Luis Penalver is the Co-Administrative Partner of Cahill Gordon & Reindel and has practiced at the storied New York institution since graduating from Harvard Law School in 1994. He credits his fellow partners for providing the mentorship necessary for his rise to prominence in corporate law. Penalver also typifies the type of transactional lawyer to make the Lawdragon 500, having worked on billions of dollars of complex deals in just the past few years.
- Can you describe for our readers the type of deals you tend to handle?
Luis Penalver: I represent leading investment and commercial banks, and corporations in debt and equity securities transactions, bank financings, mergers and acquisitions and out-of-court debt restructurings. My practice also includes representation of both public and private companies in connection with general corporate and securities law matters.
- How did you first become interested in this type of corporate practice?
LP: I have always been drawn to the corporate side of the law as I have an MBA from Harvard Business School and an undergraduate degree in economics. I thoroughly enjoy advising clients with their most complex transactions.
- What keeps you excited about it?
LP: What is exciting about my practice is that every day is different. Every day I walk in and write down my to-do list and then the clients begin to call and email with questions about current and prospective deals. My clients keep me on my toes and that makes it exciting.
- Out of all the work you’ve done in your career, can you identify one interesting deal that stands out?
LP: I have had the privilege to work on a lot of interesting deals, but one stands out. The deal that stands out was the take-private transaction where Michael Dell and Silverlake took Dell Computer private in a $24.7 billion transaction. That deal involved raising billions of financing in a tough market and had a mixture of shareholder lawsuits and activist investor Carl Icahn urging shareholders to turn down the deal, but in the face of all of that, the deal got done. Plus it was the one deal my kids could understand as everyone has heard of Dell computers.
- Is this the type of practice you imagined yourself practicing while you were at Harvard?
LP: I always knew I wanted to be a corporate lawyer; I had no idea it would be this rewarding.
- What advice do you have now for current law school students?
LP: My advice for law students is simple: work hard and find a practice you truly love. Being a lawyer is extremely rewarding but you have to be passionate about it.
- Was there an early experience or mentor who really helped shape the course of your professional life?
LP: I have been fortunate to have two great mentors – both at my firm. Bill Hartnett and Jim Clark. Two of the finest lawyers you will ever meet.
- Can you share a lawyer you have come up against in a negotiation that you admire, and why?
LP: I have had the privilege of working across the table from many fine lawyers but the one who stands out to this day is Josh Korff from Kirkland & Ellis. Josh is really smart but what I admire about Josh is that he works with you, not against you while still advocating for his client. I have worked with Josh on numerous occasions and when hiccups arise we work together to get an outcome that works for our respective clients.
- How would you describe your style as a lawyer, and how do you think others see you?
LP: I would describe myself as practical and commercial. I try not to get bogged down on theoretical points that really do not affect my client. I would hope others see me the same way.
- What do you do for fun when you’re outside the office?
LP: I try to spend as much time as I can with my family and friends when not working and enjoy an occasional round of golf. I also enjoy reading biographies.
- Are you involved in any pro bono or public interest activities? Please tell us what you find meaningful about your time serving them.
LP: Over the years I have had the opportunity to serve on not-for-profit boards and I have found that work incredibly rewarding. I currently serve on the boards of the Harlem School of the Arts and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (“LDF”). LDF gave me a scholarship when I attended law school and I always felt indebted to them for that so I am honored to give back now. These volunteer positions enable me to support the hard work of others in areas different from my corporate practice.