By William Glaberson
The New York Times
February 6, 1989
New York, they say, is just a collection of small towns. But that doesn’t only mean places like Bensonhurst and Little Italy. It refers to all the worlds that meet in the city that is the capital of so many Americas.
On the fifth floor of the federal courthouse in Manhattan last week, the connections that tie together one of the cities’ most powerful groups, the legal fraternity, were evident in the person of a small, carefully turned-out woman named Wendeen H. Eolis.
There in the courthouse within hours of each other, were two people whose friendships could mean healthy profits for her. In the afternoon, her friend Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former United States Attorney, would be at a reception for his interim successor, Benito Romano.
Across the marble hall that morning was another Eolis friend, James T. Sherwin, Vice Chairman of the GAF Corporation. He was in courtroom 506 where he is fighting criminal charges of stock manipulation brought against him and his company by the very same Rudolph W. Giuliani.
Early in the day, Ms. Eolis sipped coffee in the court’s cafeteria, and talked discreetly about her two friends. She discussed the turn of events that had pulled her into the celebrated case in which one friend was a defendant, and another his chief accuser who was at the same time conferring quietly with her.
“It’s a fluke,” she said, “that two people I regard as friends should be brought together in this way. But in the small town of New York’s big-time bar she seems to know everybody. She is a legal headhunter, placing blue-chip lawyers with firms or companies for fees that can be as much as 30% of a $1 million dollar salary. As a long time friend of Mr. Giuliani’s, she has been talking with him for a year about his opportunities in private practice. If he happens to select a firm she found, she acknowledged, she might make a large fee.
She is also a consultant for big law firms and Fortune 500 companies. In that capacity, she said, she was hired to help GAF and Mr. Sherwin, a friend and client for more than 20 years, assemble a legal defense team to fight Mr. Giuliani’s charges. She is still working for the company, she said.
The woman who would be every barrister’s broker more or less invented herself. Now 44 years old, she started her business, she says, in 1967 with an investment of $1800. Although her mother was a lawyer and her father was a New York state tax official, she had no interest in law school.
So she hung up a different kind of shingle as one of the early placement specialists in the legal profession. Then, with a little opportunity and a lot of hustle, one thing led to another. Now, she has a worldwide network of contacts that can help law firms with problems all over the globe.
Quickly, she said, she realized that she did not want to be just a headhunter, but a consultant on the management of firms, helping them merge with others. As she moved around behind the scenes, she gathered information and relationships. And she decided to market what she had.
It is a calling that requires patience and no embarrassment about going back to old friends for new favors. “I am in a business in which building relationships is what leads to the long term success of that business, she said, “and no single placement is critical in the big picture. For the moment, in Wendeen Eolis’s big picture, Mr. Giuliani’s future is just one little corner of a busy canvas.