My Harvard Law School Fifty-fifth Reunion
I was reminded of “how time flies when you’re having fun” by an invitation from Harvard Law School to attend the reunion of my 1959 graduation class. That was fifty-five years ago! We were also invited to share an account of our activities over the years. Here’s what I wrote:
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In reviewing the past fifty-five years, I realize what a good life I’ve been fortunate to experience. Harvard Law School is an important contributor to that life.
By the time I’d graduated from college, taught high school English for a year, served a couple of years in the Army Counterintelligence Corps in Panamá, and finished Law School in 1959, I was determined that my life had to include every five or ten years new work challenges, new activities, new intellectual challenges, new social and professional relationships, and new geography. New objectives didn’t mean that old ones had to end.
For thirty-one years I practiced corporate and finance law at McDermott, Will & Emery in Chicago and Washington, D. C. During that period I had to learn to deal with new acquisition and financing techniques. Hostile takeovers came into vogue. Transactions became international as businesses around the world prospered. I was able to work with lawyers at MWE and in other firms who were developing and honing the techniques to achieve our clients’ needs. Keeping up with new developments was a stimulating challenge.
Besides the contact with the top lawyers in my field I got to know the executives in the companies and banks and investment bankers involved in these transactions, some remaining life-long friends. I was an initial member of an American Bar Association committee formed to study how new developments in corporate transactions and the needs of corporate clients and their lawyers impacted legal ethics and the conduct of counsel and to recommend changes to meet these needs.
As a result of the people I met in my practice, I was invited to serve on the boards of directors of several public companies and large privately owned companies and view from the inside the workings of corporate America. As a director of a public company I was coincidently introduced by another director to the ballet world and served on the boards of the ballet companies in Washington, D. C. and Chicago. The pleasure I enjoy from this dynamic art form has continued to the present time when I attended a performance of the New York City Ballet Company last month.
During my years at MWE I became involved in firm management assignments. Early on I participated in our recruiting efforts, helping develop an organized recruitment and summer programs for law students, initiating a firm-wide training program for new lawyers, serving on the Executive and Management Committees of the firm, and expanding our practice through offices in other cities. The Washington, D. C., office I started in 1978 was our second office outside Chicago.
A Harvard classmate and fellow CIC agent, Murray Smith, introduced me to squash, and my college adviser and mentor to tennis, two sports I played regularly. A Goldman Sachs banker and I learned mountaineering together, organized the Kenilworth Mountaineering Club, and until our 70s climbed mountains in the Americas, Europe, and the Himalayas. This exhilarating sport took our minds off the law and banking and introduced us to some of the greatest climbers of our time. I ran a couple of marathons and lots of 5 and 10K races.
In my later years of practice I was introduced to the venture capital industry and got to know some of the actors in this drama: the persons with the ideas (usually young and certain their ideas were unique and would work) and the financiers willing to commit their own and their clients’ money to these projects. While many of these projects failed to the surprise of the inventors but not to the investors who factored failure into their expected returns, the energy and enthusiasm of the inventors and prescience of the investors in sensing who would be winners captivated me.
When I retired from MWE, I spent the next ten years as an investor and working with the young inventors. The financial rewards were acceptable and relationships with the inventors sometimes frustrating but always interesting.
During the past five years, I’ve moved on to fiction writing. My first novel was Hot Times in Panamá about a young man’s experiences as a soldier in Central America during the 1950s. I’ve continued writing stories for another book and maintaining my blog at www.frankbabb.com. I want to finish the next book soon because I was told that I can’t call myself a “writer” until I’ve published two books: “Everyone can write one book. It’s just your own story and everyone has a story. When you publish the second book, you’re a writer.”
I’ve also started thinking about what to do in the next five years. I’ve come a long way from the farm in Northwest Missouri where I grew up, but my adventure isn’t over. I’ll keep you posted in my blog.