CFA’s 2018 40 Under 40 Award Winners - Mackenzie Shea


The CFA 40 Under 40 Awards celebrate the achievements of young professionals in the commercial finance industry - the movers and shakers who exemplify true excellence in their careers and who bring a strong voice and commitment to the industry at large. 

Date September 2018

Originally featured in The Secured Lender

As associate general counsel, Mackenzie Shea serves as Gordon Brothers’ front-line transactional counsel, managing deal documentation and related matters for all of its U.S. divisions. Mackenzie has over 12 years of experience in the area of corporate bankruptcy and restructuring where she primarily focused on representing troubled companies and buyers of distressed businesses. She was ranked multiple times in Chambers USA and Best Lawyers in America in the bankruptcy field and was previously selected in 2012 as one of 40 "up-and-coming" bankruptcy lawyers in the country by the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges. In her current role, she relies on that experience in advising Gordon Brothers on all types of transactions and assisting her business colleagues in meeting their clients’ needs. Prior to joining Gordon Brothers in 2016, Mackenzie was a partner at the global law firm K&L Gates LLP where she worked for over eight years and began her career as a law clerk to the Honorable Joel Rosenthal of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts. Mackenzie holds a B.A. from Assumption College and a J.D. from Suffolk University Law School and is admitted to practice in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. 

What is the best professional advice you have been given and how have you implemented it?

"Know the law, you’re useful. Know the facts, you’re indispensable." That advice translates beyond just the legal profession. Being new to any field, there is so much about the subject matter you don’t, and can’t be expected to, know. That will come with experience. But you can learn the deal specifics cold, whether that be the people, places, projections, or problems of a company, in a way that makes you invaluable to those senior in your own organization. That only requires effort. Once others start to rely upon your factual knowledge, you’ll be included on calls, in meetings, and with clients. And as it turns out, those settings are where you actually gain the experience. 

How do you think the commercial finance industry can attract more young professionals?

Recognize that the best and brightest, generally speaking, may not be the same people who have the specific qualities that lend themselves to success in this industry. In terms of the restructuring niche, it is seeking out those "type A minus" personalities with a passion for deals and team competition who aren’t expecting a 9-5 experience, who will thrive in messiness and chaos, and may not necessarily be Ivy-educated at the top of their class. Then, because the time we have to develop talent is limited, we need to quickly identify those bright young minds who also possess an "X" factor, something that makes them uniquely valuable to an organization and focus attention on retaining them long-term rather than spreading ourselves too thin in an attempt to keep everyone. 

How would you define what a good leader is, and what can you do to reflect those characteristics as you progress in your career?

Good leaders foster loyalty, and not necessarily just to themselves in a particular role, but to the organization as a whole. Development of that loyalty can be unique and organic, but the effect is the same. They inspire their colleagues to want to impress, improve, and improvise. Gordon Brothers has many strong leaders throughout the company and our employee base is a testament to the loyalty they have created. Our average tenure is over ten years and dozens of our 300 employees have worked here for over 15 years. For me, the next chapter at Gordon Brothers is learning from and emulating those colleagues. 

What advice would you give to forthcoming generations of talent aspiring to win this award?

"Be available and do good work." Striving to do both of those things leads to reliance on you by others and reliance by others ultimately leads to recognition. It may sound vanilla, but if you put in the daily time and effort necessary to excel at your job or in your organization, the industry acknowledgement will follow. Beyond that, I would say keep an open mind and try to view your career like building blocks. Whatever you’ve built may get knocked down (voluntarily or involuntarily), but even so, you ’ll still have the same number of the samesize blocks and can reconfigure them into something new. Realizing you have the supplies and skill to build a career of your own choosing may just give you the confidence to do it.