Four decades after taking the court at what would eventually become the U.S. Open Tennis Championships, a top in-house lawyer from American International Group Inc. is headed to DLA Piper in New York, although he won’t be in attendance for the first serve festivities that start in the city later this month.
Instead, P. Nicholas Kourides will be Uganda, climbing a mountain.
The trip will be a quick getaway from the former amateur tennis player’s new job at DLA Piper, where on Monday he started as senior counsel in the firm’s insurance group. After a 35-year career in a variety of in-house roles at several major financial services giants, Kourides is looking forward to his return to private practice.
“It’s very exciting [to] come back to a group of very talented lawyers and help build something that I’ve done at different institutions,” Kourides said Thursday. “It’s something I’m very excited about and I was glad to have this opportunity.”
At AIG, Kourides led the insurance company’s M&A legal team and headed its global regulatory group. Kourides, who spoke with sibling publication Corporate Counsel in 2014 about AIG’s transformation following a $182.3 billion federal government bailout that began in September 2008, said he handled more than 100 deals worth a collective $100 billion in order to pay back Uncle Sam.
Kourides decided to make the move to DLA Piper due to the 3,616-lawyer firm’s global platform, as well as the depth of its insurance, financial services, M&A and regulatory groups, he said. “It was a very natural move for me,” Kourides said.
His move to DLA Piper will see him reunite with Anastasia “Stasia” Kelly, a former general counsel at AIG who in 2007 hired Kourides from the American Express Co., where he was managing counsel for the credit card giant’s international division. Kelly left AIG in 2010 to join DLA Piper’s office in Washington, D.C. In 2012, Kelly was named a co-managing partner of DLA Piper’s U.S. arm. (Perhaps not surprisingly, DLA Piper is one of AIG’s many outside legal advisers.)
Kourides’ practice at the firm will focus primarily on insurance transactions, but he said he will also provide counsel where needed in the financial services sector on matters like cross-border transactional work, derivatives and restructurings. In June, DLA Piper hired Michael Silva, a longtime in-house lawyer at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, to lead its new financial services regulatory subgroup.
Kourides started his legal career in 1972 as an associate at Debevoise & Plimpton, an Am Law 100 firm that has also done a lot of work for AIG. After a decade at Debevoise, Kourides left the firm in 1983 to become a vice president and senior associate counsel at The Chase Manhattan Bank, eventually becoming co-head of its global corporate finance legal group. In 1997, Kourides left Chase for American Express, where he would spend another 10 years until leaving for AIG, where he initially served as general counsel for the insurer’s life and retirement services division.
“It’s sort of coming home in many ways,” Kourides said of his return to Big Law. “It’s nice [to] come back to a law firm where I started.”
Before his legal career began, Kourides made his debut on the national tennis circuit, qualifying for the U.S. National Championship, a precursor to the U.S. Open, in 1966.
“I was brought up in Forest Hills and lived 5 blocks away from the West Side Tennis Club where they had the [tournament] for many years,” Kourides said. “I played four to six hours a day from a very, very young age and I love the sport.”
Though the Princeton University graduate didn’t make it through the first round, Kourides still has fond memories of his moment on the court. “It was fun just playing [and] it was nice just to get in,” he joked.
After leaving the amateur ranks behind, Kourides continued to play tennis in his spare time, although he gave up competitive matches five years ago. Watching others play, however, is always fun. And with the U.S. Open set to start next week in New York, Kourides’ money is on the seemingly ageless Roger Federer.
“The guy is absolutely inhuman,” he quipped.