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60 second interview with Abby Feinman

2 December 2019

April French Furnell

Citywealth spoke to Abby Feinman, a partner at Katten Muchin Rosenman and head of the private wealth practice in Los Angeles about encouraging clients to be flexible, and thriving on problem solving.  

Tell me about your role.

As a partner, I lead Katten’s Private Wealth practice in the Los Angeles office, assisting clients with domestic and international estate, trust and tax-planning needs.

My clients include high-net-worth individuals, family offices, owners of closely held businesses, private equity fund managers, real estate entrepreneurs, art collectors, entertainment executives and corporate fiduciaries. I advise them on transferring wealth to generations of their families, preparing business succession plans, administering trusts and estates after death and resolving disputes over trusts and estates, in addition to philanthropic and charitable giving.

As a member of Katten’s executive committee and board of directors, I also help set policies and strategies for the firm, elect new partners and approve annual budgets, among other responsibilities.

 

What does a typical day look like for you?

My alarm rings at 6 a.m. and once fueled by a cup of coffee, I play with my dog MacKenzie, a Lhasa Apso terrier mix, and squeeze in time to read up on current events or a chapter of the book recently selected by my book club to ease my way into what will surely be a busy work day.

By 7:30 a.m., I’m starting to check off the lengthy list of back-to-back work conference calls and meetings with clients and their advisors and opposing counsel. For example, I’ll provide legal analysis and strategy of cross-border tax ramifications associated with a transaction to a family office in New York on one call, discuss trust litigation that is contesting certain expenses on another, and explain the best strategy to structure real estate holdings for a family office during a lunch meeting.

That afternoon, I could review a client’s estate plan with his or her accountant to check whether they need to take any action before the end of the year and follow that up with a call to another family office regarding structuring matters.

With both my sons in college, I’m a recent empty nester so on an evening I may be joining my husband, friends, business colleagues or clients for a sporting event or other social gathering.

 

Tell us about interesting client instructions.

Often times, my clients express a need or a want, and it’s my job to figure out how to process that request from a strategic and legal perspective and get it done. I do my best to provide creative solutions and practical advice so they can continue to be successful and to explain the business-minded approach in an understandable way.

 

What challenges do your clients face and how are you helping your clients to overcome them?

With ever-evolving tax and property laws and reporting regulations worldwide, it’s difficult to anticipate what’s to come in the future. I encourage my clients to be flexible and not let uncertainty prevent them from moving forward with their plans when it comes to managing their wealth and planning for their families.

I help them understand the current landscape and how to take steps within it; how to handle inflexible structures that may become impractical due to unforeseen circumstances or a change in estate and gift tax rules; and identify innovative and effective ways to address the new reality.

 

What is your proudest professional achievement?

Career longevity is a badge of honor for me.

I first joined Katten in 1996 after graduating from Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law and 23 years later I still enjoy working at the firm. I found a place where I could grow, surround myself with talented attorneys, see my career flourish, feel valued and engaged, and stay, doing the type of work I love for my clients.

 

What do you consider to be the most important attributes for a leader?

To me, a good leader leads by example, is engaged and interested in helping other people succeed. A leader considers what is best for the firm, not just for himself or herself, and also recognizes that the one thing that is certain is change.

 

Who do you most admire and why?

I most admire my mother. She is a quiet intellectual who is strong, kind, thoughtful and engaged. She always showed rather than told, and she taught me how to take advantage of opportunities and to look at the world through a positive lens. I cannot think of anything she tried that she didn’t excel at.

 

Where was the last place you travelled to for work or pleasure?

I was fortunate enough to travel to Israel over the summer. The trip marked a festive occasion: my cousin’s daughter’s bat mitzvah. So we turned it into a giant family vacation and spent two weeks touring, learning and exploring the beautiful country.

 

If you weren’t in the wealth management industry, what else might you be doing?

I’ve always wanted to be an attorney in this industry. I like interacting and building relationships with people and crunching numbers. When my grandmother and father died, I experienced the personal side of it and developed an appreciation for the need to help my clients cope with what could be the worst time in their lives.

As an attorney, I thrive on complex problem-solving and brainstorming creative suggestions to realistically resolve issues. I think that’s a skill that could translate into a number of other careers.

Of course, my favorite title is Mom, and I think it would’ve also been fun to be a singer.

 

How do you relax after a long day?

You can often find me with a book.

I also love music and my taste is quite eclectic. It spans from the iconic Carole King, Bette Midler and Adele to country music with the Florida Georgia Line to R&B and pop with Jason Derulo. I’ve also been known to play the soundtracks from the theatrical productions of “Rent” and “Spring Awakening.”

I listen to music throughout the day, in my office, in the car and at home when cooking dinner. And dovetailing into that, I sign up for yoga and dance classes when I can.

 

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