Legally Bond

An Interview with Matthew Wells, Public Finance and OCIs

July 24, 2023 Bond, Schoeneck & King PLLC
Legally Bond
An Interview with Matthew Wells, Public Finance and OCIs
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this episode of Legally Bond, Kim speaks with Bond public finance attorney Matthew Wells. Matt discusses his practice, his role as chair of the firm's recruiting committee and gives advice on how to navigate the on-campus interview process. 

Speaker 1:

Hello and welcome to Legally Bond, a podcast presented by the law firm Bond, shenek and King. I'm your host, kim Wolf Price. On today's episode, we'll be talking with Matt Wells, a public finance attorney who is a member in our Syracuse office as well as chair of Bond's recruiting committee. Hi, matt, welcome to the podcast.

Speaker 2:

Hey, kim, good to be here. Thanks for having me.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it's great. Thank you so well. It's summertime and that means that recruiting for larger firms like Bond for our next summer, class 2024 has already begun, and at law schools, it is the OCI or on-campus interview season, when many law students across the US are focusing their energy on getting a summer job for next summer, which sounds probably a little strange to people out there, but that's how this works. So, Matt, are you game to talk about your role in recruiting and also pleased to give us a little bit of an idea of what a public finance attorney does?

Speaker 2:

I'm happy to do that, yes.

Speaker 1:

I'm going to switch back and forth, right, because the New York City firm taught me to say public finance. But that I want to say public finance and it's like Public finance is fine. Okay, that's like the back and forth.

Speaker 2:

I say it accidentally, public finance just rolls off my tongue wrong and I'm like wait, it is really public finance.

Speaker 1:

I know, but right at the firm in New York. That's how it always was.

Speaker 2:

It does roll off that way, yeah.

Speaker 1:

So I'm going back to public finance listeners. That's how I'm going to say it, that's fine. All right, but before we get into that, on the podcast we usually ask our guests to talk a little bit about themselves, give some background so that the listeners can get to know about them. So do you mind talking to us a little bit about where you went to law school, undergrad, grew up, family I'm- happy to do so.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so I went to Albany Law School and graduated in 1998. My undergrad I did at University of Pennsylvania. I grew up in the town of Duet, just outside of Syracuse, and, in terms of my family, I'm married to my wife, colleen, of 21 years. We have two daughters, william 16 and Catherine 13. I also have my father still lives in the area, as do my two older sisters. So a little bit about me and my family and what brings me to Syracuse and why I stay.

Speaker 1:

That's great, and see, I always do learn something. I didn't know where you went to undergrad. A small little school called the University of Pennsylvania. So Bonn wasn't your first job out of law school. I may have hinted to that when I talked about saying public finance instead of public finance. Can you talk a little bit about what you did right after Albany Law?

Speaker 2:

Absolutely After law school and actually for a summer associate, between my second and third year I worked at the law firm Cahill, gordon and Rindell in New York City. I was an associate in their corporate department and my work primarily involved federal securities work and public company work. We did a lot of work for underwriting banks and, in particular, on high yield and better known as junk bonds, transactions under Rule 144A of the Securities Act, and I worked at Cahill for just about six years.

Speaker 1:

That's great. So you were doing that side of it and I was doing the 40 act and other defense work in the world. So where was Cahill when you were at the firm?

Speaker 2:

80 Pine Street, so financial district downtown. I think they finally moved within the last couple of years, but yeah, it was downtown the district before it really took off and is really hustling and bustling now. But it's pretty quiet on weekends and at nights.

Speaker 1:

That's what everybody says about that area, absolutely All right. So then you were there, and how did you get to bond?

Speaker 2:

I think, growing up in the area as I mentioned, both my wife and I had grown up in the Syracuse area and thinking seriously about starting a family, and both of us had a good experience growing up in upstate New York I thought it would offer a good work-life balance and the ability to do sophisticated legal work but at the same time, be part of my family life and have more time to allow me to be an active participant in my kids' lives. And, having grown up in the Syracuse area, I also knew about bond as a law firm and some of the attorneys that worked here. I knew it had a great reputation. I was impressed with the attorneys that I'd met at bond and as the largest firm in the Syracuse area, I also thought it would be a good fit and an easier transition, having worked in a larger firm in New York.

Speaker 1:

So you were what we would call a traditional lateral yes In the recruiting speaking.

Speaker 2:

Very much so.

Speaker 1:

That's great and I mean I think that letting people know that there isn't just one way to become part of Von Szenek and King is also important. So thanks for giving us that background and letting the listeners get to know you a little bit. So I definitely want to talk about recruiting, because it is that time of year and you are our recruiting chair. Can we start out talking a little bit about public finance law? I guess maybe the first question is what is the basic description you give people who know nothing about public finance law?

Speaker 2:

Yes, I give this description and hope their eyes don't gloss over, but, as a public finance attorney, we represent various parties to public finance transactions, including acting as borrowers counsel to hospitals not for profits, universities, colleges, municipalities. We also represent underwriting banks, bond trustees, and we act as bond counsel the state and local issuers for these transactions, and the transactions typically involve revenue bonds when you're talking about hospitals, higher ed nonprofits and general obligation bonds when you're talking about municipalities. And, in a nutshell, public finance allows borrowers to borrow money to finance their capital projects, construction, renovations and the like, or to refinance outstanding debt for various reasons, including to achieve interest cost savings or eliminate burdensome financial covenants.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so you hinted to it a little in there that you talked about higher ed and hospitals. But what types of projects have you worked on?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, runs a gamut. So we've worked on all different types of end sizes of projects, from financing a fire truck for a town or village, school buses for a school district or, more prominently, assisting hospitals like Mohawk Valley Health System on a $750 million project for a new hospital in downtown Utica. We work on transactions for a lot of higher ed clients University, Rochester, Barnard College, St Bonaventure, Fordham University, Krause Hospital really on important projects from their capital perspective and we definitely have a strong and active higher education practice so it really lends itself well to the public finance group as well on that front.

Speaker 1:

So is this something you would have seen yourself doing in law school?

Speaker 2:

Absolutely not, Although I went to law school to be a litigator and would have been one of those people where my eyes would have glossed over hearing about this stuff. But after my work experience in New York guided me toward corporate law, I did enjoy it. Like any career lawyer, there's ebbs and flows and ups and downs along the way, but I've enjoyed it, even though it was not something I had any intention of taking part in when I originally went to law school.

Speaker 1:

So there's some secret advice for anyone who might be in law school now listening sort of be open to the opportunities that are presented.

Speaker 2:

No doubt about it.

Speaker 1:

So your work helps clients get the financing, avoid some extra financial costs right to allow them to really sort of maximize the use of their capital in the projects. It must be kind of cool when you get to see the results. I mean, hey, I'm from Utica, the Mohawk Valley Hospital System. A dear friend was the board president for a long time before I joined Bond. Get to see the results. You get to see the new development in the buildings. That must be really kind of cool. But the litigator, you wouldn't see the physical thing.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, absolutely. It's a very cool aspect of the job and definitely the tax-exempt nature of most of our financing is where a borrower can achieve cost savings because the other costs are a little bit higher, because it is a bit more sophisticated to go through the process, but the overall tax exemption can really save quite a bit of money for a borrower. And definitely one of the aspects of being a public finance lawyer that I enjoy is something like the NVHS project that revitalizes downtown Utica. We've worked on important projects for Krause Hospital, including renovating their surgical department. We've worked on a number of projects for higher education clients, financing construction of classrooms, laboratories, dormitories et cetera. Recently worked on a deal for Fordham University where they renovated and it was a major renovation of their student center, the McGinley Center. So it's these projects that you can actually see the bricks and mortar, as you suggested. That does make you aware of the role you play in our capital markets and it is kind of cool.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely Well, one of the roles, because you have several other roles here at the firm, but one of the roles that you play at the firm is recruiting chair, something else where you actually get to see and work with the results of all of your efforts there. So can we talk a little bit now about your role as recruiting chair.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, happy to switch hats and talk recruiting. No doubt about it.

Speaker 1:

All right. So right now I mentioned across the country people who are about to start their third year and start their second year are at big and huge law firms in summer programs. So our summer program here at Bond is going on right now. Of course, people work at a variety of other places like smaller firms and the judiciary and legal services and the government, but the same time, when you're a recruiting committee that you have your summer class here at a firm like Bond, we're already starting to interview candidates for next summer's class of law clerks. I have to say, when I was at law school, I was surprised to be interviewing for a summer job the summer before I even started my second year. How about you?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, absolutely. I thought it was very early on. It was not on my radar. So to say I was surprised is a very accurate statement, and I think we're not for the career services department at Albany Law School kind of hitting me over the head and saying, hey, you got to be aware of this, I might have missed the whole thing. So I was grateful for that and it did come as a surprise.

Speaker 1:

Shout out Joanne Casey, there was.

Speaker 2:

Yes, please.

Speaker 1:

Yes, joanne Casey, albany Law. So this is the system we operate under as a law firm and the one that bonds legal recruiter Kelly Capose and our recruiting coordinator, jesse Partey managed and facilitate for the recruiting committee which you chair, so they're working with us.

Speaker 2:

They manage it and facilitate it very well, I might add too. They're real help to me and make my life a lot easier than it otherwise would be.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely so from the recruiting committee's perspective. What is OCI?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so, as you mentioned, OCI is our on-campus interview process, by which we interview numerous law school candidates for positions at bond. The on-campus interview process typically focuses on law schools where we have a historic connection and or they have a geographic nexus to some of our various office locations. It's definitely an important aspect toward meeting our hiring needs for new associates directly from law school that are eager to start a leave career and get their initial exposure to the practice of law, and we really believe the on-campus interview process is important to the firm. Although some firms seem to be tending to move away from this process, solely focusing or primarily focusing on lateral recruiting, we do think the on-campus interview process and the ancillary components of that are important and a big part of our recruiting program in general.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely. It's not that everything has to stay in a traditional sense, but it is a big tradition of how firms recruit and it is it's a big part of how you can sort of develop your slew of lawyers, your cadre of lawyers. What are we, your group of lawyers, your classes of lawyers I don't know, is there a word that works there? So can you talk a little bit about the summer hiring process, like sort of what it might look like? So say, you're using OCI, what happens?

Speaker 2:

Sure. So you know, we'll be accepting resumes and applications and working with various law schools in terms of receiving those applications and through the on-campus interview process. And then we'll receive a bundle of those resumes, we'll review them, set up an initial round of screening interviews at the various on-campus interview sites or some virtually the reality is, we can't interview everyone that submits a resume through the OCI process, but we will be interviewing dozens of people through this process and we'll go through that first round of screening interviews on campus or, as I mentioned, sometimes virtually and through that process we'll then invite several candidates back for callback interviews. Well, they'll meet with a larger group of attorneys at Bond and then we'll eventually look, as the process winds on, to select candidates after those callback interviews to create a summer class through the process.

Speaker 1:

Which is great, and so you talked about it a little bit. That OCI is sort of a cornerstone type piece but and many of our candidates obviously come from those relationships with law schools but students can also apply directly too. Is that correct?

Speaker 2:

Absolutely yes. We encourage students to reach out directly and apply with legal recruiter Kelly Capose, who you mentioned. She keeps a watchful eye on these things and also sets up a number of resume collects at various law schools to encourage people to submit resumes on their own even if we don't have an OCI process at that particular school. It's resources and time being what it is. We can't set up an OCI at every single school we'd be interested in. So the resume process and the resume collects are encouraged and very value add to the process.

Speaker 1:

Yeah people shouldn't think a direct application or a resume collect is any less. Kelly is still on top of all of those.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely yes. They're not frowned upon at all. They're a vital component to the process.

Speaker 1:

And then they become part of that screening interview where they meet with one or two attorneys, as you said, either virtually or otherwise, and then they go through the process just sort of regularly from there, correct?

Speaker 2:

Yes, candidates submit resumes and they'd be screened probably more likely virtually than in person, but then they would be right in the mix of the callback process and the selection process that we discussed.

Speaker 1:

yes, All right. So it starts with submitting the resume. Whichever way you do it, typically through your last goal, maybe directly or through a resume collect and those for any firm that recruits for summers, for next summer, and then you might submit your resume directly, as I mentioned, or via our website, and from there the firm selects candidates for an initial interview. So let's say, a candidate's resume gets selected for that screening interview. What can she expect? What's the interview kind of like?

Speaker 2:

So again it would be either OCI, which would be in person with a couple of people or one or more interviewers, or a virtual interview. That's become a little bit more prominent ever since COVID and it will be really a full-fledged interview that you could also expect on your callback. The callback would just have more people, but it'll be a good exchange of us letting them know a lot about the firm, because we realize this is a two-way street and they're doing their research as well. But we'll want to find out more about them, their interest in the law, et cetera, as they go through that screening interview. And it's just a smaller, shorter stint than the callback process. But the individual interview will be somewhat similar, just perhaps meeting with less people.

Speaker 1:

And do you have any tips for sort of preparing for that screening interview? For some candidates it might be their first sort of professional job interview.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so the interview process is going to be a little bit of back and forth. We want to let the candidate know about our firm and the capability of the firm and the practice areas of the people doing the interview. We also want to find out about their background of the candidate and why they have an interest in law in general, what their interest is in bond shenanigans king, why they might want to be working in a particular bond office from a geographic point of view. Then we're going to want to know about law school, how it's going, how they've done what they've liked about it, what their career goals may be, and we also want to give them the opportunity to ask questions and then, along the lines of asking those questions, try to present yourself with confidence, ask questions that are relevant to the firm, the practice of law and perhaps some of the back and forth you've had on the interview, when you can do that, and keep in mind that the lawyers like to talk. So asking questions will facilitate a smoother interview and also provide important feedback from the person that's providing the interview.

Speaker 1:

And so I think that's a great summary. And so I guess then let's say they've moved past this screening interview and they're getting to the callback. The change here might be a screening interview for us at Bond. Those are folks from the recruiting committee who are going to do your screen, but your callback will have some people from the recruiting committee but will also have people from the office which you are trying to work in for next summer, right? So if you interviewed at let's just say you interviewed at Albany Law, but you want to be in the Rochester office, then that callback is going to make sure to have people from the Rochester office in there. Is that right?

Speaker 2:

Absolutely yes, and, as part of that whole callback process, know that it'll be coordinated by Kelly Capose and Jesse Party, who we've mentioned. They're really important aspects of making this whole experience somewhat seamless and easy for both the candidate and the lawyers. Despite being new to the firm, they act like seasoned professionals and make it easy and they'll guide and coordinate the candidate. They'll set up the appropriate interviews with our recruiting committee, but also individuals and lawyers at a particular office, so the candidate gets the right feedback and the office gets the right feedback, which is important, you know, from both perspectives. In terms of the actual callback, a candidate can expect to meet with several Bond attorneys through one-on-one interviews or sometimes group interviews, depending on the schedule. Again, they'll get exposure to varied practice areas in addition to meeting with lawyers from a particular location. And then, when possible, we try to provide a lunch experience with some of the newer associates just to allow the interview candidate to meet with different people and get a different perspective in a more relaxed setting. So we do understand the stress that a candidate is under and try to make it as meaningful and stress-free as possible.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely, and I think that's another place where Kelly and Jesse really are critical to the process. You know doing all of the planning and anybody should remember that if you're interviewing in a law firm, those books are there to be a resource for you. So ask the question before you get in, like don't be afraid to. They know about this firm, they know what's going on. So make sure that you connect that way even before you get in the door.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely, and they know you haven't gone through the process a hundred times, so you will have questions.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely so, then it must go to the recruiting committee for the incredibly difficult task of deciding who gets offers for next summer.

Speaker 2:

It does, and with the growth of our firm, we do try to give substantial weight and deference to recommendations of the recruiting committee members from a particular hiring location. But ultimately, yes, it's the recruiting committee that will meet and decide amongst candidates, and you nail it. It's a very difficult and hard task to go from hundreds of resumes down to selecting a handful of talented candidates.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, but I know you guys are very thoughtful and very. You know I've sat in on some of those meetings and everyone should know that this is not a process that anyone takes lightly.

Speaker 2:

Yes, no, seeing how the recruiting committee works. It's really been eye-opening and interesting and gives me a lot of faith in the firm and my colleagues at how the process works and that it tends to work very thoughtfully and very well.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and so the role of recruiting chair is something that you do alongside your busy practice and other firm responsibilities as well. So what are some of your favorite parts of being the recruiting chair?

Speaker 2:

Sure, I do appreciate being part of the decision making towards the future of the firm and the people and the colleagues that we will be working with for the years to come. I enjoy meeting people, learning about different backgrounds and experiences, and you know the role of recruiting chair plays an important part of the firm culture and being part of the events at which our summer associates go through as well. So seeing how we add to the professional development of summer candidates and to the cultural development of the firm is a great part of being the recruiting chair.

Speaker 1:

And you kind of alluded to this before for bringing Kelly in as the recruiting coordinator was just about a year and a half ago. So because as the firm is growing the committee in the process has expanded and changed a bit, so the recruiting chair was really having to sort of help us through that part.

Speaker 2:

It's been a big change and that's why I say I like to give some deference to those other offices, just because I think we need to, and as we've grown as a firm, it means we have more applicants, more coordination among those offices Again, kudos to Kelly and Jesse for helping on that respect because it's more effort to coordinate a meaningful summer program as well, in order to ensure that the summer associates that we've interviewed and ultimately hired are getting quality work, meeting the associates and partners with whom they will interact, and making sure we coordinate that the summer associates themselves have activities where they meet one another. And as you know, kim, you've been very instrumental in that regard with helping in that role and capacity and making sure the summers feel like they're part of a team and part of a peer group that can rely on one another. And the larger we get, I think, the more important that remains. The social side of things, once you do become a summer associate, are very important toward making sure that the culture of the firm and the way we operate and our work product all kind of work hand in hand.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely. I think it's a great thing. I mean, I'm still friends with people from my summer class. That was not recent. So I think that that is a great point bringing them together and letting them know that they have not just all of us to depend on, but each other as they progress in their careers as well. So another thing is, I think, sometimes perspective, when you're the candidate and you're interviewing, that's the thing you're doing right, so you're laser focused. But maybe if we give them a little bit of perspective from the attorney side of things and the firm side, the OCI season is incredibly busy. We still have our summer law clerks here when we start. It's incredibly crazy for the recruiting team, but also for the attorneys. They're working, they're billing their hours, they're serving their clients. They're doing this on top of it, producing high quality work for those clients. In the midst of all of this, it gets fairly hectic from the attorney side, doesn't it?

Speaker 2:

It does and I think an important point, you mentioned that on campus, interviewing and those initial screening interviews started a time when our summer class is still ongoing, and coordinating that with trying to get work done and meeting the needs of clients, which ultimately is paramount for any attorney, does make it hectic, still something you find the time to do and it's worthwhile, and it somehow works itself out through the help of all of our colleagues and staff working in tandem and somehow, despite the hectic nature, it does get done.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I think you all make it look pretty seamless, even though it might not always feel that way. So what is that experience? Experience like on your side of the table. It's different from the candidates. What's it like being on the interviewer side?

Speaker 2:

In fairness, I appreciate being interviewer rather than the interviewee. It's a lot less stressful I'm not going to pretend it's not but again, from my perspective I think it's a great experience meeting people, knowing that the future of the profession and the firm is in good hands, getting to know people and what their interests are and benefiting from the fact that I'm involved with the rest of the recruiting committee, informing the future of our firm and making sure we continue to be a firm that provides quality legal services to our clients. But definitely a different perspective than the interviewee who I know comes at it and oftentimes in a stressful situation.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, their nerves are probably up because this has a different implication for them in some ways and might be their first professional interviews. It's got to be kind of fun for you, especially as the firm gets bigger, to chair this committee and gets to work with people in every office, because your practice group doesn't necessarily have attorneys in every office. So being able to work with some of the lawyers all across the firm must be another rewarding professional experience.

Speaker 2:

It definitely is. My practice area is definitely a niche industry. Not a lot of people in the firm, let alone at all the offices, do it. So the ability for me to keep in touch with colleagues, me, people who are becoming part of the firm is very important to me, not only on a personal level, but it's something I tell candidates that are interviewing with us too. Also, meeting the people around you that provide resources to you as an attorney when you need them. So not every client I'm dealing with has public finance needs, they have other needs, and so meeting the people through the recruiting committee, the candidates we ultimately hire, etc. As time goes on, they all become important resources, and so, in addition to the personal aspect of forging relationships, it also provides a resource for me to service the needs of clients and really to make sure their needs are being met by people with appropriate experience in a given area.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I think that's an excellent point. It's a way to connect with people in other practice areas and across different offices and regions, and you mentioned it and you've alluded to it a little bit, maybe even said it, but it must feel really good to contribute to the firm in this way to sort of hire that next generation of bond lawyers.

Speaker 2:

It does. It makes me feel a little nostalgic and a little old in some ways when I do take a look at things and put it in perspective. But it is rewarding to know again that the future of the firms in good hands and to know that the colleagues that I'm working with on the recruiting committee and beyond are an important aspect of that and that we're all kind of moving in the same direction and with thoughtfulness towards the goals of both the firm and meeting the needs of our clients. It is a nice feeling.

Speaker 1:

That's great. Well, so this is right now, your second class of summer law clerks. So this is the second summer you've been in the recruiting chair. Your second class of summer law clerks are winding down their summer. Any advice to them as they head back this fall.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, sure, I definitely encourage them to try to continue to stay focused, even as it becomes more difficult in the third year, but make sure, obviously, to do well in school and get ready for the bar. But more importantly, I'd say, is take some time to enjoy what they are doing, think about it a little bit from a different perspective and what they've accomplished. They're finally beyond the transition to law school and the fear factor that's set in for so many of us in the first year of law school, and hopefully they can have a little fun while they get ready for the bar exam and just soak it all in and realize what they've accomplished to this point and be proud of it, view it as a feather in their cap and stay confident and enjoy.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I think that's excellent advice. Thanks so much. Well, also thanks for joining us on the podcast today, Matt. I hope you'll come back again, maybe talk some more about public finance law, some projects as they finish up or something, maybe something completed or new developments, because it was great to have you on the podcast and we'd love to have you back.

Speaker 2:

Thanks for having me Appreciate it.

Speaker 1:

Thank you for tuning into this episode of Legally Bond. If you're listening and have any questions for me, want to hear from someone at the firm or have a suggestion for a future topic, please email us at LegallyBond at bskcom. Also, don't forget to rate, review and subscribe to Legally Bond, where our podcasts are downloaded. Until our next talk, be well.

Speaker 3:

Bond, shannock and King has prepared this communication to present only general information. This is not intended as legal advice, nor should you consider it as such. You should not act or decline to act based upon the contents. While we try to make sure that the information is complete and accurate, laws can change quickly. You should always formally engage a lawyer of your choosing before taking actions which have legal consequences. For information about our communication, firm practice areas and attorneys, visit our website bskcom. This is Attorney Advertising.

Recruiting and Public Finance Law
The Law Firm Recruitment Process
Recruiting in a Growing Firm
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