Bloomberg Law
July 27, 2023, 9:00 AM

They’ve Got Next: The 40 Under 40-Derrick Lott of Shearman & Sterling

Lisa Helem
Lisa Helem
MP McQueen

Please describe two of your most substantial, recent wins in practice.

I was privileged to have advised Amherst Pierpont Securities on its acquisition by Santander Holdings USA for a total consideration of approximately $600 million. The transaction, which closed in April 2022, marked the culmination of a client relationship that I had been involved with at the firm since the formation of Amherst Pierpont Securities in 2013 when Pierpont Securities LLC and Amherst Securities Group LP merged their respective broker-dealer businesses. It was immensely satisfying assisting the management team and private equity owners on this exit transaction.

In addition, my representation of CVS Health in its $10.6 billion acquisition of Oak Street Health was unique success as our negotiations were complicated by the fact CVS had another transaction pending that was the subject of a second request by the DOJ.

Lastly, on the pro bono front, I worked with Supporting Our Youth & Adults Network, Inc., a nonprofit organization focused on individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, in preparing its application for federal tax exemption, which was a rewarding experience.

What is the most important lesson you learned as a first-year attorney and how does it inform your practice today?

There are a few important lessons that I learned as a first-year attorney that stick with me today and I try to impart to each associate that I’m working with on a transaction. The first is to say “yes” to each opportunity presented.

When I was a second-year associate, I was asked if I was interested in a secondment at Bank of America within the legal team covering global investment banking, which meant lots of engagement letters, confidentiality agreements and fairness opinions, none of which I had much experience with before the secondment. After initially hesitating, I said yes, and I can draw a straight line from the secondment to making partner as I was presented with multiple opportunities thereafter that might have otherwise gone to another associate.

The second lesson is taking ownership of each transaction you work on. This means as a junior associate not limiting yourself to performing only the assignments that you’ve been allocated.

Junior associates should actively learn more about each transaction and try to find opportunities to add value. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek out the answers from more senior attorneys, and eventually you’ll become the person with the answers.

How do you define success in your practice?

Success in my practice is defined by achieving our clients’ desired outcomes on the transactions that we are advising and building meaningful relationships with our clients. Given the complexities of M&A deals, it is the rare transaction that goes exactly as planned.

I pride myself on working closely with clients to determine which of their business objectives are most important in a transaction and focusing on those objectives throughout the negotiation process rather than trying to win “legal” points. At the end of each transaction, I want clients to view me as a trusted advisor who obtained the best outcomes for them in context of each transaction on which we advise.

In addition to achieving the best outcomes for clients, I view success as building teams of attorneys who are focused on professional excellence but who are also focused on supporting and nurturing other attorneys.

Early in my career, I was fortunate enough to have mentors who made an enormous impact on my professional development. I strive to pay that forward with the younger associates on my teams— whether I’m imparting a lesson I learned through a challenging deal or offering advice on career advancement.

What are you most proud of as a lawyer?

I am most proud of being elected to the partnership of Shearman & Sterling. This was a particularly momentous achievement for me that I realized on my own terms.

Working in a practice group with a limited number of Black partners throughout the legal industry, I often wondered if partnership was obtainable. I decided early in my career that I needed to be my authentic self in the office and sought mentors and sponsors who had my best interests in mind even though they didn’t look like me.

When I was in the partnership consideration process, I welcomed my first child, Hudson, to the world. It was very important to me that I take the full parental leave offered by the firm as I wanted to be fully present during Hudson’s first few months. I was undeterred by the thought the leave could have an adverse impact on my candidacy. Furthermore, I wanted younger associates to have an example of a senior associate taking parental leave and feel empowered to do the same.

Ultimately, the hard work, many late nights, and other sacrifices led to me being the first Black male associate promoted to partner in the firm’s history.

Who is your greatest mentor in the law and what have they taught you?

There are too many colleagues to mention that have provided mentorship during my legal career; however, two individuals standout for their support and guidance: Denise Grant and Scott Petepiece.

Denise, the first Black partner at the firm, has always been there for me, whether I needed advice or encouragement. Although we worked in different practice groups, Denise continually checked in my progress and provided me with the necessary guidance to navigate practicing law at a big law firm. Without her sage advice and her trailblazing experience, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

When it comes to being a M&A attorney, the sponsorship and mentorship of Scott, our Global Head of Mergers & Acquisitions, has had the greatest impact on my career. He has taught me so many important lessons, including how to clearly communicate legal concepts to senior business leaders; how to be an effective negotiator and advocate for clients; and how to maintain the essential “human elements” of empathy and kindness in all aspects of your work.

Furthermore, Scott has followed through on the mentorship by providing me with opportunities to demonstrate and sharpen my skills on our clients largest and most significant transactions.

Tell us your two favorite songs on your summer music playlist?

My five-year old son and two-year-old daughter control the music in our household. My daughter loves dancing to “I Like to Move It” by from the movie Madagascar 2, and my son listens to Europe’s “The Final Countdown” on repeat because his pre-school class played it each morning during the last few weeks of school.

Derrick Lott of Shearman & Sterling at a restaurant in Thailand being served ice cream (with spouse not pictured).
Derrick Lott and Jonathan Hurtarte

Derrick Lott led the Shearman & Sterling team that advised Boston Scientific Corporation on its $615 million acquisition of Apollo Endosurgery and co-led the team on its $1.75 billion acquisition of Baylis Medical Company. He serves on the firm’s Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Committee. He also serves on the boards of New York Appleseed, a nonprofit that advocates for integrated schools and communities in New York and the Practice to Pipeline Foundation, which seeks to diversify the legal profession.

To contact the reporters on this story: Lisa Helem at; MP McQueen at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Lisa Helem at; MP McQueen at

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