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The new General Counsel of New York-based financial giant The Bear Stearns Companies Inc., Michael Solender, has packed a lot into the 14 years since he graduated from Yale Law School. After a district court clerkship, he worked at a firm, a government agency, and now in-house. In his new post, the 39-year-old lawyer will oversee a 96-lawyer department. He replaces Mark Lehman, who relinquished the GC role in January after 25 years with the company. Lehman was named special adviser to the company’s chairman and chief executive officer and will continue to serve on the executive committee. Solender has had several years to prepare for his new role. He joined Bear Stearns in 2002, when he was hired as a senior managing director in the legal department. During his two years in that position, he gradually began to share jobs with Lehman, whom he first met while working in the Washington, D.C., office of Arnold & Porter. Solender joined the firm as an associate in 1991, and Bear Stearns was one of his biggest clients. Solender’s tenure at Arnold & Porter came in two stages, which were separated by a 22-month stint as general counsel of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, a nonpartisan government agency. A longtime Bill Clinton supporter, Solender raised money for his presidential campaign. While at Arnold & Porter, he worked on the vetting of judges. At the commission, Solender supervised a 13-lawyer legal department and reported to chairman Ann Brown, who was nominated by President Clinton. During Solender’s tenure, the commission reviewed products such as gun locks, all-terrain vehicles, and fire-safe cigarettes. Solender also bore witness to a “political hot potato” that developed as a result of the changing administration. Although Brown’s term was not set to expire until 2006, President George Bush nominated a Republican chairman, Mary Sheila Gall, in 2001. Brown announced her resignation several months after Gall was nominated, and Gall later withdrew her nomination because of opposition from Senate Democrats. Solender says that it’s difficult to view his new job in terms of a five-year plan. He’ll “keep on top of the growth of the firm,” navigate myriad corporate governance issues, and keep abreast of the various new rules and regulations governing Bear Stearns’s many products. Stocks and bonds might be a far cry from all-terrain vehicles, but for Solender, both can lead to a bumpy ride.

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