In the News

Winning at Wealth: An Exclusive Q&A with Marc J. Lane

Sunday, September 1, 2002
by Philippe Matthews


. . . . Marc J. Lane is one of the most powerful and comprehensive law and financial planning firms in the world! The Law Offices of Marc J. Lane and its financial services affiliates offer successful people a strategic, multidisciplinary approach to tax, investment, corporate, estate, and business planning.

Marc J. Lane is a Business and Tax Attorney, a Master Registered Financial Planner, a Registered Financial Consultant, and a Certified Investment Specialist. He is the Author of 30 books on business organization, management, taxation, and personal finance. Twice a Recipient of the Illinois State Bar Association's Lincoln Award, Marc is an Adjunct Professor of Law at Northwestern University and an Adjunct Professor of Business at the University of Illinois - Chicago.

Only a very few get to be included in the Martindale-Hubbell Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers. We invite you to review Marc J. Lane credentials and the exceptional resources available to you.

In an exclusive Q&A interview, I got a chance to sit down with the man that makes everyone he meets wealthy and successful.

Where were you born and raised?
"Chicago. I have a brother and a sister. My father was in the real estate business and my mother was a teacher. Both are still around and both are retired."

What was it like growing up in Chicago and what part?
"From the age of nine, I lived in Lincolnwood, which is a northern suburb of Chicago. When I got married, we moved to Chicago, then Wilmette, and then back to Lincolnwood and eventually bought land there and built a house, which we've lived in for 21 years. I live a mile away from my parents now and I haven't stayed far. So, Chicago is home."

You've written over 30 books and have been in the business of law and finance for just as long. How do you handle the inherent stress of success?
"I believe there is stress and I believe that the energy needs to be channeled constructively, but I think a lot of people don't know how to cope with stress. I think I'm fairly good with coping with stress. I think some of it has to do with the way you are constructed, your psyche and emotional makeup, how you were raised, what is your history. Some has to do with getting through life and putting things in perspective by ranking, prioritizing and seeing what's really important and recognizing that most things aren't."

Why and how did you choose your current vocation? What were some of the beginning steps?
"Initially, it was absolutely opportunistic and I found that I had a passion for it. The opportunism arose from the fact that when I was going to Northwestern Law School and fully expecting to be a Litigator, I worked my way through school through selling insurance that protect contact lens owners against loss and damage. At that time, the laws were permitting professionals for the first time to incorporate their practices – up until then, they couldn't. The doctors with whom I had established some rapport knew I was in law school, and asked me what did I know about incorporating their practice. I learned about it and became fairly knowledgeable early on--as that phenomenon was taking hold. I was asked if I would write an article for one of the trade publications for doctors, which I did and I was asked to do another one, and so on. Both of those publications happened to appear in the same month. As far as the Optometric and Opthomological Community was concerned, I was the world expert on professional corporations. From that, slowly evolved a practiced that was dedicated to tax and financial issue associated with professionals. I went back to school and got some tax education; then over time, became a Financial Planner and assembled not only the credentials, but the critical mass of knowledge to be a leader in this field."

What makes you unique to your industry and your clients?
"We have the only law firm in the country to have a comprehensive financial services capability. Marc J. Lane being the broker/dealer continues to grow and thrive operating nationally and internationally. We also have an Investment Advisory Firm and a Risk Management/Insurance operation. Additionally, we have a small merchant-banking firm, where we really shine whenever a client needs to make a decision involving both legal and financial issues. That would be investment planning, tax planning, strategic planning, estate planning, corporate planning, serving as general counsel for hundreds of closely-held business that our clients own all over the world. And, a bi-product, for which our clients are a beneficiary, and we take a multi-disciplinary approach to the wealth management issues. In order to maintain these issues, we have the very best people I can find; which includes lawyers, but investment advisors, financial planners, Accountants, MBAs, and CFAs. Then, we can put those people on task wherever they are needed so we have an enormous depth of bench in terms of legal and financial professionals."

You are more than a one-stop shop for clients seeking tax law and financial advice, correct?
"It isn't only the convenience and efficiency of a one stop shop. To me, the more important value is the integrity of the process. Often, when clients have needs like estate planning which is an obvious one – that has an insurance dimension, that has an investment dimension, it has a legal dimension, it has a business dimension, it has a psychological and emotional dimension. So, when lawyers get involved in those engagements, they have to send clients here and there to implement different pieces of it and too often, it dies. Different advisors, well intentioned though they may be, will have a different spin on the facts and pull the client off into a different direction. Therefore, they may not be privy to all of the same information. Here, we have one unified vision and we have one quarterback implementing all of it to ensure that it all gets done pursuant to that vision. Thus, the client ends up getting the benefit of his/her bargaining."

By definition, what is a financial planner or advisor?
"Financial Planners and financial advisors are two different things. A Financial Planner is one kind of financial advisor. Financial planning is a disciplined process of assembling information about a client and working collaboratively with the client to find objectives and achieve those objectives. It usually includes attention to questions like retirement planning, estate planning, tax planning, and tuition planning for the client's children. It may include issues associated with the clients business and other issues which are unique to the client."

How do you approach financial planning?
"That approach is adjusted here. The way in which we approach financial planning engagements is modular. Clients usually come here because they have a specific, self-identified need. Whether that need is born of an opportunity or a problem. Too often, a Financial Planner will have a generic or standardized response to a financial planning prospect showing up in their office. Namely, here's a questionnaire, which will result as inputting data; the data will generate something in terms of a deliverable along all of the various categories that I described earlier. Our approach is very one-on-one and customized. Consequently, we will address the issue that the client brings to us first. In so doing, given that I have been doing this for better than thirty years now, it's not unusual for me to pick up signals or identify some opportunities that the client may not have on his/her radar. I'll say, ‘Let's talk about what brings you here because I know that is your priority. But, let me suggest some other priorities that maybe you ought to have too. Ways in which we can add value either in terms of protecting your wealth, growing your wealth, and/or insulating you from liabilities.' I'm doing this not as a financial planner alone, but also as an attorney and that obviously gives me broader latitude to explore issues beyond those customarily addressed by a Financial Planner."

Ok, you've explained what a Financial Planner is, so what then is a financial advisor?
"A Financial Advisor to me is someone who acts as a fiduciary that is advocating the clients interests above his own interests. Disclosing conflicts of interest, making sure that the client's interests are always paramount and representing the client in any decision that has financial implications. By that definition, we may be talking about an attorney, an accountant, a financial planner, an insurance broker or agent, in some cases a banker, an actuary, we may be talking about an investment advisor – all kind of people fall into that bailiwick. When I wrote my most recent book, Advising Entrepreneurs: Dynamic Strategies for Financial Growth that book was originally intended for financial advisors of all stripes."

Aside from your firm, what other professional ventures are you involved in?
"I teach at Northwestern University School of Law, and in the MBA Program at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Additionally, I teach Entrepreneurship and Finance at both institutions, while writing a monthly column in Crain's Chicago Business."

Do you have more than one office?
"I'm exploring the possibility of creating a satellite office in another locale. There was a time when I had four offices – one in London, Sydney, Zurich and Singapore. Over the years, I found that I didn't need them with the advent of the Internet, FedEx and faxes. However, we have clients all over the world; with a minority of clients are in the Chicago metropolitan area – about 40%.. We manage their money and do their legal work and it's fun, exciting, dynamic and I wouldn't do it any other way. I have three daughters – all grown but not emancipated truly (laugh). We have a very close family."

What do you do to relax and clear your mind?
"I have a lot of vocations and interests. For example, my wife and I enjoy the theater. We subscribe to a couple of theater series here. We also subscribe to a theater series in New York, and about once every six weeks, we spend a long weekend there with friends. We're also interested in art. We travel a lot – Europe once or twice a year. We have a little island that I won't tell you about because if it gets out, I won't like it as much as I do."


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