“The most important piece of advice I could give is to be proactive about your career,” says NYU Stern alumnus Jack I. Habert (BS ’93). As a business school graduate who ultimately pursued a career in law, Habert offers insights that apply to all fields. “Networking, researching new trends and laws, keeping on top of what’s happening in the market, and continually preparing yourself for the next phases of your practice are always essential to successfully positioning yourself.” He says the strong business background and marketing and communication skills gleaned at Stern and throughout his career helped him adapt to his changing legal practice.
Most recently, to gain experience under the newly passed Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Habert left private practice to serve as an attorney fellow at the SEC for a year and a half. There he consulted on the implementation of the provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act related to regulating over-the-counter derivatives. “It was basically like taking a crash course in the new regulated market,” explains Habert, who has since rejoined Willkie Farr & Gallagher as of counsel specializing in complex derivative products. “It’s so important to keep your practice relevant. Had I not been recommended for this position, I would have been proactive and found another way to retool for the next generation of regulated derivatives.”
True to that sentiment, Habert has always been one to take initiative. As a Stern student he served as class representative all four years, joined the professional business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi, and was a Racoosin Merit Scholar. Some of his most notable Stern memories involve speakers who came to meet with students. “I remember a talk from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who had just started Bloomberg Financial at the time. He stressed the importance of patience, research, and taking time to learn the industry as well as always thinking about your next steps. Hearing from people at that level and being part of the Stern community inspired me to continually be active in my studies and in my career.”
After graduation, Habert decided to leverage his business background in the field of law and enrolled in St. John’s University. Upon entering the work force, he quickly realized that his interest lay in the world of derivatives. “Securitizations and derivatives were just taking off and I found myself gravitating towards the partners in the firm who dealt with that area. I looked for and seized opportunities to work for them, sometimes working until 2 or 3 in the morning to complete projects for those partners.”
In 2002, Habert joined his current firm where he advises major financial institutions and corporate entities about derivative products. He says what he learned at Stern two decades ago still seeps into his everyday legal practice, whether he’s thinking through the economics of a new transaction, managing a broader project at his firm, or marketing his capabilities, but perhaps his most significant take-away has been his network. “I’m close friends with many of my fraternity brothers and I often touch base with former classmates to discuss what we’re doing in our careers and what’s new in the business world. Staying connected is one of the most crucial things you can do.” As he looks to guide the next generation, Habert emphasizes well-roundedness and perseverance. “Work hard, find mentors, gather as much information and varied experiences as you can, and figure out your strengths. There are many career paths you could pursue with a Stern degree – find the niche that’s right for you.”