Joshua Rubenstein

National Chair Private Client  |  Katten Muchin Rosenman

United States (NY, NJ)


Cross border planning
Family office

Enhanced Q&A

What has been the highlight of your practice over the past 12 months?

A phenomenal victory that saved our client millions of dollars.

How did you get into private client?

I am the fourth generation Rubenstein to do private client work and was expected to join my father’s firm. However, I never wanted to be a lawyer. I was a Greek and Latin major at university. I finished my coursework for a doctorate in Latin. When it was time to pick my doctoral thesis, everything had already been done – you had to do something so microscopic that it was boring. Even though I realised I loved the Classics, I wanted to be practical – dissecting conjunctions wouldn’t help anybody! Then I wanted to be a lawyer, but not a trust and estates lawyer. Then I did a rotation to trust and estates and realised that I figured it out for myself, and I did want to do it, versus what was expected of me.

What advice would you give rising stars/new lawyers in the private client world?

While the nature of legal practice and being a lawyer is changing rapidly, the need for private client lawyers may be closer than most things to being a constant, since it is based upon greed or opportunity but rather upon mortality – for which at least at the moment there is no cure.

What is your favourite quote?

"Ain't no use worrying about the things you can do something about, 'cause there's always something you can do about them. Ain't no use worrying about the things ain't nothing you can do about, 'cause ain't nothing you can do about them.”

Do you have any outside interests or hobbies?

I love travelling, fine dining, music (and playing the piano and guitar).

When the restaurants reopen, where would you like to go?

Five Fields, London.

What do you think will be the biggest three challenges in your practice for the next 12 months?

1. When to resume in-person meetings. My answer is as soon as possible, but that depends upon everyone’s tolerance given the then state of affairs.
2. Crystal ball gazing. The world is in an unprecedented state of flux. Clients will want our best predictions, and wrong or right, they deserve them.
3. Client management. The easiest thing to do is exactly what our clients “say” they want. Because in reality they often don’t know what they really want, we will need to interpret their words, based upon our knowledge of them, and then help them achieve their actual as opposed to perceived goals. Tough job.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I trusted my instincts at the start of my career, when I chose private client over transactional work. It was counter-trend, but it was what I cared about. I was stressed for a long time over whether or not I should not have become an investment banker. I would reassure my younger self to trust my instincts.

What are three top tips for dealing with your clients remotely?

1. Respond as soon as humanly possible, even if only to say that it will take more time to answer their question. Everyone is on tenterhooks and wants to know at least that you received their communication and are working on it.
2. Follow up proactively. Clients can be simultaneously exorcised about an issue but then in avoidance mode when it comes to responding.
3. Give practical advice. Clients want to benefit from our experience, not necessarily to know what saves the most taxes but more often what makes the most sense to do (which may or may not be the same thing).