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If you ask Jeffrey Golden, the key to professional success is all about being in the right place at the right time. A leader in the derivatives world, he was there when the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) was born in 1984. From London he now heads Allen & Overy’s burgeoning US Law Group Practice, which currently includes 100 lawyers. When he joined A&O in 1994 from the London office of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, the firm was the first to have both U.K. and U.S. capability under one roof. A graduate of Columbia Law School in New York, Golden also spent some time at the London School of Economics and admits, “I’m a sucker for an English accent. I married one of the first I ever heard.” But he returned to New York to start at Cravath. It was 1978 and the way Golden relates the story, you picture a hippie bowling up to all these white-shoed Cravath partners with a burning enthusiasm for international law. “I was a revolutionary student, and I’d like to think I’m still a revolutionary, although I have a hard time selling that to my kids in a suit,” says the father of three children aged 19, 15 and 11. He adds, “Cravath is a very special law firm. When I started, I had to apologize immediately for my beard — which I’ve always worn — and for my interest in international law. “The senior lawyers denied that international law was relevant. That has all changed dramatically. … Firms these days are scrambling to position themselves as international.” Although a leader in the securities and derivatives sphere, Golden also devotes time to M&A work. As he says, “No one escapes Cravath without M&A experience.” In 1983, he relocated to Cravath’s small London office, where he spent 11 years before jumping to Allen & Overy. “Cravath were saying ‘Come home,’ and I had a good offer from Allen & Overy; the challenge caught my interest,” he recalls. Interest in London as a European base for U.S. attorneys has never been higher than now, with waves of American lawyers arriving in London last week for the American Bar Association’s (ABA) conference. Does Golden feel he made the right call by deciding to stay put? Golden smiles and says, “I have no regrets — I’ll be at this firm when I retire.” Golden jingles his keys in his jacket pocket a little nervously when speaking about himself. But his quiet enthusiasm for his work comes through: “I do a lot of things, but derivatives is the funkiest.” The growth of derivatives, he says, was a chance to prove wrong all the people who said that international law wasn’t relevant. He explains the myriad of issues which arise in global derivatives and says the legal counseling in cross-border transactions had been reactive. He wanted to help build the derivatives industry proactively. “In 1984, derivatives was a new business, and there was no trade association to fight the battle of the forms. A bunch of finance houses in New York got together and said ‘There’s got to be a better way’.” Out of that sprang the industry’s agreed vocabulary — the Code of Standard Wording Assumptions and Provisions for Swaps. Among ISDA staff he is widely praised for his “missionary zeal” and commitment to “getting the legal infrastructure right” — especially in Central European countries. Golden sees important analogies between the way derivatives have evolved and regulation of other matters — like a common European currency. To the chagrin of his English wife, he was one of a small group of market practitioners asked to consider the ramifications of the monetary union in the early 90′s. “This wasn’t a question of good or bad,” says Golden. “The legal issues are mind-boggling. This is an interesting world — where is it all going to?” This statement seems to be typical of Golden’s approach to any number of things. Always involved — he spent six years as the ABA’s chairman of the U.S. Lawyers Practicing Abroad Committee — he is also on the advisory board of the new Columbia London Law Institute (CLLI). The CLLI will give law students a chance to study in New York and London and obtain qualifications from both universities. Clearly, Paul Cravath’s 19th century fervor for the recruitment and training of lawyers has rubbed off. Golden likes the ideas of philosopher Karl Popper, the concept that knowledge grows from falsehood to falsehood; you never quite know if you’re right, but you know if you’re wrong; and that one should not assume that the future will mirror the past. But surely the law grows via precedent? Golden replies, “Law is a conservative force. It pulls things back to where the answers are more familiar. But this is under strain when the world is changing so quickly.” Adds Golden, “You have to be careful to ensure that lawyers themselves are not too conservative. … The ABA conference is a great opportunity for a cross-fertilization of ideas to move with the times.” Golden is a strong believer in the integrity of the legal profession. His family says he wanted to be a lawyer since he was four and Golden remembers being impressed by the smell of the leather on the old law reports of his uncle, an attorney who was also involved in Bar Association activities. He adds, “Now, with things changing so quickly, the legal profession faces a challenge — to realize its full potential as a business without losing the mantle of a profession.”

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