Maury Shenk update 2011

In 2008 we interviewed Maury Shenk about his move from being the managing partner of the London office of a US firm to being a management consultant.  He has moved on from that and now runs his own business, freelances for his former firm and is involved in a friend’s private equity business (among other things).  He describes his career change as a “two-step” move and couldn’t be happier with his current set-up.  To read his 2008 interview, click here.


mtl: Why did you leave management consultancy? 


Maury:  The theory of the move was good in that I was bound to learn a lot doing consulting and I thought my technology skills would be useful.  However, unknown to me, the firm I joined was on the verge of being in a lot of trouble and its performance declined.  While I was there the number of staff was reduced by two-thirds through redundancies and departures, and the firm ended up in bankruptcy. 


Although I still had a job and the business was bought out by a US consultancy, which meant that I could have stayed, at the same time I realised that although I had been a very good lawyer, I found that I wasn’t as good a consultant.  I was up against lots of very smart people who’d done consultancy for years and were ten years younger than me at the same level.  Although I wasn’t a bad consultant, I wasn’t a star and I found that hard to stomach! 


mtl: How did you turn your situation around? 


Maury:  In March 2009 I created the best job in the world for myself, by setting up Lily Innovation Advisors as a platform to look for other work.  It’s an umbrella for a portfolio of advisory and investment activities, mostly related to technology. 


What allowed me to do this was that Steptoe & Johnson welcomed me back as an advisor.  I don’t have targets or regular work hours but I do have a guaranteed regular income with the potential to earn more if I bill lots of hours.  Alongside this, I kept a directorship of a former client going.  Together this provides me with a comfortable income but more importantly lots of time to do other things.


My extra time has allowed me to pursue a variety of other projects.  I had high hopes but it has worked better than I expected.  I gave myself a year to set up relationships and figure out a model but it has taken less time than that thanks to some very good luck. 




Career timeline



B.A. in History and Science, Harvard






Law, Stanford



Clerking at the US Court of Appeals, 9th circuit



Associate and then Partner, Steptoe & Johnson, Washington DC



Partner and then Managing Partner, Steptoe & Johnson, London



Joined Trinsum as a management consultant


Set up Lily Innovation advisors

As well as consulting work through Lily Innovation Advisors and four non-executive directorships, I have recently joined a small private equity firm called Solidus Partners as a part-time director and partner to work on deals with a friend from university.  Initially he needed legal assistance but then he required more help on the business side, which appealed to me. 


I generally work from home but I spend a day a week in Hammersmith with Solidus Partners and I can use the visitors’ office at Steptoe.  I’m also often to be found working in various Starbucks and at the Southbank Centre’s visitors’ bar.     


I feel like I am on constant holiday and although I am working as many hours as I ever have, I don’t feel like I am.   For three or four years, I couldn’t work out why I didn’t want to be a partner anymore as I liked my colleagues, clients and the work.  I finally realised that it was because I’d stopped learning at Steptoe and I enjoy and need to be learning.   My role at Steptoe therefore no longer satisfied me full-time, but now I am constantly learning e.g. I just did a project involving the recycling market, I’m involved with some rising stars in the music industry and an internet radio business. 


I now feel like I am doing what I want to do for the next twenty years and would have to be paid an absolute fortune to ever be an employee again.  No doubt there will be further changes in my career but I don’t see a reason to ever change from being independent and having a portfolio career.


mtl:  It’s great that you’ve found a way of working that suits you so well.  Do you have any advice? 


Maury:  In 2008 my brother commented that a career change requires two steps to move on and in my case he was right.  Someone else that I recently met hooked me up to the 2005 Steve Jobs speech at Stanford where he told graduates to do what they love.  In recent years I had forgotten how important it is to be drawn in and passionate about what you do.  When you love talking about what do, the passion brings you further opportunities.


mtl: Thank you Maury and good luck with your business.


If you know any other ex-lawyers who have gone and done something interesting or unusual with their lives then please get in touch.


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