Oct 26

James Donovan from the Harvard Law Bulletin

James Donovan was featured in the Harvard Law Bulletin in 2001 as one of the graduates who has taken his law degree into new avenues. Here is part of the article and interview.

“A native of Danvers, Mass., Donovan says his high aptitude for math and science led him to MIT to study chemical engineering. He became a star athlete as a rower on MIT’s Division I crew team. Always pushing himself to excel, he applied and was accepted in his junior year to an exclusive program that allowed him to pursue his MBA at the Sloan School of Management while working on his bachelor’s degree. He finished both in five years.

Donovan had always intended to pursue a business career and felt a law degree as well as a business degree would be invaluable. Mentors he met during summers spent working at an investment bank, at a law firm, and as a White House Fellow only confirmed that belief.

When he finished law school, Donovan knew he’d go into business, either as an entrepreneur or as an investment banker. So when the offer came in from Goldman Sachs, he couldn’t turn it down.

Now he advises a “very diverse group of people” on what to do with their millions. That variety–in his clients’ personalities, circumstances, and attitudes–is what makes his job fun.

“They’re very interesting people,” he said. “They’re entrepreneurs, scientists, academics, politicians, people who have inherited wealth, widows, widowers, celebrities. The common theme is they’re all wealthy and want terrific service and results.”

Those clients are also sophisticated about the foibles of the market. “Our approach is very long term,” said Donovan. “We do not panic and tend not to have clients that panic.”

Now a recruiter for Goldman Sachs, Donovan returns to HLS each year to urge students to consider a career in finance. It is not a digression from the rigorous training they’ve received, he says.

“First, [a law degree] is a great credential,” he said. “Second, you learn a lot about tax and trusts and estates, and third is the approach. The logical approach that you learn in law school for solving problems is very helpful.”

The statistics bear this out, as a steady flow of HLS graduates each year goes straight to Goldman Sachs and other finance and management firms. “But I still worry that too many [students] at law schools, including Harvard, don’t look at all their options. They’re just assuming they have to practice law and they don’t look at finance.”

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