Roxy Bargoz used to joke that she was “the only happy lawyer in New York City” back in her days in structured finance and securitization at a white-shoe law firm. The work was intense and sometimes grueling but she loved it, in large part because of the people on her team.
Bargoz went on to work with that same group of people for a different firm—Katten Muchin Rosenman—in Chicago, and she planned to continue there for the long haul. But then came an opportunity that changed everything. Avant, a Chicago financial tech company, offered her a job the same year she was on track to make partner. That made her decision to leave her law firm job even tougher.
“It was a really hard decision to leave my firm, but I knew I would regret saying no to this opportunity five years down the road,” she says.
She joined Avant in 2015 as an associate general counsel, managing debt capital markets. She tossed out her business casual clothes, threw on a hoodie, and embraced start-up culture.
“I never really looked back,” says Bargoz, who was born in Romania and grew up in the Midwest. Her success has made her a strong believer in saying yes to big risks and new opportunities. Now Avant’s executive vice president and general counsel, Bargoz prioritizes creating both an open, transparent and a casual, fun workplace where people work hard but also don’t take themselves too seriously.
While law was always the path Bargoz had in the back of her mind for herself, she also grew up with an aptitude for writing. During college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she initially focused her studies on journalism and creative writing, but quickly shifted gears to major in business.
“I had an interest in how the world worked from a business perspective,” she says. She figured that field also lent itself better to a career practicing corporate law. As a child of immigrants, Bargoz jokingly says her parents always told her she only had two options for her career—law or medicine. She never did like the sight of blood, so she went the other route and graduated from law school at Georgetown University in 2006. That’s also where she met her husband, who was from New York City and convinced her to give living there a try. She wound up in the world of structured finance not long before the 2008 financial crisis hit.
“I didn’t know what I was choosing, but I knew I wanted to work with this particular group of people,” she says. The timing also gave her the opportunity to learn how to navigate the industry during a downturn. When Bargoz and that same group of colleagues transitioned to working for the Chicago-based firm in 2010, she and her husband relocated there. Five years later, the chance came up to join fast-growing Avant, an online lending platform.
“You can change your little corner of the world. . . . It could just be simple, everyday acts that make work fun and interesting.”
Though her work has shifted, Bargoz’s people-centric approach has stayed with her at Avant, where she currently leads the legal team. She finds it just as important to communicate Avant’s grand visions and goals for the future with her team as it is to communicate why and how specific decisions are made.
“I think certainly the more insight you can have into the direction of the company and why we’re doing certain things in certain ways, the more you feel like an integral part of it. My hope is that everyone feels invested in the company’s future and success, rather than feeling caught in a tidal wave and just moving with the company based on certain unspoken decisions made at the top,” she says. In the spirit of communication, Bargoz also wants to launch a series of primers to educate employees on legal issues to give them a sharper edge when making business decisions.
To develop a culture at Avant where everyone feels invested, Bargoz says, a non-hierarchical structure is crucial. Once an employee gets in the door at Avant, their background becomes less relevant than their desire to take on new projects and problems, she says. That’s also one reason why many executives at the company are on the younger side.
“We do a really good job of hiring really smart, ambitious people who at the same time don’t take themselves too seriously but who rather realize we’re all in this for one goal: to grow our company,” she says.
“I knew I would regret saying no to this opportunity five years down the road.”
That practice in hiring also lends itself to a casual, laid-back workplace. “You’ve got to keep it fun,” she says. “The people on my team and my other colleagues at the company love to poke fun at me. I really try to play into it because, again, it sets the stage for a playful, lighthearted atmosphere.”
Working at a start-up is a key reason Bargoz has been able to focus on creating a fun workplace while still making an impact for team members. Much of her mind-set comes down to the belief that you can effect big change with small actions.
“When I think about helping people have a better day-to-day work life and the ways I could do it—you don’t have to change the world. You can change your little corner of the world,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be these grand things, it could just be simple, everyday acts that make work fun and interesting.”
Buckley LLP congratulates Roxy Bargoz for this well-deserved recognition. “We are proud to partner with her and her team at Avant. With offices in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, and London, we offer premier enforcement, litigation, compliance, regulatory, and transactional services to financial services institutions and early stage and leading fintech and technology companies.”
Katten’s industry-leading Structured Finance and Securitization practice is a cohesive team offering clients insights formed from decades of bringing together a broad diversity of training and transaction experience to assist with wide-ranging needs. We proudly salute our former colleague Roxy Bargoz and her team at Avant. Learn more about us here.