When New York-based E*TRADE Financial’s former general counsel decided to leave the company and move to the West Coast, he hand-picked his successor: Karl Roessner, a Clifford Chance M&A partner who worked as E*TRADE’s outside counsel for almost a decade. Moving in-house from law firm life has been a big change and a big challenge for Roessner, but he relishes the task.
“People always tell you when you step from practice to an in-house role that your day may be shorter–it’s 10 or 12 hours instead of 16 to 18 hours–but in that 10 or 12 hours there’s more constant busy-ness,” says Roessner, who started his work as executive vice president and general counsel in mid-May. “It’s a lot of fun, and I’m one that’s keen on having a steep learning curve.”
Roessner grew up around the law. His father was a Brooklyn homicide detective who often testified in court.
“I heard the word lawyer used more than once in my house, good and bad,” he says with a laugh. “The D.A. was fantastic; the defense attorney was, you know, such and such.”
But Roessner was always interested in the corporate side of law. After taking a business law course in college, where he majored in accounting, he knew what he wanted to do with his life.
Roessner says he enjoys the challenge of working as a manager on top of practicing law, as well as belonging to a company instead of just working with clients.
“Having a company that you’re personally vested in is something new and amazing to me,” he says. “It’s a different feeling when you’re talking to your management team, and it’s where you work. It’s not a client–it’s your company. It’s a sense of pride and a sense of ownership.”