After nearly 16 years at King & Spalding in New York and Dubai, corporate partner Benjamin Newland recently left the firm to start two of his own companies called Clear Corporate Services LLC (CCS) and Newland Ventures.
“[There] is kind of this eerie echo showing up here just right after these attacks,” Newland said of his arrival in Barcelona this past weekend.
But this wasn’t Newland’s first brush with global terrorism. He joined King & Spalding’s New York ranks only a week before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center. The collapse of both towers was visible from King & Spalding’s office in the city.
“Having been in New York for [9/11] and having come here right after, those things happen,” Newland said. “I don’t want to change my life because there’s this random violence that is designed to instill that fear to prevent people from going about their lives and enjoying themselves.”
Newland’s career path will now have him working out of Seville, a capital of the Andalusia region in southern Spain. As president of CCS, Newland will provide corporate management and administrative services to foreign investors, particularly within the area of shariah-compliant finance and investment transactions, in order to help facilitate international investment in the U.S. by building off the corporate practice he had at King & Spalding.
The firm, where Newland made partner a decade ago, exposed him to Islamic finance after he and current Middle East managing partner Jawad Ali were part of a five-lawyer team that opened King & Spalding’s Dubai office in 2007. Newland remained in Dubai until 2014, when he relocated back to New York.
Large firms like King & Spalding, he said, are not really designed to handle corporate services, a type of work that essentially involves providing basic administrative services to investment vehicles for overseas investors seeking guidance in complying with certain rules in the U.S. For example, there are requirements under Delaware law for how investors should hold annual meetings, issue shares and pass resolutions.
“It’s not sexy, it’s not exciting, in fact I was just [saying] my competitive advantage is that it’s the most boring business in the world,” joked Newland (pictured right), who began his legal career in 1997 as an associate at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton.
But once one understands the various processes and intricacies, Newland added that it is possible to capture enough work as a standalone entity to build a lucrative business model.
“I have a good relationship with U.S. and Middle Eastern investors and I would like to see them get access to better deals [and] I feel like I can do that,” said Newland, adding that his new European base will better allow him to communicate with clients in Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Middle East more efficiently.
Newland has brought on Emily Hurd, a friend from Westchester County, New York, where he used to live, to serve in a business development role for CCS. Hurd is a former life sciences lawyer at Ropes & Gray in San Francisco who serves on the city council for Rye, New York.
This isn’t Newland’s first try at establishing a company. In 1999, he left Cleary Gottlieb to co-found one of the companies that became Active.com, an online provider of event registration and information for amateur sports. In two years, he helped build Active.com to nearly 200 employees, and more than a decade later it was taken private by San Francisco-based Vista Equity Partners in a $904 million deal in 2013.
“That was really the most fun and exciting time in my career thus far,” Newland said. “So I wanted to try and replicate that.”
But what really pushed Newland to take the leap and leave Big Law behind was losing his mother in September 2016 following a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
“Obviously, none of us know how much time we have,” Newland said. “I realized that I sort of have to seize the moment and not wait around to do this.”