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Rothman finds success in business law

Jay Rothman, CEO of Foley & Lardner LLP, still works for some of the same clients who were there when he started with the firm in 1986.

That’s the benefit of business law, he said.

“When I started as a summer associate here,” Rothman said, “I got a sense that with the business aspect of law, you tend to have longer relationships with your clients.”

He has focused much of his career on merger and acquisition work for publicly traded entities, including the three-way merger of IES Industries Inc., Interstate Power Co. and WPL Holdings Inc. into Alliant Energy.

“They were relatively complex,” he said, “figuring out how you work through the social issues of bringing three companies together, as well as the regulatory issues.”

Another memorable case, Rothman said, was the combination of World Color and Quad/Graphics, which resulted in the latter becoming a publicly traded company. That case presented two complex layers: an acquisition and a public offering, he said.

“I do tend to like the sophisticated, complicated stuff,” Rothman said. “It causes you to have to sit back and think. You have to draw on a lot of experiences in your career. It’s not like it’s something I’ve done 10 times before.”

Rothman, as the leader of the firm, also faces in-house challenges while he strives to keep Foley & Lardner — with its 950 attorneys, 18 offices in the United States and three international offices — thriving.

“The legal profession has been impacted by the recession,” he said. “There’s greater pressure to be efficient.”

So the firm is using different fee arrangements to make its services accessible, and, he said, Foley & Lardner’s leaders are continuing to search for ways to showcase the highest talent level.

“One of the best ways you learn in this industry is to work with a mentor, formally and informally,” Rothman said. “One of the great things about this profession is you learn new things every day, regardless of how long you do this.”

And, in some cases, those longtime business clients still will be there to benefit from those new lessons.

“You get to understand the business and the pressures they face,” Rothman said. “It’s a very rewarding place to be.”

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