For decades, Larry Lederman, 77, was one of the busiest corporate and mergers and acquisitions lawyers in the country, shaping major developments in corporate law such as "leveraged recapitalization" technique. He was chairman of the global corporate practice at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy for 14 years and a partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz for 17 years before that. The Brooklyn College and New York University School of Law graduate wrote a book about his experiences, "Tombstones: A Lawyer's Tales From the Takeover Decades" (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, March 1992).
These days, however, his passions have led him far from corporate boardrooms. Now of counsel at Milbank, Lederman has become an accomplished landscape photographer and spends much of his time at the Bronx Botanical Garden, where he is a member of the board of advisers. His photographs are the centerpiece of the just-published "Magnificent Trees of the New York Botanical Garden (Monacelli/New York Botanical Garden, $50).
A National Historic Landmark, the Garden's 250 acres is home to 30,000 trees. Lederman has returned to the Garden again and again to allow the trees to pose for his camera. According to a Dec. 2 review in the New York Times Book Review, Lederman "has teased out the shyer sorts, celebrated the big shots and altogether captured their charm, sass and elegance."
Q: What was your legal practice like? Did you have time for other activities?
A: I did mergers and proxy fights and change-of-control transactions. It was very adversarial and demanding, requiring much weekend work. I had little time for other activities. Even as I became very senior, the work was very hands on and demanded individual attention.
All that being said, I took time to write the book "Tombstones," and I continued to write for a number of years. The benefit of writing was that I could do it early in the morning and late at night. "Tombstones" took four years to write. I was never afraid to take on long-term projects. Indeed, I liked them since most of my work was of short-term duration, a few months, possibly a year in some cases.
Q: Why did you take up photography?
A: I took up photography in about 2000, at least five or six years before I cut back my work at the firm. It was more difficult to do than writing because it required daylight, which meant photographing on the weekend, mainly early in the morning at first light. It was not until the end of 2008 that I extracted myself from daily practice.
Q: How much of your time do you devote to photography now?
A: I continue to teach law, at New York Law for the past six years or so and before that at the New York University School of Law for 25 years. I am also on the panel of neutrals for the American Arbitration Association and take complex commercial transactions. The rest of my time is devoted to photography, which is now a full-time job. I am working on two books and have two exhibits of my work currently running and have schedules for exhibits through 2015.