Cate Heaven Young likes all the parts of her job as a mergers and acquisitions lawyer that involve client contact, learning about the business and building relationships on both sides.
That covers most of it.
Her approach is to hone in on the client’s most important objectives, and create a theme for the transaction. She says its best to stick with the themes throughout the transaction at hand.
That’s especially true if her client is a family business. That’s not just about a business, it’s about a legacy, she said. “It’s really about what’s important and how we preserve and protect it. I’ve been a general counsel, I’ve done a lot of different things. I’ve been the lawyer who dealt with everything. We have to understand what the problem is and help them achieve a goal,” she said.
When she works with a client who is a founder or whose business is emerging, it’s still necessary to have a theme and stick with those goals. “That can be a downer because you’re talking about divorce while walking down the aisle,” she said. But it makes the parties better able to work together, she explained.
And if a family business goes wrong, a divorce can be an apt analogy, Heaven Young said. “That’s why we’re here, to solve the problem and get through situations. It’s incumbent on the lawyer to establish trust and have the difficult conversations. “I try to be mindful in all my interactions of building trust,” she said.
“Listening is the most important thing,” she said. It shows the client you are addressing concerns, and then you can have the conversation about “can’t do it” in a neutral or good way, she said.
Heaven Young’s approach may be informed by her experience before she joined Dorsey as a partner in 2021. She has been general counsel of three companies, one public. She came to Dorsey from Jostens, a company that, among other things, makes graduating from high school memorable — yearbooks, class rings, and the like.
She was “shoulder to shoulder” with the business people, listening, Heaven Young said.