After a summer clerkship in New York City in 1980, Josh Mintz boarded a plane for a job as an associate in Sidley’s Chicago office. Initially lured by his view that “Some of the smartest people on the planet work at Sidley,” Mintz then quickly grew fond of its collegial workplace culture. He immersed himself in a practice replete with commercial litigation and business reorganization, the likes of which he said afforded him the opportunity to solve multidimensional issues for clients.
Despite being by his own admission relatively green at the time, Mintz recalls Thomas Ryan, a complex commercial litigation lawyer who has since retired, allowing him to flex his potential on important matters.
“Early on, Tom and others gave me a lot of responsibility on some very big litigation cases,” Mintz said. In joining what at the time was a commercial litigation group (later bankruptcy and corporate reorganization) he remembers learning from, and working with, a tight-knit group of lawyers, including Larry Nyhan (alum), who joined roughly around the same time Mintz did.
The cases themselves tended to be rather colorful, including one in particular that required travel to New Orleans. Heavyweights of the city were involved in the matter, which focused on complex issues of commercial bribery. “That was an indelible memory for me,” said Mintz, who recalled that the case received intense local interest due to its high-profile personalities.
Along with the opportunity to participate in such significant cases, came guidance and mentorship, Mintz said. “That is what I will always remember about Sidley: you could always seek help from your colleagues.”
Though he loved the substance of his work, as well as the collegiality of his teammates, Mintz leapt at the chance when the general counsel position at the MacArthur Foundation became available in 1994. Part of what drew Mintz to MacArthur was the idea of working for a private foundation whose philanthropic mission at the time to improve the human condition was incredibly appealing.
“It was the singular opportunity to work for a venerable Chicago institution, giving critical funds to people who are doing extraordinary things so they can accomplish their mission,” he said. “You don’t get those opportunities very often.”
As vice president and general counsel for MacArthur, Mintz handles legal affairs for the worldwide foundation and is a member of the senior advisory team that advises the organization’s president on policy matters and strategic direction. On any given day, his work agenda might include programs variously involving juvenile justice, nuclear peace and security, health, human rights and affordable housing.
In the field of philanthropy, there is tremendous change taking place in terms of trying to find ways to make an impact. There are more partnerships with for-profit entities, for example, in the quest to maximize the ensuing social benefit. Mintz is currently working on using a portion of the foundation’s assets to make “impact investments”—investments that achieve both a financial and social return. Some, for example, facilitate the creation of jobs or have a positive impact on the environment.
Mintz likens the MacArthur environment to that of a university, where you are learning something new every day and discovering new paths to solve problems, many outside of the strict legal environment. More than that, he said, “It is the opportunity to come in to work every day and feel that you are trying to do better for the world. That’s a very special feeling.”
Published March 2015
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