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In a profile of Audra Cohen about her work on two large private equity deals, NBTY’s $3.8 billion sale to The Carlyle Group and Dynegy’s $4.7 billion sale to The Blackstone Group, The American Lawyer quoted Irene Fisher, NBTY’s general counsel, who said that Audra “is that rare combination of intelligence, dedication, precision, responsiveness, practice experience and common sense.”
Why did you choose Sullivan & Cromwell?
I chose S&C for many reasons. Number one was the variety and quality of the work, but I also chose S&C for its great client base and the people—I really liked everyone with whom I interviewed. They were very smart people who were at the top of their fields and invested in their work. I imagined that I was going to gain great experience by coming here, and I was right.
Why did you choose to focus on mergers and acquisitions?
I knew that I wanted to be a corporate lawyer, but I didn’t necessarily know in which area of corporate law I wanted to focus. As an associate, I started out doing more securities work and working on IPOs, and I really enjoyed it. I ended up being staffed on a large M&A project with Richard Pollack and George White for Kodak and worked on that pretty much exclusively for about six months and became hooked, so my specialization in M&A was sort of a happy accident.
Tell us about your associate experience.
I had a great associate experience. I liked the people, the work was really interesting and M&A was really busy at that time, so I had the opportunity to work on a lot of great deals. As a fourth-year associate, I came back from maternity leave on a flex-time basis and received so much support from the group. That support and encouragement enabled me to continue to work on challenging, interesting deals and to grow professionally.
What do you enjoy most about being a lawyer?
It really circles back to why I came to S&C in the first place. I really enjoy the work and the people. There’s always some unique situation cropping up that makes it interesting. I also really enjoy working with my colleagues.
There are some clients that we only work with on one deal, and it’s usually something that’s transformational for that company. There are other clients that we have the opportunity to work with on a continuous basis, getting to know not only the people at the company but the strategy behind what they’re doing. I find it fascinating to be able to gain that insight into a lot of industries and companies. Each deal is unique, so you don’t feel like you are on an assembly line doing the same thing over and over, and that makes being a lawyer interesting to me. It’s a field that is always changing, and there’s always something new to learn.
What advice can you give to associates about how to balance work and other commitments outside the office?
I think balancing work is a question that not only women are focused on but men as well. People want to be at their kids’ events and not miss things, but it’s important to realize that, on some days, you really can’t do both. If you’re really busy at work, you’re not going to do as good a job on the home front. You just have to be able to say to yourself “that’s OK” and know that other times it will balance out. I’m really glad that I forged through those years when my kids were younger and I was an associate because now, as they’re older and they have their own interests, I still have what, to me, is a very rewarding career. I think my daughters also like that I have my own career. It was definitely worth it, not only to me, but to my family. Having a supportive spouse was really helpful as well.
What do you think it takes to be a great lawyer?
First, figure out within practice areas what you really enjoy doing, and then really dive into it, go that extra mile and work on that additional deal because, the more experience you get, the more you learn. Once you start getting responsibility and become more involved in deals, you become more vested and you’ll want to keep rising to the next level. The little details are important in what we do, so following up on issues and making sure you’re dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” when you’re a junior lawyer is essential. And lastly, really try and enjoy the experience because, the more you enjoy it, the better you’re going to be at it.
Personal: Audra lives in Scarsdale, NY with her husband and two daughters.
What do you do in your free time? “I love to cook and spend time with my family.”

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