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Practicing M&A Law In A Family-Friendly Fashion With Eli Albrecht

In this episode, we delve into the world of M&A law with Eli Albrecht, a partner at SMB Law Group. Host J.R. Lowry sits down with Eli to explore how he successfully balances a demanding legal career with a family-first approach. Discover Eli’s journey from serving in the Israeli Defense Forces to becoming a prominent figure in the M&A sector. Learn about the challenges he faced, the pivotal moments that shaped his career, and how he integrates work and life seamlessly. Join us for an inspiring conversation about redefining success in the high-stakes field of M&A law.

Check out the full series of “Career Sessions, Career Lessons” podcasts here or visit A full written transcript of this episode is also available at

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Practicing M&A Law In A Family-Friendly Fashion With Eli Albrecht

Partner At Albrecht Law

My guest is Eli Albrecht. Eli is a partner at SMB Law Group, where he does mergers and acquisitions work. He’s been with SMB since early 2023. Prior to that, he worked in two larger firms, DLA Piper and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher for a total of about seven years. Earlier in his career, he served in the Israeli Defense Forces. He then co-founded and worked for several security firms providing security services and training on defense techniques. Eli earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University and his Law degree from Georgetown University. He and his family live in the Washington DC area.

Welcome, thanks for joining me on the show.

It is wonderful to join you. Thank you for having me.

I shared some of your story in the intro, but give us a more complete view.

It’s great to be here, and thank you for the conversations you have on your show. Before I get any further, I want to thank you for your service in the Air Force and the military. I think it must be said, and it should be said, everybody who dedicated their time to service should be thanked, as cringe as it feels to do that.

Then I would be doing the same for you. Different military, but the same sense of duty.

Early Life And Military Service

Very similar values as well. Thank you for having me. My story began in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I grew up in Milwaukee in a very urban inner-city neighborhood. My parents moved there simply for a lower cost of living. My dad was a school teacher, taught in kindergarten in the public schools. And my mom was a part-time teacher as well. I grew up there until I was sixteen years old.

When I was sixteen, I dropped out of high school and decided to go and join the Israeli military. I was hit hard by 9/11. I was a freshman in high school, and I remember seeing the towers fall on a roll-away TV in a spare room in the high school. It hit me hard that there were forces out there that wished for death and destruction on other people simply because of their ideology.

When I was fourteen, I dedicated myself to going into the military, between the US military and the Israeli military. I started getting more in touch with my Jewish roots and my grandmother’s story of survival from Nazi Germany. I decided to fly over to Israel when I was 16, buy a one-way ticket, and start getting ready for the military.

How did your parents know about that?

I wasn’t a great kid in high school. I think their perspective was, “It couldn’t get much worse. Hopefully, the military will straighten him out and he’ll dedicate himself to service for the country.” They were not especially pro-Israel family. They were Jewish, of course, and an Orthodox. When I told them I wanted to go to Israel, they said, “You can go, but we’re not buying you your ticket. You can buy it yourself. Best of luck to you. Stay in touch.”

What happened? You did some time with the IDF?

I did a few years with the IDF special forces, participating in two counter-terror units, both are units I can’t talk too much about, but urban combat counter-terror units. When I finished, I wanted very much to come back to the States. I love the US. I always envisioned my life being in the U S even though I had a great affinity and love for Israel. I came back to the US after the military and wanted to start a business. I started a business, doing the only thing I knew how to do, and that was security. Specifically high-risk physical security for those who desired a security that was a notch above the normal security that you could get in the market.

How long did you do that for?

I did that for a year. I raised some venture capital from investors who rolled the dice on me and it was a good time. This was back in 2009 and 2010. The investors funded me and I started growing and started growing very quickly, probably too quickly. I was young and I wanted to be in the field. I wasn’t a very good manager, but I was very good at developing business and there was a real need for our services in the market.

After about a year, the investors stepped in and said, “Eli, Thank you for what you’ve done here. It’s time to get this over to a professional manager.” They forced an asset sale to another company that they were in touch with. That was the end of my story. At the time, I felt like it was a deep failure. I tried to start this business. I did and got it up and running, but was pushed out because of my lack of abilities. That hit me hard at the time. I felt like there was a deficit in my knowledge.

You were young then, right? You were probably in your early 20s.

Yes, 22 years old, but I didn’t know it at the time. I thought I was not, I did not know I was young.

Transition To Business And Law School

In hindsight, you develop more appreciation for the things that you thought you knew when you were younger but didn’t. When did the idea of law school come to mind?

The law school didn’t come for some time. When I grew up, I wasn’t especially academic. I didn’t excel in academics. I dropped out of high school. Even before high school, I went to an Orthodox Jewish day school and secular education was not the emphasis. I didn’t view myself as somebody who was very competent at studying or going to university. All of the plethora of options that a kid would grow up believing they have were not even on my horizon, they weren’t in my lexicon. I didn’t know that I could be something called a lawyer or a doctor or an engineer or any of those, just wasn’t on my radar at all.

You started in a two-year program. You must have done pretty well because you were able to transfer to Johns Hopkins, which is, no small fee.

After they sold off the business, I realized that I needed to dedicate myself to gaining knowledge and sharpening my brain and that there was a whole world of these people out there. I saw them and manifested in the investors that I had who understood the world. They understood investing, they understood financial services, they understood the way businesses work, and I could obtain that knowledge if I wanted to.

After selling the business, I knew I had to focus on gaining knowledge and sharpening my skills to truly succeed. Share on X

Of course, I couldn’t just enroll in a four-year university. I never would have gotten in. I didn’t have a high school diploma. I just showed up at the local community college and I asked, “How do I sign up?” They said, “Take these entrance exams and see how you do, and then we’ll place you in whatever classes you qualify for.” I sat there and opened up the test, which at the time was a paper test, and started trying to do the math and didn’t know any math and didn’t know any reading comprehension and completely flunked the tests.

When I got my results, they said, “Good news and bad news, the good news is that we’re going to accept you because we accept everybody. The bad news is that you have a couple of courses to take before you hit the credit courses.” I enrolled and I worked part-time to pay for the classes as a Krav Maga instructor and a new business that I was starting at that time, training SWAT officers and police officers in Israeli defensive tactics.

I started going to school at night at community college and working my way up. You’re right, JR. I did very well. I found that I loved academics. I got a straight 4.0 in my two years of community college. This may not sound like a feat, but it was an incredible accomplishment for me. I studied very hard. I taught myself everything that people generally learn in grade school and I did it at night while working.

Studying at night, working part-time, and earning a perfect GPA in community college was an incredible accomplishment. Hard work and perseverance pay off. Share on X

You transfer to a top-tier school, you get your Bachelor’s degree, and you go to Georgetown Law. You figured it out pretty quickly, even though you maybe didn’t have that path as a kid.

That’s right. I had some incredible mentors along the way, especially at community college who believed in me and told me that I had a skill for this and that I was good at learning and understanding. They believed in me and they encouraged me to pursue that.

Fast forward, you’re in law school. How are you thinking about the future? What law were you thinking about at that point?

At that point, I had a love for business. From that first moment when I raised venture capital, I started loving business, loving investment funds, specifically private equity, but also venture capital. I knew even before I graduated from Hopkins that I wanted to understand the backend of how these private equity funds worked.

The idea that people could have a fund and then go out and buy an operational business, grow that business, and then sell it or take it public, to me seemed an incredible feat of financial engineering. I wanted to know how that worked. I wanted to know the back end. How did the gears move? At that time, I was trying to decide, do I go the business route in private equity and grind it out as an associate at a private equity firm or go into law.

My wife encouraged me to go into law at the time we were dating. She said, “You’d make a really good lawyer.” She believed in me and she told me I could and I should. I went the law route, but always with a focus on private equity M&A. I was one of the few people in law school when in the first class, they said, “What would you like to do?”

He went around the room and people said, “I want to do a lot of pro bono work, I want to help refugees, and I want to make the world a better place.” I remember raising my hand and saying, “I want to do private equity M&A.” The professor asked, “Why do you want to do private equity M&A?” I said, “I want to make my world a better place because I grew up, my world was not a great place and I want my children’s world to be a great place.”

Then you ended up at a couple of top-tier law firms.

Yes, I knew that my path to the highest possible salary coming out of law school and the highest tier M&A work was at a big law firm. There are a lot of places you can do M&A, but the place where the real sophisticated deals are getting done. The partners who are practicing really at the highest level, representing the private equity groups like Carlisle and platinum equity and KKR, are using those big Wall Street law firms.

I wanted to get in there and I wanted to get in there badly. I worked hard during law school to get into those firms and fortunately got a few offers and chose one of them, which was DLA Piper largest international law firm in the world. I was there for a year before transferring to Gibson Dunn, which was a top 10 private equity M&A firm. I was in the Washington DC office.

It sounds like you were living a very typical law firm, associate life, long hours, sleeping on a cot, all of those kinds of things.

I was working very hard. I remember the first couple of days I came into the law firm out of law school and the head of corporate M&A said, “Wonderful to have you, Eli. I have one piece of advice, bring a sleeping bag because the carpet is not as soft as it looks.” I said, “I understand now where I am.” I wanted to work hard and I wanted to be in that environment. I don’t regret it for one moment. For me at every stage along the way, I felt like everything was riding on my success. I admit that I worked harder than my colleagues and I spent more time dedicating myself to the work than maybe somebody with some better balance would have done.

I think that’s true of, many of us who start our careers. I started consulting after my military service and I worked crazy hours. We didn’t bill by the hour like most law firms do, but certainly, the pressure, to put in a long day was always there. Talk about this in a minute, but I missed some key moments. It sounds like, from what I know of you, you missed some key moments along the way as well.

That’s right. I missed a lot of key moments. I missed moments when my children took their first steps. I missed the first words. I remember distinctly the first words of my kids were not, “Daddy” and Daddy didn’t come for a long time. It wasn’t the second word either. That was because I just wasn’t present. I felt that I was doing my duty by trying to give them a good lifestyle.

I missed key moments like my children's first steps and first words because I wasn't present. No success replaces being there. Share on X

Trying to make as much money as I could and create financial comfort for them. I felt like that was it. That was my duty. Even if I wasn’t present, they would know that I was dedicating 100% of my time to doing this for them. Unfortunately, I found out over time that there was no replacement for actually being there. Just because I felt that I was doing the work for them, there was no replacement for actually being present with them.

The Breaking Point And Change

Was there a particular moment where you just said enough is enough?

There was. I had a breaking point. One day I was a mid-level associate and I just finished a monumental deal. The deal was Frontpage Wall Street Journal and I was incredibly proud of it. I took a leading role in the deal for a leading private equity group firm client. I was over the moon and I came home from the office early that day because the deal had closed. I walked in the door, it must have been 5:00 PM. I put down my backpack and said, “Guys, I’m home, let’s celebrate.” No one came to the door. I was just left standing there.

My son ran away, came and saw me, and ran back to his mom. I looked around me and felt incredibly lonely in my own house. I remember saying to my wife, “Where is everybody?” She said, “You haven’t been home for weeks. No one knows you anymore.” At that point, I knew I would have to make a change. I sat down with my wife and I said to her, “This is not what I want. This is not what you want. How can we make this better? How can we make this work?”

How is your current firm different? What makes it work better for you and your family?

My current firm is completely different. SMB Law Group is a family-first firm. First and foremost, we believe in remote work. We’re a remote firm. People can work where and when they want. Of course, we work incredibly hard. I possibly work more hours now than I did in Big Law because I’m both dedicating myself to business development and bringing in new clients.

At the same time have not ramped up a team to do the work. I’m also doing the actual work to service the clients. I don’t feel comfortable enough that I found somebody who can do the work at the level that I can do the work. I find myself micromanaging and working very hard but the primary difference is that the priorities are different. In Big Law, we were expected to prioritize the firm and the clients above all, and at the detriment of the family.

Despite any talk about prioritizing family or support for the family, the fact was that the people who advanced were the ones who prioritized work over family at all costs. We take a very different view. We work hard but that work fits around our priorities and integrates with our priorities. Our clients are also fitting their work around their families and their personal lives. They are understanding and we’re all on the same team to make sure that everyone is dedicating themselves to the things that matter.

Work-Life Integration Concept

Work-life balance, I know you’re not a fan of that word and I want to hear you explain your rationale, but it sounds like it’s very central to how the firm operates and how you approach even the clients that you pick.

We’ve thought a lot about this concept of work-life balance. I’ve been outspoken about my dislike for work-life balance. It didn’t work for me, and I don’t think it works for others. The reason that I find it didn’t work for me is because work and life are not two separate entities.

I don’t have a work Eli and a life Eli. I just have one Eli. I remember distinctly coming home from work and sitting in my car. Taking five or ten minutes, and saying to myself, “Now transition to home Eli. Like now, 1, 2, 3, transition.” I couldn’t shut my brain off. I went inside, I was playing with my kids, and I was still thinking about work problems and work challenges.

Then I would get immensely guilty about it. I would beat myself up for not being able to separate and focus on home or disengage from work when the phone rang. I started beating myself up over it and it created this terrible cycle of guilt and wasn’t effective for me. I had to come up with a different paradigm, which I did.

Tracy Brower, another person that I interviewed for the show a while back also talks about the idea of work-life integration, I think she is also not a fan of work-life balance. I don’t know if you know her or her work, but I think you do her kindred spirits in that one.

That’s fantastic. I’m going to have to go back and listen to that one.

When I interviewed her, she was working for one of the big furniture manufacturers and making sure that, the design elements worked, but she has a very active work on the side that she does writing quite a bit. You’ll see her work online and in publications like Forbes and things like that. That’s very much a focus for her anyway. When did the whole Law Dad thing start?

The whole Law Dad started after that day that I came home and I realized that what I was doing was not working. I said to my wife, “How do I get my partners and my supervisors to understand that I have a home life and I want to be more engaged with my family and my kids? She said, “Why don’t you just call them up and tell them about your family?”

My reaction was, it doesn’t work that way. When we’re talking, we’re talking about work, we keep things very separate. The law firm, maybe more than other industries, it’s a very sterile environment. I’d worked with people for hours and hours intimately and never knew whether they had children or a dog or any personal life.

It was devoid of those personal elements, I think by design, but that’s the environment that had arisen. I said to my wife that I couldn’t just talk to them about it. It wouldn’t be appropriate. She said,” Are you connected with them on LinkedIn?” I said, “Probably professionally but it’s a professional platform. We don’t talk about personal stuff on there anyway.”

She said, “Why don’t you just start posting a little bit about your family and who you are, what values you have outside of work, and what utility you have outside of your M&A job? When they’re sitting on the toilet in the morning, they’re going to see you and your family and whether they like it or not, that’s going to start integrating into their psyche.

When you tell them delicately that you want to be off from 6.30 to 7 for bedtime. They’re already going to know that you have children.” Law Dad was born and it turned out there were thousands and thousands of other people who also struggled with bringing their personal life into their work life and their work life into their personal life.

I think that’s changed. There’s certainly a lot more talk about authentic leadership and opening yourself up. It’s been almost 20 years since I left McKinsey where I worked for a while and that professional services environment. I have to believe, even the law firms have become different places than they probably were when you were there. I think most of the professional services firms have tried to change partly, just because they have a hard time keeping people otherwise.

I think they’ve tried, but it’s very difficult to change an environment like that. I think they are losing incredible talent. Working moms, and working dads who want to be engaged with their family are opting out. I think they’ve realized that they’re losing those people who are fantastic talent. To be honest, we’re gaining them because those are the people who come and work for us where they can be fully remote. They’re not going to be pushed back into the office.

Law firms and professional services are slowly changing. They realize they’re losing great talent by not supporting work-life balance. Share on X

They can work part-time or full-time. Sometimes part-time, sometimes full-time, and our clients are more flexible. Their losses are gained, but I think they are trying to move in that direction. I think that’s a positive result. I do think that over the last few years where I’ve been much more public about it, there have been actual changes in big law firms. I know that because managing partners of major law firms have reached out to me privately and talked to me about how they can change their environment. I think there is a desire to change.

COVID probably accelerated that. I deal more with the Big Four accounting firms. I don’t deal so much with law firms at this point in my career, but certainly, I’ve seen and talked to people who work there, just in my various travels. It feels like it’s certainly changed probably more so as a result of COVID than I think it would have changed otherwise. To your point, there’s just huge pressure to deliver good value for the money you’re charging a pretty high day rate or a pretty high hourly rate, and clients want to make sure that they’re getting good economic value for that.

That’s right. I used to blame the law firm management and I now blame clients a little bit more because they are paying a very high rate, and they expect service, and they expect it right this second. Maybe they should be and our fee structure accounts for that. We’re asking our clients for flexibility and we’re giving them flexibility on the fees. We’re not charging top-tier fees because then they would expect immediate service. There’s a give and a take.

M&A Practice Details

Let’s talk a little bit more about your current practice. What percent of the time are you representing sellers and what percent are you representing buyers?

For your readers who don’t know what M&A is. We throwing around the word M&A and you certainly know what it is. It stands for mergers and acquisitions. In very short, I help people buy and sell businesses. When somebody is looking to buy a business and they start getting serious about that business, they come to talk to me and we structure the deal and then negotiate it and do a whole bunch of stuff and then finally get it to the point where it changes hands. On the sell side, people come to me when they’re thinking about selling their business, or they have a buyer who wants to buy their business.

I represent them, negotiating the entire transaction from start to finish. I would say I represent about 65% to 70% of buyers and about 30% of legacy sellers. The sellers tend to be founders, usually in their 60s to 70s who would like to exit for one reason or another. They’ve grown this tree-trimming business for the last 40 years and the accounting business for the last 30 years. Now, the kids are lawyers or doctors and they say, “I’d rather take that 10 million or 15 million than start trying to run a tree trimming business. They come to me.

Is that the typical size that you’re dealing with? family-owned, sole proprietor kinds of businesses that are in that double-digit millions, but not triple-digit millions?

That’s exactly right now. At the law firm that I came from, the big law firm, it was usually in the hundreds of millions to billions.

You don’t get on the front page of the Wall Street Journal selling a tree trimming business.

No, although you should, because these are important businesses that keep the main street of the US running but no. They don’t make the news. They impact people deeply, especially real people who’ve grown those businesses and real families and real buyers and sellers on both sides. These are life-changing transactions that we guide people through.

I don’t want to at all minimize it just because the dollar amounts are lower. However, you’re right. We, the partners here at SMB Law Group started this firm to focus on the sub $100 million market. My partners focus a little bit more on what they call the SMB market, which is sub 10 million, usually even smaller than that.

My focus is usually the five to a hundred million range. Every once in a while, there’ll be a deal a little bit bigger than that, but that’s usually the range. The idea is to bring that high level of service that the big private equity firms used to get at the Wall Street firms and bring that down to the small buyer and seller for a much more reasonable cost.

How often are the buyers of these businesses, people who are strategic buyers, who are already in the industry or want to be in the industry themselves, and how often are the private equity or venture capital type firms?

When I represent sellers, I find that they come to me when there’s a private equity buyer on the other side. That’s because private equity buyers tend to be sharks and they are very shrewd operators. A seller may be doing this once or twice in their entire life. The private equity buyer is doing multiple simultaneously and they know every trick.

They want a lawyer who knows those tricks and so they come to me. On the buy side, they generally fall into three categories. I would call them the searcher category, the independent sponsor category, and the private equity group. The private equity group is a group that’s backed by a stable fund that they’ve raised capital. They put that together with a loan from a bank and they buy the business.

Let’s say it’s a $20 million purchase, they’ll take out $10 million to $15 million of debt, $5 million from their investors and they’ll purchase the business. The independent sponsors are just like private equity, but they raise that fund for each deal. Each deal has its investors. That tends to be the bulk of my clients and then some searchers are small individuals, alumni from your McKinsey background.

They come out and get their MBA and instead of going and joining a private equity firm or doing something else, they say, “I want to buy my own business and appoint myself the CEO.” In the US we have an amazing program that encourages it. It’s called the SBA 7A program. The Small Business Administration will give you a loan, sometimes 80% to 90% of the business value to go out and buy your own business.

The interest rate is relatively favorable and some other aspects make it even more favorable. Sometimes you can have somebody who comes out of school and buys a business with 5% down. These businesses are usually trading at about three to five times EBITDA. About three to five times the profit. Sometimes they can buy these businesses for 5% down. In my opinion, there’s no better deal in the market than that. Those are searchers and sometimes they bring in investors as well to pay for that 5% to 10% down. Sometimes they just use their savings and do it themselves.

It’s interesting. I think that when I finished business school, maybe a handful of people had the plan to just go buy a business in the way that you’re describing, but I think it happens much more commonly now. Younger people looking to buy businesses, taking advantage of programs like the SBA program you’re describing.

You need to be a US citizen, you need to have a good credit score and the business needs to be profitable. If somebody had told me about this, I probably would not have started a business and may not have even gone to college to become a lawyer, although I’m very happy I did. It’s a fantastic program and very happy that SBA has it.

When you’re representing the sellers other than getting, as much for their business as possible. What other factors are usually important to them? How often do they want to stay involved post-sale?

It’s very seller-dependent. The idea of selling a business is that there are no two businesses that will act the same way. You’re right, JR, that the price is usually the driving factor, but there are different types of prices. Some prices include a portion of the consideration a portion of the purchase price that’s paid out over time.

Sometimes a seller will say, “I want 80% upfront, but I want 20% in future equity called rollover equity.” We will construct the price, it’s like a puzzle. We’ll build it together based on the seller’s considerations and what’s important to them. Sometimes they say, “I want a hundred percent upfront and I’m willing to take a lower price to get a hundred percent upfront.” That’s great.

Sometimes they say, “I want most of it upfront, but I want a consulting agreement for a few years to transition out because I want to pay the bills or I want my son to have a consulting agreement.” Price has a lot of different factors in it. Other than price, I think what I’m finding is that sellers care a lot about the transition plan. They care a lot about their legacy. They’ve worked hard to build these businesses and they don’t want a private equity firm coming in and picking out the assets and reselling them to vultures.

They want their employees to be well taken care of. They want their legacy to live on. They also care a lot about the ease of the process as well. A buyer will come in and the process will be easy and seamless and they’re not trying to take every dollar off the table is going to be a much more pleasant process for them and will result in better results in the future. Each seller has their concerns and each has to be treated differently.

What about buyers? What are they focused on other than price?

Buyers are very focused on price, first and foremost. I would say second, they’re focused on the least amount upfront so that they’re lowering their risk. It is because when a buyer buys a business, it’s very hard to diligence that business properly. We do, and we do a lot of legal diligence as their lawyer, but it’s not like you’re buying a property where you can walk around it, you can do some termite testing, you can do a property condition report, you can kick the tires.

A business is very different. We’re relying on the seller for their disclosures. We’re relying on them that they’re running the business properly. Often they’re not. There are often some skeletons in the closet. A buyer is very concerned about the risk of the business. What I tell buyers all the time is that the top two things you should be focused on are A) The price, and B) The level of honesty of the seller.

The factor that’s been most correlated with deals going bad after closing is dishonest sellers. Those sellers that are not upfront and honest about their business. Every business has warts, every business has challenges. Sometimes they have ongoing litigation. That’s fine, as long as the seller’s upfront about it, we’re not worried that the foundation is rotten.

Honesty is crucial in business sales. The biggest risk for buyers is a dishonest seller. Transparency makes all the difference. Share on X

The Impact Of SPACs

One last question. You talked a little bit earlier about search firms. What about SPACs, Special Purpose Acquisition Companies? They were very much in vogue a few years back as a way of securing money from the public markets to buy companies. How much of that’s still going on? How much does that creep into what you do?

It impacts us. Search funds are a great vehicle. Also, I’m seeing a little bit of a decline in the search funds. Search funds, just for the background, you know JR, but just as a background, our searchers, like we were talking earlier, who get out of school and go buy a business, but they’re backed by actual funds that will pay for them to look for a business.

They’ll fund their actual search and then eventually fund the acquisition of the business. For that, they take a very steep price in equity. Usually, the founder can hope for around 33% ownership of the business and the fund takes generally about 67%, which is much worse economics than somebody who self-funds their search and raises investor capital at the time of purchase.

We could do a whole podcast on the difference between search funds and searchers, but not for now. SPAC was very popular at the law firm. I did a fair amount of these backs. So once the SPAC fund is raised and goes public as a shell company, they have to go out and acquire a business and merge it into the shell.

I did a lot of those mergers at the time that SPACs were going crazy around, I believe in 2019. The SPAC market has collapsed. As you know, it collapsed for two reasons. One is it’s a complete scam. Investors were hosed and the SEC started cracking down on them and made the regulation a lot like an IPO to the point where it didn’t pay to do a SPAC anymore if you had to go through the same hoops as an IPO.

Lastly, the capital markets just have collapsed over the last few years. The new IPOs have declined and this impacts us even in the lower market because the way it works is that big private equity groups will acquire a business, and their exit plan is usually to acquire some more add-ons to that business and take it public, or sell it off to somebody bigger. There are not a lot of groups that are bigger than the KKRs, the L Cattertons, or Platinum Equities. The capital markets were their exit plan.

They haven’t been able to exit in the same way, so they’ve slowed down their purchasing in the middle market, which is trickling down. Although I would say the lower middle market is not as affected and the lower lower market is almost not affected at all. We’re very, very busy. There’s a lot of volume with baby boomer-owned businesses that need to change hands and need to sell. We’re finding ourselves very busy right now. The market is very active.

There are millions of small businesses. There’s always going to be buying and selling of small businesses and they, as you said a second ago, subject to the vagaries of the capital markets and what’s going on at the very top end in terms of IPOs and mergers and acquisition activity with Fortune 500-sized companies.

We’re impacted by interest rates, but the value is very good for these small businesses. As you said, millions and millions of them are changing hands. If you can buy them for three to five times earnings, an interest rate, few points here or there, it is not going to impact. You’re still going to have a lot of cash flow left after a debt service.

The time we’ve got left, maybe just talk a little bit about what life’s like for you right now. What does a typical day look like? You say you’re working potentially longer hours than you did when you were at the two law firms, but you’ve got presumably a lot more control over what those hours are during the day.

I would love to tell you, JR, that I wake up at 5:00 AM, take an ice bath, a sauna, and workout, but I don’t. I don’t manage my time as well as I should. I stay up late at night to spend evenings with my family. The kids get home around 4:30. I try to step away at about 4:30 until 7:00 and do dinner and bedtime with them. That usually results in me staying up very late working. As I said, I work hard. I make no qualms about it. I may be working 90 to 100-hour weeks. I don’t keep track, but it is flexible. Yesterday, when my son had a performance at school, I told my clients I was going to be offline from 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM, and I was. I work around them, but I do make up for it by working hard.

On a typical day, I’m up late and I don’t like rising early. I’m up around 7:00 or 8:00 AM. Sometimes I see the kids going off to school. Sometimes I miss them depending on how late I was up the previous night. The emails hit hard right away in the morning. M&A is a bi-octane industry. There are constant crises. Clients rely on me to resolve those crises and I do it and I love doing it. Maybe I got addicted to adrenaline in the army, but I love the adrenaline and I love the deal closings and I love being there for my clients to do that. I’m hard-charging most of the day.

My wife also works from home. We do generally try to carve out some time in the middle of the day for a coffee break or have lunch together on the porch, which is nice. I found working from home to be able to connect with her during the day. It’s hard work until the kids come home and then get the kids to bed, fed, and then back to work. It doesn’t grind me down like it used to. It is energizing. I find that all areas of my life now are energizing.

We’ve got more control. I think that’s the biggest challenge and for a lot of people, they just don’t feel like they’ve got agency over what their work life is about. Part of the reason I’d love to get your view is that we’re having such raging debates right now about remote work, hybrid work, and working conditions.

It is because people had a lot more control over exactly what they did during their day when we were all stuck at home during COVID, most of us, other than the people who had to be out, doing whatever work they were doing. People don’t want to go back to the way that it was where they are forced to a schedule and forced to a certain number of days in the office. I think that’s the debate, but I would love to hear your thoughts on that.

You’re so spot on. I think you’re profoundly right. It does come down to agency, autonomy, and control. Humans perform much better when they’re controlling their own time. You’re right. Most of us, at least in the white-collar world experienced during COVID, what it was like to have a fully integrated work and family life. Yes, it wasn’t pleasant when my three-year-old was playing in my office during Zoom calls, but it was beautiful and it was fully integrated.

It was also very common.

Yes, it was very common and it became accepted to see kids coming in and out of Zoom calls. Maybe not so pleasant all the time, especially for the dad or the mom, but it became much more acceptable and we were able to control our own time. I can only speak for myself, but I think you are so right when you say that it’s that autonomy is the key. I perform much, much better when I’m controlling my own time and I’m my boss. I find that with my clients also. A lot of these people who are leaving McKinseys or the Bain Capitals are looking to control their time and schedule and be present for those things that matter.

Future Plans For Eli And His Firm

What’s ahead for you and your firm over the next few years?

We’re in growth mode. We are continuing to grow. I think we would like to be the preeminent small M&A firm representing buyers and sellers and continue to grow our fee structure. It’s fixed. We don’t bill by the hour. We’re able to create deep partnerships with clients without them feeling like the clock is running on them. I think this model works. Clients like it.

It’s going to start taking a real bite out of the M&A market. We’re looking to keep growing and keep spreading this to the M&A market professionally. Personally, I’m going to keep dedicating myself to my family and spending time with my wife. We engage a lot in personal growth together. I’d like to keep doing that. I’m looking forward to seeing my kids grow and develop and each stage seems to come with its own surprises and enjoyable aspects.

My kids are grown now. My youngest is about to turn 28. I’m way past that point in my life, but certainly, when I shifted out of consulting and all of a sudden wasn’t traveling all the time, it was just a completely different existence. I think a lot of people do crave and need that and for obvious reasons.

When we’re with them, it gives us the chance to learn about them and who they are. See those things that develop. It’s beautiful.

Last question. What’s one thing you wish that someone had told you early in your career journey?

There are a lot of things I learned the hard way along the way. I made a lot of mistakes. I think that if I could go back, I wish somebody had told me not to prolong the things I wanted in my life. At each stage, I felt like if I could just do this, I would then have a life that I was happy living. If I could just do this, I would then spend more time with my family. If I could just do this, I would then do that. One day, I will get to the point where my life is then in order. I wish somebody had told me, “That never comes. You never reach this great big law partner plateau where you now get to have everything in your life. It never happens. Have it now, create the life you want now, and live it now, even if there are some costs.”

That’s very good advice and advice that a lot of people need to hear. Thank you for that.

Thank you, JR. Thank you so much for having me.

Thank you as well. It’s been a great discussion, and there’s always a lot of interest out there in the world of M&A because it’s fairly opaque to people. They might know what the acronym means, but other than that, they don’t understand how it works. You’ve shed a little bit of light on that, and that’s great. You have covered everything else you’ve done in your career as well. A great story for people to hear. Thank you.

Thank you, JR. Thank you for having this show and these conversations. I think they’re very needed in our current environment.

That’s why I started it and why I keep doing it. Thank you. Have a good day.

Thank you so much, JR, you too.

I’d like to thank Eli for joining me to discuss his work in M&A law, his prior military and security experience, his thoughts on work-life integration, and how he makes it all work today for himself and his family. If you’d like to take more control of your career, visit and become a member. Basic membership is free. You can also sign up on our website for the Pathwise newsletter. Follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok. Thanks. Have a great day.


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About Eli Albrecht

Career Sessions, Career Lessons | Eli Albrecht | M&A LawEli Albrecht (#LawDad) is a partner at Albrecht Law, where he does mergers and acquistions (M&A) work. He was previously with SMB, and prior to that, he worked in two larger firms, DLA Piper and Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher, for a total of about 7 years. Earlier in his career, he served in the Israeli Defense Forces and then co-founded and worked for several security firms, providing security services and training on defense techniques.

Eli earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University and his law degree from Georgetown University. He and his family live in the Washington DC area.


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