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How to swim in an ocean of wealth

Posted by: Laurence Simons 03/04/17

Dubbed a ‘new force on Wall Street’ (and the world), Family Offices are tasked with the protection and management of Ultra High Net Worth Individuals family money. 

With fortunes starting at $30 million (minimum wealth needed to be classified as a UHNWI), families need a capable team to manage their fortunes and that nearly always includes at least one lawyer. If you have the skills to manage complex international dynasties and possibly deal with celebrities (Oprah Winfrey has her own) then becoming a Family Office lawyer could be an ideal occupation. 

A lawyer to a Family Office isn’t precisely an advertised position. Families seek trusted advisors (many are often close friends) and aren’t keen to publicly flaunt their wealth. Laurence Simons European Managing Consultant, Stephanie Greaves says becoming a lawyer to a Family Office is often an overlooked career path.

Lawyers seeking new opportunities usually think in-house or private practice, not realising the challenge and excitement that a Family Office can bring. Stephanie believes work in the sector can be a refreshing change to traditional legal roles.

Other benefits include travel, the ability to work outside your specialisation and be actively involved in strategic decisions. Lawyers are often part of a small team and are expected to be more than a trusted advisor and the ability to give real-time as well as long-term planning advice is crucial. 

In Stephanie’s experience Family Offices look for lawyers with an entrepreneurial spirit and strong commercial sense. Some families have a narrow asset spread and it will increase a lawyer’s chance of finding a position if their experience and skills reflect the assets held by the family i.e real estate.

International experience is also greatly valued with 60% of families having members who live outside their home country.

A common path to becoming a Family Office lawyer is via a traditional firm that offers services to a family before the family decides to create their own office. It is therefor coherent the lawyer assigned will come across and join the office. 

The other path is via executive search and recruitment firms who have existing relationships with families. Often, these businesses are trusted partners and will be able to recommend a lawyer that will fit both professionally (and most importantly), culturally. 

Stephanie says there is a concentration of European Family Offices are based in Belgium and Luxembourg but employees may not have to be based in these locations to conduct their role. There is also growth in Middle Eastern locations. 

For those that are keen to make a career shift, more opportunities exist in Multi-Family Offices, which are shared between families for economies of scale and to pool resources. 

While there may never be as many roles as in-house and private-practice teams, Family Offices could be a worthy career move. 

As Jim Burns, head of individual-investor business for KKR says, ‘It’s an ocean of wealth.’

If you’re interested in exploring roles in the sector or would like to know more, you can contact Stephanie on +33 180 956 839 or email her at stephanie.greaves@laurencesimons.com

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