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How and why I became a specalist of family business

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In this article, Valérie Tandeau de Marsac explains how and why she became a lawyer specialized in FamilyBusiness, 30 years after having graduated from French top business school HEC in 1982, and 17 years after becoming a corporate lawyer in 1996.

Not surprisingly, the reasons are to be found in her family background !

Also an interesting insight on the "impostor syndrom" which runs in family businesses ...

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How and why I became a specalist of family business

  1. 1. Valérie Tandeau de Marsac is a French corporate lawyer who has chosen to serve family-owned and owner managed businesses. A graduate from French top business school HEC in 1982, she became a lawyer in 1996 after a substantial operational experience with industrial and public French groups. She spent 10 years at Arthur Andersen/Ernst&Young before creating her own law firm VTM Conseil, FamilyBusinessLaw, also a member of the center of expertise JeantetFamily which she created in 2010. She is also the founder and President of voxfemina, and serves as an independent Board Member of the Supervisory Board of Microcred, and an Associate Professor at EDHEC Family Business Center Aged 55, she has 3 sons aged 15. She tells us how and why she became a specialist of Family Business. I grew up in a family which had created something which had most of the characteristics of a family firm but one : the capitalistic value. This was the law firm our father has created in the seventies and developed to a point where it had become a prominent law firm in the eighties, a smaller but well respected challenger to more senior law firms such as Jeantet, still a leading independent French law firm today. I was very drawn to two aspects of what I perceived of my father’s profession: the business consulting aspect, and the negotiation of international contracts. But I felt unworthy of trying anything within or near his law firm before I had acquired enough professional experience to be considered a legitimate addition to his practice. As I found out when I started working with family firms much later on, this is a classical impostor syndrome, which often affects heirs of family-owned businesses, and often more severely girls, but I knew nothing about family firms at the time ... To acquire the credibility I felt I lacked, I graduated from HEC, the French leading business school, in 1982, and, at the same time, passed my law degree, just to make sure I could become a lawyer, if and when I felt ready ... But to start building my professional experience, I chose to join a team at EDF (French Electricity Board) in charge of negotiating technology transfer agreements with US contractors, because it dealt with business consulting and international contracts. In 1985, our father died accidentally, and I seriously considered joining my brother, surprisingly also a lawyer, who had joined our father’s former partners. But soon enough my brother created his own independent law firm with a friend, today a very successful one, and the family dimension of my project vanished in thin air. I pursued my career negotiating international contracts, for the hotel industry in South and North American, and most European capitals, and later on, first as an investment banker, and then as Head of the Corporate Development and Legal Director of a textile industrial group. Altogether almost fifteen years away from, albeit close to the legal profession. Sensing my persisting desire to try this path, my husband (also a lawyer !) encouraged me to finally cross the bridge, and I became a lawyer in 1996. Because I felt slightly taken aback by the rather individualistic line of work of traditional law firms, I spent ten years with Arthur Andersen/Ernst&Young, whose multidisciplinary and team approach seemed more in tune with my former experiences. But when I was offered the opportunity to join Jeantet in 2009, it seemed a unique way to join the world which had once been my father’s. And when Jeantet suggested that I should build an offer under the name JeantetFamily, targeted to serve the needs of Family firms, I couldn’t agree more ! ... But the true acceleration was the publishing of my book “Guide Pratique des Entreprises Familiales ”, which lead to the creation, in partnership with JeantetFamily, of my own law firm VTM FamilyBusinessLaw, and to a professorship at EDHEC Family Business Center, and, finally, the publishing of a second book exploring the findings of academic research in five key factors for family businesses : conflicts, control, long term, familiness and transmission, challenged by interviews conducted with 14 prominent family business leaders.