Leaders List interview: 60 seconds with Christiana Lazo, Kirkland & Ellis

Date: 15 Jun 2022

Silvia Ricciardi

Christiana Lazo, Kirkland & Ellis

Tell Citywealth’s readers about your role.

I am a partner in the trusts and estates department of Kirkland & Ellis LLP’s New York office.  In this role I work with high net worth families and their family offices in developing and implementing sophisticated domestic and international estate plans.  

How is the Estate Planning industry evolving in New York? Any trends?

The past two (plus) years of the pandemic have only heightened a trend that started pre-Covid.  Increasingly clients want flexible structures that will continue to yield tax efficiencies even as the clients are increasingly mobile, domestically and internationally – changing residencies between states and countries.

ESG: Are your clients familiar with ESG? Are they behaving differently in the present scenario?

An increasing concentration of clients are ESG aware, and this has influenced their behaviour in different ways.  For some clients who are owners of closely held businesses, this means evaluating the social impact of new business opportunities for their companies and seeking ways to improve the ESG score.  For other clients it means evaluating their own investment and consumer behaviour in order to support those companies with positive ESG scores.  Finally, for clients who are beneficiaries of trusts it may mean making requests of fiduciaries to do the same on behalf of the client-beneficiary. 

What are the most important skills and personal qualities for an expert working in the Estate Planning sector?

I think curiosity can be among the most valuable trait for anyone working in this industry.  By remaining curious about matters technical (like tax law changes globally) and personal (like clients, their families, their motivations, their businesses), you ensure that you are always questioning and challenging the quality of your work in a way that will help your client (and you).

Best and worst parts of your job.

The best part of my job is the satisfaction of having helped clients achieve their goals – whatever that may mean for a particular client.  The worst part of my job is having to invoice clients for that opportunity!

What is the most valuable piece of advice you have been given?

To listen twice as much as you speak.  It can be easy to fall prey to talking at clients, explaining esoteric tax consequences and planning alternatives.  Each client’s goals, and therefore the universe of planning options to meet those goals, will be different.  It is important to preserve the time to listen to, and commit yourself to really hearing, those goals. 

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