President Trump’s new Director of Communications: Anthony Scaramucci: The Unlikely Path of a Law School Graduate
In the July/August issue of the ACC Docket Magazine (“A Seat at the Head at the Table: From Lawyer to CEO” http://www.accdocket.com/digitaldocket/) I featured three entrepreneurs that made the jump from the legal profession to the business world. As part of my research, I reached out to Anthony Scaramucci to get his insight. This past week, he was named Director of Communications by President Trump. Scaramucci who graduated from Harvard Law School, offers a unique perspective into how a law degree can be used as a springboard for novel career paths.
Law schools, with their entrance exam and limited admission, are typically made of ambitious and motivated individuals that have already made significant academic achievements. A legal career further propels these competitive individuals to the heart of important matters in a relatively short period of time and allows them to get a broad understanding of a specific vertical, be it technology, venture capital, etc. Collectively, this is the perfect ‘training ground’ to enter specific verticals and succeed. Nevertheless, a law degree has been undervalued in the business world and companies are reluctant to see their General Counsel in the same light as business executives. Anthony Scaramucci’s career path defies this biased vision as he became a major player on Wall Street using his Harvard Law Degree as a launch pad.
Since graduating from Harvard Law School in 1989, Scaramucci began a very uncustomary career path by working with Goldman Sachs in its Investment Banking, Equities, and Private Wealth Management divisions. After being fired and rehired by Goldman the same year, he went on to launch Oscar Capital Management (later sold to Lehman brothers) and in 2005 SkyBridge Capital, a global investment firm managing up to 11.4 billion in assets. From within SkyBridge, he launched SkyBridge Alternatives “SALT” Conference in 2009. In 2016 he was part of the President Elect Trump’s Transition team and appointed Director of Communications in July of 2017 by President Trump.
I spoke to Scaramucci to get a better understanding of how his legal education assisted his career trajectory. (The interview took place in November of 2016).
Anthony, what are the main qualities or habits you developed either in law school that have contributed to your success as an entrepreneur?
“Two things, the ability to: 1) process overwhelming amounts of information, and 2) build compelling narratives. In law school you’re assigned more reading than you could humanly get through. As a result you must learn to separate the important from the trivial. Being an entrepreneur requires the same efficiency in time management and information processing. Also, no matter what business you’re in, your ability to sell other people on ideas determines your level of success.”
While Scaramucci was not employed as a lawyer post law school, his advice is quite on point for both law students and lawyers. The constant need to both absorb and dissect information can if used effectively lends it well as an entrepreneur. Further, lawyers have inherent qualities that if properly used can become effective tools for being successful entrepreneurs or CEOs.
Lawyers do not lack the qualities or assets that can prove useful for a company, including the ability to read and analyze large amounts of content, as well as filter out the trivial, and a strong work ethic, which is often instilled early on. Other skills like email etiquette (including response time and clear, detailed emails) are often revered in companies.
From his days at Goldman to being the architect behind the famous SALT Conference to being appointed Director of Communications by the Trump Administration, Anthony Scaramucci is a prime example of how using one’s training be it processing overwhelming amounts of information or tapping into your intellectual curiosity required to become successful entrepreneur.
The transition from lawyer to CEO/Entrepreneur is not common: lawyers in organizations are sometimes viewed as risk averse, seen as the “no” person or “deal breaker.” In order to succeed in operations or as an entrepreneur, what skills do you believe lawyers: a) need to develop; and b) what skills or habits do they need to drop (if any)?
“Attorneys transitioning into the entrepreneurial world have to become more creative. Practicing law is about interpreting things based on a rigid framework. Entrepreneurship is about developing new frameworks. Never take ethical or legal shortcuts, but get comfortable operating outside of your comfort zone. If you can’t cope with extreme anxiety, don’t try to become an entrepreneur.”
Scaramucci hits upon an important point: There is likely no other profession that remains unchanged as much as the legal profession. Much of our practice is based on precedence, experience, and past experiences. The entrepreneurial world is constantly taking risks, exploring new territory, and rewriting the play-book. This can be daunting for lawyers but is a must to make a successful transition.
Why do you think we don’t see more lawyers becoming CEOs or as entrepreneurs in general (as opposed to engineers, etc.)?”
“Law is a study of the past whereas science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are exercises in creating the future. It’s an inherently different way to think about the world — fitting to a curve as opposed to making a new one. Many lawyers have the type of intellectual curiosity required to become successful entrepreneurs, they just have to keep learning and probing for ways to disrupt existing conventions.”
Anthony’s ability to navigate through change and disruptions has served him well throughout his career considering he has supported a variety of candidates throughout his career including President Barack Obama in 2008, Republican Nominee Mitt Romney in 2012 and despite backing Scott Walker and being a vocal opponent of President Donald Trump he was later handpicked as Director of Communications. A position in which he reports directly to the President. Scaramucci’s tenacity to continue ‘fighting’ is well known be it bouncing back after being let go from Goldman Sachs, keeping SkyBridge alive after the 2008 financial crisis or being appointed to President Trump’s staff despite various set backs including the sale of SkyBridge and some opposition within the administration.
Scaramucci moves on to take another challenge: the world of politics. His legal and entrepreneurial background will make him just the right fit for his new role as the Director of Communications. Not only do his firmness and frankness match President Trump’s style, but more importantly, the structure and clarity in the way he communicates will help deliver Trump’s messages more effectively.
In his first-ever press conference (without any prior briefing with the President), he manages to get the gist of his message through with a touch of creativity and humour. His intellectual savvy transpires as he takes issue with the bit of criticisms disguised as questions.
We often hear how a college degree can open many doors. Scaramucci’s career is a prime example of how far a law degree can take one’s career. This past week in a heated interview with Jake Tapper of CNN seized the opportunity to remind him of his Harvard Law Degree and disclosed he received an “A-“ in Constitutional law. As outlined in “A Seat at the Head of the Table: From Lawyer to CEO”, law graduates and lawyers are afforded rare opportunities to immediately be involved in high level transactions and among decision makers. An opportunity that many have seized to go on to successful careers.