Roger Meltzer: From Representing Drexel Burnham to DLA Piper Co-Chair

  • Chairs of Morgan Lewis and DLA Piper Interview Each Other (Video)
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    Roger Meltzer

    Global and Americas Co-Chairman of DLA Piper


     

    Roger Meltzer, 65, DLA Piper’s global co-chairman and Americas co-chairman, has practiced corporate and securities law for more than 35 years. Meltzer’s clients include commercial banks, investment banking firms, corporations, as well as private equity and investment funds. Below is Meltzer’s story in his own words. 

    Education

    Horace Mann School, New York City, New York, graduated 1969
    
    Roger Meltzer runs the ball in 1968 as the high school quarter back at the Horace Mann School.

    Roger Meltzer runs the ball in 1968 as the high school quarter back at the Horace Mann School.

    Meltzer found himself in several leadership roles at the college preparatory school for boys. He served as captain of the football and baseball teams and chairman of the school’s Community Council, a position similar to student body president.

    In this 1969 photo, Roger Meltzer addresses his classmates at the Horace Mann School.

    In this 1969 photo, Roger Meltzer addresses his classmates at the Horace Mann School.

    “It was tie and jacket and yes or no sir and the usual all boys school kind of stuff,” Meltzer said. “I followed my interests through these leadership roles as well as the sports leadership roles.”

    Roger Meltzer's senior class photo from the Horace Mann School in 1969.

    Roger Meltzer’s senior class photo from the Horace Mann School in 1969.

    Harvard University, graduated 1973

    Meltzer, a social studies major at Harvard, wanted a career in politics and initially saw law school as his gateway to that life.

    “When I got to college, what really happened was the politics of the era, between Vietnam and Cambodia and what was going on on college campuses which were pretty much under siege, turned me off to the idea of politics.”

     

    New York University School of Law, Order of the Coif, graduated 1977

    Meltzer started at Tulane University Law School, but transferred to NYU after one year because he wanted to be in New York City. At NYU, Meltzer worked as a research assistant for Andreas Lowenfeld, a professor who was an expert in global trade. Meltzer helped Lowenfeld with a book the professor was writing about international trade.

    “Working for Professor Lowenfeld really focused me on what my job was going to be and what kind of lawyer I wanted to be,” Meltzer said.

    Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP, New York City, New York, 1977 - 2007
    Roger Meltzer plays around on the piano in this 1984 photo.

    Roger Meltzer plays around on the piano in this 1984 photo.

    Meltzer joined Cahill directly out of law school, having spent a summer there.

    The firm’s main client was Wall Street investment bank Drexel Burnham Lambert, and in the late 1980s, it was facing in an insider-trading probe by the both Securities and Exchange Commission and Rudolph Giuliani, then-U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. The bank later pleaded guilty to six felonies and agreed to pay a $650 million fine.

    Meltzer didn’t represent Drexel in the insider-trading probe; he was one of several partners involved in handling the bank’s transactional work.

    “Drexel Burnham and the evolution of leveraged finance and what it meant to M&A and transactional work and the development of private equity and the things we take as common, were all developed at that time,” Meltzer said.

    Cahill, Partner, 1984
    In this 1989 photo, Roger Meltzer kicks back with Arthur Sulzberger Jr., now chairman and publisher of the New York Times.

    In this 1989 photo, Roger Meltzer kicks back with Arthur Sulzberger Jr., now chairman and publisher of the New York Times.

    Meltzer made partner at 34 and entered management through stints as hiring partner or administrative partner.

    Roger Meltzer, right, with John Meltzer and Derek Jeter.

    Roger Meltzer, right, with his brother, John Meltzer and New York Yankee Derek Jeter.

    DLA Piper, New York City, New York 2007- present
     Global Co-Chairman 2015 – present
     Americas Co-Chairman, 2013 – present
     Global Chair, Corporate and Finance Practice, 2007 – 2015
    Roger Meltzer at the Legal 500 roundtable.

    Roger Meltzer at the Legal 500 roundtable.

    Running DLA Piper, which operates in 30 countries with 80 offices and 4,300 lawyers is an immense job, Meltzer said.

    “That, by itself, is, believe me, a watershed experience almost every day,” Meltzer said.

    Meltzer continues to practice. Although he declined to name any clients, he has advised several companies on restructurings and conducted  investigations, he said.

    In his view, this generation of law firm leaders has to practice for a couple of reasons.

    “The idea that you can go out on a pitch to a client and say, ‘This is what I did 30 years ago,’ is not particularly relevant,” Meltzer said. “And, you need to have experiences that are congruent with your younger partners,” so you can properly counsel them. “If you’re not still in that game, you’re not going to be able to give them good advice and as a result of that, you lose your internal credibility in the firm.”

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