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Karen Shaer has never won a sweepstakes, but serendipity has played a big role in her life. She nabbed her last job, as general counsel for the embattled direct-mail giant American Family Publishers, by borrowing a table from her next-door neighbor, Susan Caughman. “It turned out she was the chairman of American Family Enterprises [AFP's parent], which was facing major class action cases,” recalls Shaer, 42. “She asked me if I knew any good litigators, and 10 days later I was on the job.” Good fortune smiled on Shaer again last year, just as AFP’s class action litigation wound down. That’s when David Isaac, president of The Garden City Group Inc., AFP’s consultant in the case, invited her to be his company’s GC. Melville, N.Y.’s GCG, a subsidiary of the Atlanta-based Crawford & Company, is not your garden-variety consulting firm. It’s a major legal administrative services business — one of only a dozen or so that manage big class action settlements. GCG also designs legal notice programs, manages business reorganization plans and executes document management services. At GCG, Shaer will pilot a brand-new business reorganization division, an area that’s expected to boom during the present economic downturn. “It’s really exciting to build a department from scratch,” Shaer notes. “Business reorganization and litigation are things I have a lot of experience with.” To say the least. In 1997, when Shaer joined AFP, the Jersey City, N.J.-based company — known for its ubiquitous “you may already have won a million dollars” pitch by celebrity spokesman Ed McMahon — was in the wake of a firestorm. A deceptive practices suit by a group of senior citizens in Florida had snowballed, and AFP faced a slew of class action suits and more than 40 state attorneys’ investigations. After four tumultuous years, Shaer negotiated a $40 million settlement package and oversaw a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. Before AFP, Shaer was deputy chief of the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York. A 1984 Columbia Law School grad, she launched her career at New York’s Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, where she met her husband, Benjamin Rosenberg. Then, as always, Shaer’s personal and professional lives have had a way of interweaving.

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