Before serving as senior counsel at Bain & Company, Murtaza Hassonjee spent his decade-long legal career helping venture capital funds, private equity investors, and emerging companies navigate a wide range of business activities and transactions.
Throughout that time, he came to believe that lawyers should do more than translate what contracts, laws, and regulations say. Rather than dealing in black and white terms, they should “live in the shades of grey,” he explains.
“That is where our advice is most valuable,” says Hassonjee, who stepped into his current role at Bain & Company in 2019. “Much of my career hasn’t just been looking at legal rules and contract terms but understanding the broader context around those things.” With this mindset, he’s able to see issues from a commercial, business, and on-the-ground perspective, requiring him to think more broadly beyond what a merger agreement or a shareholder agreement says.
The goal is to be a trusted advisor that clients can lean on for everything. When that position is working at its best, the relationship is not just about the legal advice, but it’s also helping them make a strategic decision. “It’s not just a matter of saying, ‘This contract says you can’t do this.’ It’s helping the business team find the best approach and resolution to reach our goals. Not a yes or no, but a ‘here is how we can think about this issue,’” Hassonjee says of his advice to clients.
That mentality made him the perfect fit for his in-house role at Bain, where he continues to work on acquisition and investment transactions. While those areas have been his primary focus over the years, he has had an opportunity to advise his business colleagues on issues beyond his legal scope, a testament to how the company views him and his department.
“Bain has done an incredible job of creating a space where the legal team is brought into things that are often not legal at all,” he says. “That’s the culture that the M&A team and legal team leadership, particularly the general counsel and deputy general counsel, here has built—leveraging expertise from all groups and allowing people to contribute to their maximum potential. They do a great job of saying, ‘We want to have the right groups involved so everyone can contribute.’ It’s been really rewarding to work with people in that mindset and build those relationships to become a go-to member of the team.”
In addition to serving as an all-around problem-solver for his colleagues, he’s helped the company bolster its acquisition efforts in closing multiple deals in 2023. He’s proud to see how much the company has grown over the past four years and is looking forward to finding opportunities to push the ball forward, he says.
“When I started, we were still building our M&A experience. We were really starting down that journey in an energized way. Four years later, we’ve been incredibly successful at it, I think. One of the things we learned is purchasing the company is one thing, but the integration process is another. We’re really taking a look at the integration models that work well and how we can improve those or create entirely new models,” Hassonjee explains.
Hassonjee was inspired to pursue a career in law after observing both his mother and grandfather practice it. While he always loved to argue both sides of an argument and to understand different perspectives, he was drawn to the kind of relationships his family members managed to cultivate in their respective careers.
“I was really interested in the way my mother and grandfather could help people in real and meaningful ways and create positive and lasting change in their clients’ lives,” he reflects.
After getting his undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and his law degree from Harvard Law School, he worked as an associate at Bingham McCutchen, and later at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius after it absorbed Bingham McCutchen, followed by Cooley LLP.
“It was always fascinating to see how your clients are able to create something new or take something that exists and build it into their business in a new way,” he says.
At Bain, Hassonjee and his peers are on a similar mission. In one recent example, they are on the forefront in thinking about how to leverage AI both internally and for clients. He believes the technology brings great opportunities while creating challenges.
“I think there’s a lot of advantages that come with AI, but as we’ve all seen, there’s some limitations. It’s important to find where those lines are,” Hassonjee emphasizes. “Everyone is so eager and excited to leverage this amazing new capability, but at the same time, being able to put the right guardrails around it is one of the big challenges we’ve been seeing now, and I think we’ll continue to see it.”
He adds: “Everyone wants to utilize this amazing new tool, and you want to make sure it’s safe to do that. It’s a balance we’re still figuring out but one that I think we’ll achieve.”