Corporate lawyer Shayla Harlev doesn’t want to trivialize the merger and acquisition process for the private equity firms she advises, but she compares it to being a personal shopper. “Companies come in different shapes and sizes, and I help them get the assets they want,” said Harlev, 37, a partner at Weil, Gotshal and Manges in Boston.
Harlev has helped negotiate takeovers in communications, health care, technology, and other industries. In 2007, she helped four private equity clients buy Univision Communications, the New York-based Spanish language media company, during a yearlong process complicated by regulatory hurdles.
Boston is a center for private equity, the home of firms such as Bain Capital, cofounded by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Harlev believes the ruthless image of private equity is unwarranted. “The people I work with don’t come into the deal thinking they’re going to take a company apart or get rid of jobs,” she said, “but rather the other way around: How can I grow this company and make it better?”
Private equity (PE), venture capital (VC), mergers and acquisitions (M&A) — how can we keep all these terms straight?
I didn’t know a lot of these terms myself when I started. You learn as you go.
You were born in Turkey and practiced law in Israel – does that affect your approach to your job?
In Israel, their approach is more conciliatory and more informal. When I came to the US, I needed to ramp up the level of documentation and professionalism.
How did you happen to specialize in this type of law?
In Israel, I interviewed with law firms and clicked with one of the managing partners. He was doing a deal in Turkey, and before I knew it, I was on an airplane with him, flying to negotiate a deal.
You were made partner at Weil while on maternity leave. Law firms are notorious for long hours and being unfriendly to working mothers, how have you created a work-life balance?
I have a lot of flexibility with scheduling. I spend the early morning with my kids, drop them off at preschool, then go to the office. I’ll leave in the evening, have dinner or bath time with my kids, and once they go to bed, do some more work. Work and family are two different parts of my life. I put boundaries where I need to. This is my day job, and I moonlight at being a parent.
What do you enjoy about your work?
Purchasers of a company have huge anticipation, so it’s like delivering a baby. They want this baby to grow and see it become a successful adolescent and then happily go on its way.