The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault’s Guide to Legal Practice Areas.

Matt Rizzo—Partner and Co-Head of Private Equity practice

Matt Rizzo is co-head of the firm’s Private Equity practice. He regularly represents private equity firms in acquisitions and dispositions of privately and publicly held businesses across a wide range of industries. He also has extensive experience representing venture capital investors and privately held companies in early-stage and follow-on investments and financings. Leadership on behalf of his clients has earned Matt recognition in The Legal 500 for his work with private equity buyouts.

Matt is a member of the firm’s Marketing and Practice Development Committee as well as the Accounting and Finance Committee.

Please provide an overview of what, substantively, your practice area entails.

My practice focuses on advising asset managers—primarily middle-market private equity sponsors—on all aspects of their business. While my core practice is M&A and where I spend the majority of my time, my practice frequently takes me into the finance, fund formation and regulatory arenas. I attribute this to my clients viewing me as a trusted business advisor with measured, commercial judgment first and as an M&A attorney second.

What types of clients do you represent?

My clients are almost exclusively middle-market private equity sponsors, many of whom started their careers at larger asset managers or financial institutions such as CIP Capital, Harvest Partners, Tenex Capital and A&M Capital.

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

My clients are almost exclusively middle-market private equity sponsors, many of whom started their careers at larger asset managers or financial institutions such as CIP Capital, Harvest Partners, Tenex Capital and A&M Capital.

How did you decide to practice in your area?

As an incoming first year associate, I was faced with the choice of litigation and corporate. Having chosen corporate, my practice gravitated to M&A. From there, my client base naturally expanded to representing private equity sponsors. It was a simple path!

What is a typical day or week like in your practice area?

No deal or week is typical in the transaction world. Each day brings about new and different challenges. When I am working on many active deals simultaneously, there are similar strategies and tactics that are used so that we are approaching deals in a consistent manner. When deal flow is less active, my clients’ focus shifts to portfolio company management or fund-level issues that often raise more bespoke issues that are frequently more challenging but also very interesting.

What is the best thing about your practice area?

The best thing about my practice area is definitely the people—both on the client side and internally at Sidley. On the client side, I am able to forge deep personal connections as a result of the smaller team size of middle-market private equity firms. My clients are oftentimes my friends. I have attended their weddings, and our children sometimes attend the same schools. Here at Sidley, I have also been able to establish personal connections with my fellow lawyers both in the department and with others who practice in a different area. It really establishes a strong level of trust. We, as a firm, are extremely vested in the successes of our clients and each other.

What is the most challenging aspect of your practice area?

The most challenging aspect of my practice area is not unique. It is the pressure that technology-enabled solutions are putting on the time frames in which deals are being done. A deal that took 6-8 weeks just a few years ago is now being done in 3-4 weeks. As a firm, we are committed to ensuring that we have the right people and resources in order to make that happen for our clients.

What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?

My advice for young lawyers who practice in private equity is to find the partners at your firm who do that work and make it very clear that you are “all in”. Then once in the deal rotation, you should focus on forming the aforementioned personal relationships with the clients you advise.

What misconceptions exist about your practice area? What do you wish you had known before joining your practice area?

The biggest misconception is probably one that is held among private equity lawyers. It is that the best private equity lawyers are the ones who are “right” most often or who “win” the most issues. In my experience, the best are those who can recognize that not all issues have equal importance, who can come up with creative commercial solutions that solve the issue while insulating your client from risk and who are facilitators of getting deals done. Far too often lawyers are unable to see the forest for the trees and, worse, fail to recognize that their insistence on winning every point is often running contrary to their client’s ultimate interests and goals. I always tell my colleagues (and myself) that if you cannot answer the question of “why does my client care?”, then it is not an issue worth raising at a business level.

What is unique about your practice area at your firm, and how has it evolved since you have been at the firm?

Sidley is a unique story. When I joined the firm in 2011, I was the fourth private equity partner and we had a presence only in New York and Chicago. In less than seven years, we have added over 30 private equity partners across our offices in New York, Chicago, Dallas, London, Munich, Los Angeles, Palo Alto, San Francisco and Washington DC. I would hazard a guess that few, if any, other firms have experienced that level of growth over the same time frame.

What activities do you enjoy when you are not in the office, and how do you make time for them?

My wife is a partner at another law firm so we both have demands on our time. We also have three young daughters, and they are my priority outside of work.