What is your occupation and academic background and how did you come to work in this field? I am a corporate lawyer at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management. My team focuses on securities and broker-dealer law and regulation, international wealth management and collateral enforceability in client jurisdictions around the world. As we counsel management, we often coordinate closely with our colleagues in London, Geneva and Hong Kong.
After graduating from Howard University with a BA in Economics and Spanish, I attended The University of Pennsylvania, graduating with MBA, MA and JD degrees. Penn’s Lauder Institute integrated an MBA curriculum from Wharton with an MA in international studies from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, creating a unique management education experience focused on advanced language and cross-cultural proficiency. This interdisciplinary program gave me the opportunity to study finance, Portuguese and Latin American culture and business, while working at an investment bank in Brazil during the summers. Those experiences cemented my interest in international business. Interests in ethics, philosophy, and advocacy carried me to law school immediately thereafter. Excellent transactional experience at law firms Shearman & Sterling and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett helped me to target a career as a lawyer in the global financial services industry.
2. What is the biggest challenge of your work? Prioritization and focus. With the speed of change in our industry comes a heightened need for focus. We are challenged to determine which issues and projects are most important and how they should be best managed to maximize the benefit to the Firm. As law and compliance professionals, we counsel management as they pursue business priorities and comply with applicable law and regulation. It is intellectually demanding and satisfying work.
3. Identify one or two of your proudest achievements? While building my career, I have endeavored to make unique contributions to our profession, Firm, department and colleagues on matters of diversity and inclusion. The New York City Bar Association honored me in 2010 with one of its coveted Diversity Champion Awards (http://www.nycbar.org/diversity/diversity-champion-award/523-duane-l-hughes). Also, last month, the Minority Corporate Counsel Association selected Morgan Stanley as the Employer of Choice for the Northeast Region (award video available at http://bcove.me/6f12nz7k). These honors inspire me to continue to build upon the special culture that we have created at Morgan Stanley.
Also, my relationships with the great law firms and talented lawyers with whom I have worked over the years are a source of pride for me. They are rewarding in themselves and often bear tangible fruit. Several years ago, for example, those relationships enabled me to bring a significant M&A engagement to Morgan Stanley. That transaction turned out to be the Latin American M&A deal of the year!
4. Where do you see yourself in ten years? I see myself in a position of deeper responsibility and broader impact, leveraging my skills and interests, especially as they relate to managing people, working in teams, coordinating global efforts, and using my foreign language skills. Most of all, I would like to be in a position to continue to solve complex legal and business problems and positively affect the work lives of as many people as possible.
5. What would be your advice to young people who want their careers and lives to have impact?
Identify your interests, your strengths and your passions. If you need help in that exercise, consider reading What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Bolles and What Should I Do With My Life by Po Bronson. Set your goals and develop a plan. For a superb guide, read Expect to Win: 10 Proven Strategies for Thriving in the Workplace by Morgan Stanley veteran Carla Harris. Hone and execute your plan with the feedback and support of trusted advisors, mentors and sponsors. Develop relationships with the people who work with or for you, where you give each other feedback in real time to improve each other’s performance. Only ask others to do work that you would do yourself. Help the organizations that have helped you — in my case, The English-Speaking Union, Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO), the Council of Urban Professionals (CUP) and Werten Bellamy’s Charting Your Own Course (CYOC). Finally, share the credit along the way and never give up!