelievable’ pace

Name:  Mark Williamson

Title: Partner, Lathrop GPM

Education: B.A., history and economics, St. Olaf College; J.D., University of Denver College of Law

Lathrop GPM partner and mergers and acquisitions specialist Mark Williamson says deals are happening at an “unbelievable” pace as a pandemic-related pause accelerates the usual year-end rush.

Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) came roaring back in September after restrictions imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus largely stopped activity from March through early summer, Williamson said.

Some sellers are moving quickly to avoid another potential disaster, some to take advantage of what they think are more favorable tax laws, said Williamson, who focuses on middle-market deals between $25 million to $100 million.

Williamson moved into business law after starting out as a litigator, representing companies in employment disputes and large commercial actions.

“I didn’t like that everything was adversarial in that setting,” Williamson said. “In the M&A space, the business world, your goal is to find solutions not necessarily victories. You’re working hard to come up with something that is effective for both parties.”

Q: What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?

A: Ask me about my family. We have four kids, and they’re all young adults now and they’re out of college or in college or heading into college. It’s fun watching them figure out what they want to do and develop their own individualities and personalities.

Q: Why did you study law and pursue it as a career?

A: When I graduated from college, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I lived for a year in Vail and was a ski bum. That was a great experience because it caused me to have some time to think about what I wanted to do. When I got back I did some career counseling. One thing that came out of that was that I would be a good lawyer. I did a lot of informational interviewing with lawyers and realized the law would be a good fit.

Q: What books are on your bedside table or e-reader?

A: I’m reading “War and Peace.” That’s a long book and a good read for a pandemic.

Q: What’s a pet peeve of yours?

A: Unclear legal drafting, typos, inconsistencies in documents.

Q: What do you like best about your work?

A: Helping business owners navigate the M&A world and sell their businesses. Having the opportunity to connect on a personal level during a stressful but exciting time for them.

Q: What do you least like about it?

A: Timesheets.

Q: What do you like doing away from work?

A: I like to ski, so I try to head out west a couple times a year. I like biking. We have a cabin in northern Minnesota. We sheltered in place at our cabin when the pandemic hit in March and spent six months there.

Q: If someone visits you in your hometown, what would you take them to see or do?

A: I live in St. Paul and have always been an F. Scott Fitzgerald fan. In our neighborhood there are a lot of buildings or sites that involve him, so we’ll probably walk around and show them the sites of Fitzgerald.

Q: Is there an attorney or judge, past or present, whom you most admire—and why?

A: Bruce Mooty. His father was John Mooty of Gray Plant Mooty. Bruce was one of the people I met with before law school. He kind of became mentor of mine before law school, during law school and after law school and is one reason I ended up at Gray Plant Mooty, because of how much I admired him.

Q: What’s a misconception people have about working as an attorney?

A: That as lawyers there’s a desire to win and to control things. A lot of lawyers really want to help their clients, and that’s their primary goal.

Q: What’s your favorite depiction of the law or the legal profession in popular culture?

A: Historically, I’ve always loved “Law & Order.” The chance to see the courtroom battles and how a case develops is fascinating.

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