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Paul Levy Shares Lessons from Twenty Years in Private Equity

On October 18, students gathered in Myron Taylor Hall to receive the wisdom of private equity investor Paul Levy, whose talk, "From Law School to Wall Street: Lessons Learned in the Private Equity Business Over the Last Two Decades," was hosted by the Clarke Business Law Institute (CBLI) and the Business Law Society.

Introducing Levy, Raymond J. Minella, Executive Director of CBLI, said, "If he wasn't here, I would call him legendary." After graduating from Penn Law, Levy was an attorney at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP; Vice President of Administration & General Counsel at Quality Care, Inc.; CEO of Yves Saint Laurent, Inc., New York; and Managing Director of Restructuring & Exchange Offers at Drexel Burnham Lambert during what Minella referred to as "some of the most interesting years on Wall Street." In 1988, Levy founded private equity firm JLL Partners, of which he is the managing director.

"If people don't have values, with an 's,' they're going to have a lot of difficulty understanding, perceiving, and defining value," began Levy, who then presented and elucidated a list of practical maxims, garnered from his own experience, that ranged from "The fish stinks from the head down" to "Beware of the awesome bargain."

Before a Q&A session, Levy offered a more personal lesson to his audience: "The greatest joys I've had in my career have had nothing to do with money.… Financial security is great, but it's not as fun as working hard with good people."

The Jack G. Clarke Institute for the Study and Practice of Business Law was established in 2007 by a gift from Jack G. Clarke LL.B. '52 and his wife, Dorothea S. Clarke.The CBLI offers a venue for students to learn from nationally recognized academics, practitioners, regulators and business leaders, providing a three-dimensional, nuanced view of the business world and the legal issues that affect it. Its faculty include experts in such areas as securities regulation, financial institutions, international economic law, intellectual property, transactional lawyering, business organizations, and ethics and corporate culture.

The Business Law Society, a student organization, seeks to enhance professional opportunities and promote graduate student interaction and involvement within the Cornell Law School and greater Cornell University community by providing a network of resources, organizing and hosting school-wide events, and fostering strong relationships with Cornell alumni.