Kathleen Burke

Before law school I worked in investor and public relations, and had a great experience at a Cambridge high tech company based in what was then a somewhat seedy Kendall Square (my, how times have changed!). There, I worked closely with our outside law firm, Hale and Dorr (now WilmerHale), and was inspired to go to law school with the plan of working for them. I did just that, and spent many very busy years in their corporate law department, primarily doing securities work and M&A.

Though I loved the excitement and crazy pace of deals, I found the practice to be exhausting. At one point, I took a three-month leave of absence and travelled around southeast Asia with my brother, seeing the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, climbing the Great Wall of China and trekking through Thailand. I returned refreshed (for a while). During that time, I witnessed the Boston legal landscape evolve from being local to national, and then international.
After marriage, two kids and ten years at Hale and Dorr, it was time to leave the firm, for what I thought would be a more balanced lifestyle.

I became the first in-house lawyer at a client, MKS Instruments, Inc., for whom I had done several acquisitions. MKS makes equipment that controls and measures gases and light in complex manufacturing processes, such as semiconductor chip fabrication. In fact, almost every semiconductor chip produced in the world today is touched in some way by MKS equipment.

I was surprised to find that the pace of my in-house practice was not, in fact, much more relaxed than my law firm one. However, what I did find was that it was much more aligned to my interests than private practice. I really enjoy the business aspects of the role, the need for cross-functional collaboration, and the challenge of balancing risks to provide pragmatic advice. Over time, I was able to build the department, which now encompasses IP, global trade, securities, as well as transactional work.

I have been with MKS for 15 years, and currently serve as a member of the executive team, as senior vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary. I have overseen a dozen acquisitions, including the $1 billion acquisition of Newport Corporation in 2016, and the $1 billion acquisition of Electro-Scientific Industries, Inc. earlier this year. I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to ring the opening bell at Nasdaq twice.

I have been involved with the Association of Corporate Counsel since transitioning to in-house (with thanks to BC Law classmate Christopher Mirabile for introducing me to the organization). I have been on the Board of Directors of the Northeast Chapter of the organization for 10 years, and previously served as its president.

I live in Winchester, Mass. with my husband, Matt, my kids, Hannah, Quinn, and Riley, and our dog, Finnegan. If you are looking for me in the summer, I am most likely at the beach in Narragansett, R.I.

I have fond memories of BC Law and made lasting friendships. A favorite memory is directing, writing for, and performing in the Law Revue, especially impersonating Judy McMorrow in an ode to the Supreme Court justices. That experience translated directly into co-creating an annual associate-driven comedic parody show within the corporate department of Hale and Dorr (which ran for many years). I believe you can never underestimate the value of laughter. Even when things are really hectic, there is not a day that goes by that I don’t share a laugh with my team.

I have stayed in touch with Kathleen Waters, Audrey Louison and Mo McLoughlin. We have taken some great trips together (including the Kentucky Derby, Hamilton in Chicago, and hiking through bear-invested woods Jackson Hole). But it’s also great to just catch them for a quick dinner (and inevitably, drinks) whenever we are passing through each other’s cities for work. We are looking forward to reconnecting again at our BC Law reunion this fall and hope to see many of you there!

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