When Taylor C. Weaver isn’t taking part in billion-dollar transactions at Winston & Strawn LLP, he’s leading a group that could be considered the attorney version of Captain Planet and the Planeteers.
The 27-year-old associate joined forces with other lawyers last year to start the Urban Energy Garden, a nonprofit organization with two goals: Fight pollution that is affecting minority communities and bolster minority representation at environmental regulatory agencies.
At the time, Weaver was in his third year at Georgetown Law in Washington, D.C.
The nonprofit has already had some success — this year, they’ve placed eight students in internships in laboratories and U.S. Department of Energy offices in Colorado and Washington, D.C.
In a written Q&A with the Daily Law Bulletin, Weaver explained why he devotes his free time to the environmental group and what he likes about the movies of Michael B. Jordan and Ryan Coogler.
The following interview has been edited for space and clarity.
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin: When did you co-found the Urban Energy Garden organization?
Taylor Weaver: April 2017. We raised $133,000 and I contributed an additional $60,000. Our model is unlike the model of most nonprofit organizations because 100 percent of UEG’s funding goes to the internship program, i.e. salary, housing expenses, transportation costs and scholarships.
The program would not have been successful without the UEG team: Celeste Johnson (Heartland Alliance), Ermias Abebe (Locke Lord LLP), Emily Wilson (Baker Botts LLP) and Becca Davis (Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP).
CDLB: Why is the Urban Energy Garden important to you?
TW: Impact. We operate in spaces where we can make an immediate impact (employment training, STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] education, women in STEM and diversity and inclusion).
Recognition. UEG provides an opportunity for my colleagues and I to distinguish ourselves in the legal community. Most of us were first-year associates (now second-year) providing $15,000 internships to elite college students from Stanford, UC Berkeley, University of Michigan and Georgetown. Most of the students are three to four years younger than us. It’s novel.
CDLB: How are you balancing your firm and client obligations with your leadership at the UEG?
TW: There’s no balance. Client obligations take precedent. I can lead UEG because I love my work at the firm. We work on cutting-edge transactions and we have great clients, so 90 percent of the time [regardless of the time of day] I leave the office feeling uplifted.
Another answer would be “less sleep.”
CDLB: You were in a support role as Winston & Strawn handled transactions worth several billions of dollars for clients like Icahn Enterprises L.P. and Federal-Mogul LLC. Can you elaborate on what kind of support you provided?
TW: It’s a bit technical … but I buy and sell companies.
Process. I worker with investment bankers to prepare the client for initial interactions with counterparties to the transaction, which includes negotiating NDAs [nondisclosure agreements] and purchase price offers. For larger transactions, after the target or bidder agrees to participate in a proposed transaction [i.e., by executing a letter of interest], I coordinate full-scale due diligence and negotiate the purchase agreement with the counterparties based on the findings. When the parties execute all of the transaction documents — assuming the transaction isn’t bifurcated — I coordinate post-closing matters with the client.
CDLB: Were you nervous at all working on transactions that big?
TW: No. I’m confident in my abilities and the abilities of my colleagues. We have a great team at Winston and our partners are excellent.
CDLB: What are your long-term goals for both your legal career and UEG?
TW: Legal career. To be recognized as the top private equity and/or mergers and acquisitions attorney in the world.
UEG. To become one of the top college internship programs in the United States. We need to be known as the organization that can place students with their first choice [company and location].
CDLB: What is the first app you use on your smartphone when you wake up in the morning?
TW: My Bible app, but I may check my e-mail first if I’m in the middle of a deal.
CDLB: What TV show did you just finish binge-watching?
TW: I rarely binge-watch TV, but I do watch movies. My favorite movies: The Dark Knight Trilogy and anything involving Ryan Coogler and/or Michael B. Jordan. Regarding Ryan and Michael, I love their energy. What they’re doing [what they have accomplished] transcends pop culture. I admire both of them and I know that one day we’ll work together — the world is too small so we’re bound to cross paths.
On that note, I’m going to watch Steven Caple Jr.’s “Creed II.”