A knack for networking and fostering enduring relationships with colleagues has played a pivotal role in Andy Dunbar’s career, particularly at two turning points.
While working as an enforcement attorney for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in Los Angeles, Dunbar and current Sidley partner Jose Sanchez, who was a trial attorney at the SEC at the time, led a case involving witnesses represented by Sidley partner Mike Kelley. Two years later, Sanchez connected with Kelley through a recruiter and decided to leave the SEC to join Sidley. Within a year, they won over Dunbar, too, having convinced him to join them: “Jose and Mike spoke highly of Sidley as a collegial firm, and I discovered that to be very true,” he said.
Fittingly, when Dunbar left Sidley in 2015 to join Bel Air Investment Advisors as General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer, another courtroom connection from his past had set the wheels in motion for him to make that move: Bel Air’s outgoing GC/CCO had been opposing counsel on a case Dunbar litigated while at the SEC.
“I got the job at Bel Air partly because he knew who I was, and I got the job at Sidley for the same reason,” he said. “I feel like I’m a walking example of the importance of networking and maintaining relationships, even if they’re on the other side of the table.”
As he has shifted gears in the legal profession, Dunbar said his colleagues have been a consistent factor in enjoying what he does. “It’s not just finding your specialty and having a good grasp of the law that’s important. You have to really like the people you are working with.”
A self-described “Sidley fan,” Dunbar fully embraced the culture of teamwork while with the firm. In addition to honing his skills as an associate and then a partner with the Securities & Derivatives Enforcement and Regulatory group in L.A., he made it a priority to support his fellow partners by telling his clients about their legal capabilities.
“One of the easiest marketing tools at a large firm is meeting people in other offices and knowing what they specialize in,” he said. “That’s something that I’m most proud of doing in my time at Sidley.”
Harnessing his regulatory perspective from years of handling large-scale SEC investigations, Dunbar counseled clients at Sidley on a variety of high-profile government enforcement matters, including insider trading and Ponzi scheme cases, corporate internal investigations, white-collar criminal investigations and litigation, and complex civil litigation. He found the internal investigations work at Sidley to be particularly rewarding since it had become such a large part of his practice.
“It allowed for a lot of collaboration with the client. You’re making constant judgment calls, and the more experience you get, the more confident you become.”
Since joining Bel Air, which counts high-net-worth individuals, families and foundations among its clients, Dunbar has kept the lines of communication open with many of his former colleagues at Sidley, and the firm consequently became Bel Air’s primary counsel.
In his position as in-house counsel, Dunbar gives new meaning to the term “multitasker.” Besides overseeing the investment management firm’s legal and compliance functions, he obtained his FINRA licenses so that he could serve a dual role as GC/CCO of Bel Air’s affiliated broker dealer, which requires coordinating with FINRA, the SEC and other regulators. In addition to working closely with the investment advisors to support Bel Air’s clients, a typical day for Dunbar might include handling human resources or general operations matters, which he said has been a great learning experience.
He attributes his smooth transition to in-house legal work to the insights he gained addressing client needs on a quick turnaround basis at Sidley, though he maintains there was a steep learning curve for the responsibilities involved in helping manage a company, particularly one that is owned by a large foreign asset manager. Despite this initial challenge, he said it has been one of the most gratifying aspects of his job. “It’s been fascinating to be part of the decision-making process regarding structural changes and the direction of the company, as well as analyzing new business opportunities.”
When he’s not in the office, Dunbar sets out from his native California on road trips across the West and Midwest with his wife and two children, ages 9 and 8. He also enjoys coaching his daughter and son in their various sporting adventures, and finding a sense of Zen in the ultimate California pastime.
“Surfing is a great way to relax and get some exercise,” he said. “It’s very meditative to be out in the ocean.”
Published June 2018
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