Rhett Van Syoc, a partner with Kirkland & Ellis in Houston and New York, is a Most Effective Dealmakers honoree as part of the 2022 Texas Lawyer Awards. Van Syoc shared insights with Texas Lawyer on how the pandemic impacted the mergers and acquisitions he was involved with in 2021.
Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
What are your proudest achievements from 2021, and why?
It’s been incredibly satisfying helping Blackstone Energy in its pivot to energy transition investments from traditional energy. They’ve navigated the transition as well as any large fund out there. We have worked intimately with them for nearly 10 years and personally I’ve grown up alongside a number of the senior deal professionals.
How has transactional law practice changed during the pandemic?
As everyone knows, after a lull at the start nearly every transactional practice saw a boom in growth. Doing deals is a lot like playing jazz—the basic notes are all in front of you but every deal requires creativity and improvisation. The pandemic took that into overdrive, in the volume of work at its peak, in navigating new ways of interacting on Zoom and otherwise, and in just keeping our team sane given the crazy effort required while everything around us seemed to be in flux.
What qualities lead to the development of a reputation as a strong dealmaker?
So many ingredients go into the mix, but ultimately it comes down to understanding your client, thinking like them and keeping a sense of perspective. Common sense, commercial-mindedness, not losing the forest for the trees, clear communication. It’s really the same basics that make good associates, with just a few extra years and gray hairs.