“Don’t get so consumed by work that you lose touch with your other interests.”
That piece of advice has not only helped Peter Wu maintain a healthy work/life balance throughout his career but has also contributed to much of his success and even led him to his role as the senior managing counsel of M&A and corporate at Adobe.
Before joining the company, Wu had been using Adobe’s products for over a decade in his spare time as a freelance photographer. What started out as a creative outlet that helped him decompress during law school eventually turned into a profitable hobby, bringing in tens of thousands of Instagram followers and clients from travel, hotel, and lifestyle brands.
Wu was first an engineer, graduating with an engineering degree from the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. He started his career at Arup, working with architects to design sustainable energy systems and façades for buildings. Wu says he has incorporated his engineering background and design thinking into his work throughout his career.
When a position opened up at Adobe, it piqued both his creative and legal interests while providing an opportunity for him to bring a unique perspective to the software company, where he supports M&A, corporate, securities, and venture investment matters.
“In this role, I’m involved in strategic conversations about potential M&A opportunities. I’m able to bring a certain point of view from my background as someone who uses our creative tools,” Wu explains. “I love being able to bring that perspective in my role. It’s a collaborative culture, where everyone believes good ideas can come from anyone or anywhere.”
Adobe’s collaborative environment became apparent as soon as Wu stepped into his role in 2019. Right away, he got a chance to bring his creative and design thinking to bear in one of his first tasks. “I was managing the company’s annual proxy filing and thought, ‘Adobe’s a design-focused company so why does our proxy looks like every other company’s?’ I saw an opportunity to not just improve the look and feel but [also] the organization and content to make it more readable and easier to navigate, and have the proxy better reflect Adobe as a company.”
He went on to modernize the proxy filing, emphasizing more visuals over text, and making it more concise and logically organized, an effort that’s been his pet project ever since. For him, initiatives like that show the impact one’s creative interests and hobbies can have on their professional success. “My career has been a great example of how if you make time for your interests, you never know how that’s going to benefit your work,” Wu says.
After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, he moved to New York to work for Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher as a corporate associate. His years at the firm served as a fantastic training ground for how to be a lawyer.
“We were able to knock on partners’ doors and find the work we were interested in,” he remembers. “It gave me a lot of freedom to explore. I got the opportunity to try a lot of different fields in transactional work from M&A to finance to tech transactions. That generalist background helps me a lot in my day to day at Adobe, where I still get to do a lot of different things.”
When he wasn’t working, Wu would grab his camera and take to the streets, capturing the city and sharing his photos with his growing Instagram following. But in 2014, he got a message from the platform that was a turning point for his photography career. “They wanted to feature me as a suggested user, one of the accounts they suggest to new users to follow when they first sign up,” he recalls. “I went from 2,000 followers to over 100,000 thousand in about two weeks. That really opened a lot of doors for me.”
From there, both his photography and legal careers continued on an upward trajectory. He went on to work as a corporate associate with Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati, where he continued to work in M&A and began representing startups and venture funds, while still taking time to travel the world and work with brands, including Google, as a photographer. In 2019, Wu made the shift to in-house, looking specifically for a company that created products he cared about, which he found at Adobe.
“As much as I enjoyed M&A at law firms, I enjoy it even more in-house,” he admits. “When you’re at a firm, you just parachute in and you’re gone when the deal closes. But it’s really rewarding to be involved with all the other aspects when you’re in-house. From the very beginning, we’re involved with strategy, identifying targets, doing the deal, integrating, and seeing new products come to life as a result.”
Wu’s partners also praise his work at Adobe. “Peter has been a close colleague of ours throughout a number of transformative acquisitions for Adobe,” add Jake Kling and Steven Green, attorneys at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. “We particularly admire his ability to skillfully navigate and negotiate complex legal and transactional issues in a collaborative and commercial manner. We commend Peter for his well-earned recognition by Modern Counsel.”
He encourages fellow attorneys to think expansively about how they approach their roles. “Look for opportunities to bring your non-legal skills and experiences to your work,” Wu suggests. “I’ve never been told to stay in my lane as a lawyer and in fact, not doing so has helped me add a lot more value.”