Veteran public finance attorney Lisa Quateman plans to retire
Come October, Lisa Greer Quateman will be passing the baton to the next generation of bond attorneys.
Quateman, a senior partner with Polsinelli, said she will remain busy in retirement, but will “just walk away from the time sheet.”
Quateman helped launch Polsinelli’s Los Angeles office in July 2011 when the national law firm purchased Quateman’s law firm and named her the office’s managing partner, a position she held for five years. The law firm, which had no California offices before buying Quateman LLP, now also has offices in San Jose and San Francisco.
Quateman is now a senior partner.
Quateman, who will be retiring around Halloween, said she was sure there will be some jokes about that. Isn't Halloween considered the witching hour, she joked.
She has a reputation for being thorough, but not hard to work with.
“She never raises her voice, because that would be uncouth,” said Timothy Reimers, a Polsinelli principal who considers Quateman a mentor.
Reimers was worked with Quateman for 18 years.
“She hired me when I was a baby lawyer. I grew up in her firm — and then we all outgrew her firm, and Lisa decided it was time to look for something new,” Reimers said.
Quateman is considered a rainmaker, in legal parlance, but not a shark. She demonstrated that when she sold her firm to Polsinelli in 2011.
She made sure that her firm's lawyers and administrative staff all would have a job if they wanted one with Polsinelli, Reimers said.
“She trained me in the public finance business,” he said.
Quateman LLP did a lot of outside counsel work on finance and real estate, he said.
“She gave me a broad-based training, and made me a better lawyer, because I know more than I would have had I just specialized,” Reimers said.
Quateman also trained him about how to run a business, add value, and to think about what is best for the clients, Reimers said.
Quateman’s willingness to go above and beyond for clients is considered exemplary even in the legal profession, where attorneys are known to log more than 100 hours a week.
While Quateman was working with Lisa Marie Harris, finance director for the San Diego County Water Authority, Harris said she texted Quateman in the middle of the night at one point.
“It was the first time that we had done a forward delivery, or taxables, and I wanted to make sure we had it right,” Harris said. “I said I needed her help.”
Quateman responded back with, “I am in the kitchen, just let me get to my computer,” Harris said. “She knows the seriousness of the commitment that is why we were able to save so much money.”
SDCWA had expected to save $40 million on the refunding, but the water wholesaler achieved $67 million in savings.
Harris said during her six years as finance director at SDCWA, she has made a mission to educate all 36 members of the SCDWA’s board on municipal finance. She has called on Quateman in the past to conduct finance workshops for the board and plans to do so in the future, Harris said.
“She has a tremendous reputation,” Harris said. “I am so sad she is retiring, but I know one her goals was to sit on boards, so I am happy for her.”
Quateman serves on several corporate boards and will continue to run her family’s real estate business, Voyagers Properties Trust/Odin Properties Trust, as she has since April 1998.
“I have been gradually expanding the portfolio of corporate board work, and will continue to do non-profit board work,” Quateman said.
She accepted a position on the board of Western Asset Mortgage Capital Corp. in June; has been on the ITR Concession Co. LLP board since October and on the board and audit and ethics committee for Scherzer International since January 2016. She stepped down from the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce in January.
Quateman said accepting a board of directors position means signing on for roughly 250 hours of work each year, but serving on corporate boards has long been a goal.
"I am married to a very supportive partner, who respects what I have tried to do," Quateman said. "I have always worked long hours."
In addition to the corporate boards, she also serves on the board of the Heidi Duckler Dance Theater; City of Hope; the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate; and the Pacific Council on International Policy.
Training in how to run a business isn’t something that lawyers get in law school, according to Harriet Welch of Squire Patton Boggs, one of the founders of the Los Angeles branch of Women in Public Finance. It’s a skill learned in practice, and it’s not a skill that all lawyers shine at, but Quateman does, said Welch, who has known her for 25 years.
When the pair first met, Quateman had just started Quateman LLP.
Quateman’s firm had several lawyers, which was unique for women-owned firms at that time, according to Quateman, who said many women-owned firms were sole practioners.
Welch said she saw Quateman’s name on a list of women business enterprises and struck up a conversation.
“We talked about what it takes to form a WBE and I was impressed with her ambition and focus,” Welch said.
It was the early 1990s and Kathleen Brown was California's state treasurer.
When Welch first came to California in 1984 after working for a New York City-based law firm, the municipal bond arena “was pretty male-dominated, but there were a lot of women who were emboldened by Kathleen Brown’s initiatives, and other initiatives,” she said.
Quateman had already formed her firm when Brown became treasurer. Someone had suggested that as a women-owned business enterprise, Quateman should put her name in the treasurer’s pool, she said. Quateman’s experience had primarily been in corporate and real estate work at that point.
“When I started my firm, I didn’t think of it as being a women-owned business,” Quateman said. “I had gone to law school, worked for a big firm and was just thinking of starting my own shop.”
Brown, the youngest sister of former California Gov. Jerry Brown, was elected treasurer in 1990. One of her initiatives was to create more opportunities for both women and minorities working on the state’s business.
“So you saw a steady rise of women with legal and municipal banking experience working on state deals,” Welch said.
Among those women was Quateman.
“I think women face the greatest challenge in climbing the ladder in becoming rainmakers, who command the equivalent respect to men that are rainmakers,” Quateman said. “It’s more challenging for women, because there is an unconscious bias.”
Consider the male partner who goes out to drinks with a client and doesn’t invite his associate, Susie, because he thinks she has to get home to her kids, Quateman said. “That is a lost opportunity for Susie with both the client and developing a relationship with that partner,” she said.
“That is changing,” Quateman said. “One of the things I have found that is terrific about working public finance agencies is that there are a lot of women in leadership roles in government.”
That means they are more likely to create opportunities for other women, Quateman said.
“Some of my best relationships are with female clients, and some of my toughest clients are women,” Quateman said.
Early in the last decade, they were also among the women active in starting a Los Angeles chapter of Women in Public Finance, Welch said. The group later merged with the national organization, she said.
“The thing I have always appreciated about Lisa is she never said, 'Why is no one hiring me?'" Welch said. "She just went out, worked hard and made sure she knew what she needed to know.”
Welch recounted working with Quateman on a state bond deal.
“When you are on a state deal, working in a conference room, there are about 40 people around the table,” Welch said. “It is very mannered, measured and a managed process. Everyone makes comments on the bond documents.”
After work on the state’s bond documents are complete, many participants end up at the Sacramento airport.
“The airport is filled with bond lawyers and bankers,” said Welch, who spotted Quateman studying the bond documents and struck up a conversation.
Quateman asked Welch a question about the indenture, and the pair began to go through all of the documents.
“We went through the indenture, article by article,” Welch said. “I was ‘This does this, and this does that.' Then we went through all the boilerplate provisions.”
The conversation was about the areas were corporations and municipalities were similar and different, Welch said.
“I thought here is a person who shares my desires to practice in this field at high level,” Welch said. “She wasn’t just showing up to collect the check.
“I have always been impressed by her,” Welch said.
“We have worked on many transactions. What stands out in my mind is that not many people are willing to go through a bond indenture just for the heck of it,” Welch said.
“She loves this job. She genuinely loves the work, she loves getting new clients,” Reimers said, “But I think she is ready.”