Preparing lawyers for careers in a fast-growing sector
by Savannah Price, Indiana University Herman B Wells Scholar
A new initiative at the IU Maurer School of Law—the Family Office Program—is preparing lawyers for a sector that has grown tenfold in the past decade, and the initial response has been enthusiastic.
Families looking to preserve and manage their wealth establish these offices, and they need lawyers to provide a wide range of services, such as tax-planning, estate-planning, and investment advising. Worldwide, family offices are estimated to hold assets of over $4 trillion.
In 2019 the school launched its program, the first of its kind in the United States. The program prepares students to meet the needs of this rapidly expanding sector through a combination of prestigious internships and essential courses.
Jeremy Hsiao, JD/MBA '22, was the inaugural Michael and Lory Flannery Business and Law Fellow in the summer of 2021, working for Duchossois Capital Management, where Flannery, '83, is CEO, and for 5th Century Partners in Chicago, a purpose-driven private-equity firm co-founded by Bruce Hampton BS ’09, who serves with Flannery on the Law School’s Family Office Advisory Board.
“5th Century Partners had this idea to minimize wealth inequity in the world, especially after the events of 2020,” Hsiao said. “Family offices are big on their core values, so to minimize wealth inequity, we focused on helping traditional businesses who have been marginalized by mainstream funding sources.”
Unlike hedge funds, where the focus is getting big numbers fast, family offices are focused on the long-term. “Family offices have been around for years, so they are thinking that long-term in the future as well,” Hsiao said. “They’re less focused on if you’re generating extreme profit in the short-term, so through this program, I’m learning more about how to combine a family’s values with long-term strategies.”
Students in the Family Office Program often enroll in the JD/MBA dual-degree program through the Maurer School of Law and the Kelley School of Business. Hsiao is one of these students, and the training he receives through both schools is essential to his success in the field of family offices. “The MBA is focused more on acting on opportunities, while law school is all about managing risk,” Hsiao said. “Every family office has a different set of values, so at IU, I’ve been prepared to encounter all kinds of situations in this sector.”
Even in Bloomington, a small college town, there are opportunities for students interested in family offices to make connections. In the summer of 2020, Hsiao worked as a Segal Fellow with the Elmore Companies, headed by a three-generation Indiana Law alumni family: David G., ’58, DG, ’84, and Lauren, ’14, and Gant, ’16.
“Even though Bloomington isn’t close to a big city, we aren’t at a disadvantage as lawyers because of the fantastic alumni network, which is how I connected to the Elmores,” said Hsiao. “Working with the Elmore family helped me learn that you’re not just looking at the numbers in family offices, you’re looking at the people you’re investing in.”
The demand for lawyers trained to meet the needs of family offices will only continue to grow in the coming years. As the only law school with a program focused on family offices, the Maurer School of Law is preparing to create the next generation of experienced family office professionals.
“The connections I’ve made through the Family Office Program have been invaluable,” said Hsiao, who tapped into the Law School’s alumni network to get placements at prominent family law offices. “It’s all about networking and talking to people, so having that foot in the door has prepared me for my jobs in this competitive and expanding sector.”
Savannah Price is a second-year undergraduate student in Indiana University's Wells Scholars Program. She wrote this article as a guest contributor to the IU Maurer School of Law.