When did Sean first exhibit a proclivity towards guiding others’ life choices? Growing up, Burke attended 4 elementary, 2 junior high, and 4 high schools. A self-proclaimed nerd, he developed a habit of taking other outcasts under his wing and giving them life advice—little things, like, “You know, you should change your hairstyle,” or “Damn, man, those pants.” Records of his success rate during this period have unfortunately proven difficult to access.
Weird. Did he outgrow this youthful habit? Not really. Case in point: while attending USC’s Gould School of Law, Sean became an early TiVo adopter. He was so enthusiastic about the technology that he convinced USC’s Dean (Dean Bice!) to try it out as well, not just because it was, well, cool, but because he believed it would make the Dean’s life better. A year later, he received a letter from the Dean and his wife, thanking him for his advice and “passionate advocacy.” Whether it’s people or digital revolutions, Sean has always championed what he believed in most.
So Sean was a practicing lawyer? Yes he was. After graduating law school, Sean spent four years at a Northern California boutique, specializing in commercial litigation with a focus on IP. He left the firm, first to serve as VP of Business Development for a Los Angeles-based fashion company, then later as the General Counsel for an entertainment startup.
Why would he give up the law? That’s crazy. Maybe. Or maybe it was fate. The first time Burke met with a legal recruiter, the recruiter offered to hire him. He turned him down, because recruiting had been described to him as nothing but cold-calling and headhunting. Years later, in New York, Burke met with another recruiter, who explained to him that great recruiters weren’t dead-eyed sharks and that he’d personally become friends with many of his clients. Sean had an epiphany: if he transitioned, he wouldn’t be a headhunter, he’d be more like an agent. After all, what is a recruiter if not an agent for nerds?
He launched Whistler Partners to provide lawyers looking to take their next step the kind of support he wishes he’d had as a young attorney. Sean has an eye for intelligence and a visceral sense of cultural fit. Those qualities, and his admitted romantic streak, have produced one very simple philosophy: don’t be a headhunter, be a matchmaker.
Favorite Place to Travel: Buenos Aires. It wants to be Italy but is more like a haunted ghost town yearning for a glorious past it never had.
Favorite Historical Moment: Anything reflecting a particularly bizarre zeitgeist. After the Bolshevik revolution, for instance, Trotsky arrived via train to negotiate peace with Germany and when the Secretary of State came to greet him at the station, he was distributing “THE REVOLUTION IS COMING” flyers to all the German foot soldiers.