Career path:University of Virginia School of Law, 1986; made partner at Kirkland & Ellis in 1992; took leave of absence from 1999 to 2004 to serve as general counsel for Allegiance Telecom, a Madison Dearborn portfolio company; joined Madison Dearborn in March 2005 as general counsel. He currently has one other lawyer reporting to him.
Need for GC:Madison Dearborndecided ?several years ago? that the firm needed a full-time general counsel, according to Tresnowski. But the firm, which is raising $6.5 billion for its most recent fund, was initially unsure about exactly what kind of a lawyer it should hire for the role. ?Do you get someone 10 years out of law school who can do a lot of administrative functions and some deal work, or do you get someone 20 years out of law school who can be a principal and be relied upon by firm leadership for judgment on key issues?? as Tresnowski puts it. The firm eventually decided to find a legal expert with significant experience, and Tresnowski was the first person they called.
Telecom troubles: Tresnowski had recently managed the restructuring process for Allegiance Telecom, which had been ?sky-high and then fell on hard times,? along with many other similar companies of that time. The job gave Madison Dearborn a chance to see Tresnowski work under pressure, dealing with creditors and a contentious bankruptcy process.
Funds and deals:Tresnowski says he spends half of his time working with limited partners on partnership-level issues, and the other half on transactions. ?I am, by training, an M&A lawyer, and that's what I love doing,? he says. ?As a lawyer, you hear things a certain way. It's much easier for me to focus on the legal issues as they arise on deals, and then speak with the outside counsel in a language they understand.? Working at a private equity firm is ?much more of a true partnership? than working at a large law firm, says Tresnowski, in part because of the size of the firm, but also because of the ?very collegial? way in with the GPs debate with one another on the merits of various deals. In law firms, says Tresnowski, ?Partners tend to be off doing their own things, and there's not as much collaboration.?
Efficiency: ?A lot of private equity firms are focusing on using the investment staff in the most efficient way,? says Trensnowski. ?Here's one example – negotiating engagement letters or confidentiality agreements. There's absolutely no reason why an investment professional should spend time doing this. They don't like doing it and it's not in their areas of expertise.? Adds Tresnowski: ?I've had a number of people say it's hard for them to imagine what they did without the general counsel role.?