Kristy Wagner

Be persistent and always keep an open mind. Allow yourself to revel in your successes, no matter how inconsequential.


Kristy Wagner is a transactional attorney with more than a decade of experience structuring, drafting and negotiating mergers and acquisitions, debt and equity financings and other commercial transactions. Ms. Wagner represents a wide range of clients across a variety of industries and has led transactions valued in excess of $2 Billion USD. Ms. Wagner advises clients on US and international finance, project finance, syndicated bank lending, institutional lending, notes issuances, tax equity transactions, private equity transactions and mergers and acquisitions. Ms. Wagner’s skills include complex multi-jurisdictional financings, lease finance, and structured finance. Ms. Wagner has represented clients in a variety of industries including: energy, entertainment, mass media, financial services, healthcare, construction, manufacturing, transport and water. Ms. Wagner is a graduate of Bucknell University’s Class of 2001 and Boston College Law School’s Class of 2004. After graduating from Boston College Law School, Ms. Wagner worked for, and progressed within, several international law firms and was elected partner in late 2014. Ms. Wagner was named “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers in 2014, and in late 2015, Ms. Wagner was named one of “The Top Women Attorneys in New York”. Thereafter, Ms. Wagner formed her solo law practice, which is based out of New York.

Where did the idea for your company come from?

Law firm names are not traditionally known for being creative. The name of my practice, The Law Office of Kristy Wagner, enables clients to easily locate my contact information and website.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

A typical day consists of two distinct segments. I start my day by brain-storming – usually during the morning hours when I am most creative. I think about novel ways of resolving contract negotiations or I consider ways in which I might be able to assist a potential client based on recent discussions. The second portion of my day is all about time management and executing the tasks on my list.

How do you bring ideas to life?

While it sounds counterintuitive, the key to bringing ideas to life is procrastinating as long as practicable before putting pen to paper and forgiving oneself when tasks take longer than anticipated. I often force myself to create mental game-plans before I start writing and before client meetings.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The concept of self-investment has always been important and exciting to me. We are all so busy and it is all too easy to skimp on this aspect of our professional lives. I continuously keep myself engaged and knowledgeable by reading and studying about important topics as well as by attending courses that will increase my bandwidth. I challenge myself with specialized courses that have relevance to my areas of practice. Several months ago, I completed a course on an online platform that was quite rigorous and even had tests at the end of each subject, as well as mandatory pass rates. It was quite a challenging experience and I am already planning for another course on the same platform. I have found that there are too many online resources not to always be engaging in cutting edge learning opportunities. Otherwise, we do ourselves and our clients a disservice.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I treat clients – corporate clients and individuals – as an extension of myself. I make myself available by phone and email at all hours of the day and I work hard to protect clients from existing and prospective legal issues. If I am successful, by the end of a particular representation, I will not only have provided comprehensive legal advice but also positively impacted the client’s business practices in some way.

What advice would you give your younger self?

It is important to trust your instincts. If a situation does not feel right, do not lose time or spin your wheels because it may not be worth your efforts. This goes for clients as well – if a first look at a potential transaction raises more seemingly unanswerable questions than potential benefits, proceed with caution, if at all. And do not be afraid to say “thank you for the opportunity to ask questions but we have decided to pass on this particular transaction”.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Agreeing to disagree is overrated. Unaddressed issues never decrease in magnitude and issues that are not promptly addressed during negotiations only cause parties to dig in and take unnecessarily firm positions. While it makes sense to address issues head-on when and as they occur, a counterparty’s repeated unwillingness to move from its initial position is a red flag. When this repeatedly happens during negotiations, parties should realistically assess the likelihood of future progress. I have always been of the mindset that there is room for all parties to a negotiation to be satisfied with the result. In my experience, if that does not happen, it is a sign of a serious issue.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Be persistent and always keep an open mind. Allow yourself to revel in your successes, no matter how inconsequential.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Client loyalty has been very important and rewarding to me and my practice. Early on, I learned that during each representation, I should endeavor to make myself indispensable to the client. I should not look for reasons why a client should not engage in a particular transaction but instead should provide unique insight as to how that client can lawfully accomplish its transactional goals while mitigating its potential risks. I was very fortunate to have a mentor who took me to meetings and business pitches during my first year of practice – he encouraged me to play functional roles during those meetings and pitches. And, it was quite exciting to get business origination credit during my first year of law firm practice! Since then, I have continued to remind myself of the ways in which I can continue to be indispensable to clients. I know I am on the right track when a client expresses that a particular transaction would not have closed without my counsel and efforts.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I regret not reading some of the books that have been written on the topic of starting a law firm before jumping in. Had I read Carolyn Elefant’s “Solo By Choice” before doing so, I would have saved myself unnecessary frustration.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Be charitable with your time. Whatever your industry, set aside time and resources for charitable endeavors. Pursue and undertake charitable matters as if they were revenue-generating. While I initially found it challenging to locate transactional legal matters on which to donate my time, I have come to appreciate the increasing number of establishments that make pro bono legal services available to the public, the likes of which include the Legal Aid Society, Pro Bono Partners and the American Bar Association. I have found pro bono engagements to be among the most rewarding endeavors.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I would have to say joining a local bar association was the best $100 I have spent in some time. There are countless benefits to doing so including broadening one’s legal knowledge and deepening one’s contacts, personal and professional. Most bar associations host a variety of informative lectures and programs. It is also enjoyable getting to know fellow bar association members.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

I am currently testing software that will hopefully enable me to categorize and catalog variations on contract terms. I am cataloging terms as I come across them while drafting, negotiating and reviewing contracts on clients’ behalves so that I do not “reinvent the wheel”, so to speak.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I am currently reading Warren Buffett’s book entitled “The Snowball” and am very much enjoying it!

What is your favorite quote?

“Each man is an island unto himself. But though a sea of difference may divide us, an entire world of commonality lies beneath” By James Rozoff

Key Learnings:

  • By separating brainstorming activities from the actual execution of tasks, you enable yourself to creatively develop ideas. Give yourself time to create a mental game-plan before putting pen to paper. And be forgiving if tasks take longer than originally anticipated.
  • Treat your clients as an extension of yourself. Make yourself readily available by phone and email and allow yourself not only to focus on individual matters but also on helping the client improve upon its business practices.
  • Trust your instincts and do not put off issue resolution during due diligence or while drafting and negotiating transaction documents. If a counterparty repeatedly fails to move from its initial position, parties should realistically assess the likelihood of future progress.
  • Be persistent and always keep an open mind. Allow yourself to revel in your successes, no matter how inconsequential.