Paul Aguggia made an "agonizing decision" to quit practicing law after 25 years to join Clifton Savings Bancorp (CSBK).

Aguggia, 50, will resign as chairman of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, a large law firm based in Atlanta, to take the helm at Clifton, a mutual holding company in New Jersey. He will join the $1 billion-asset mutual on Jan. 1.

(To see more posts on American Banker's People blog, click here.)

"I love the law firm," Aguggia says. "But I have been given a new opportunity to run a public company that I have a ton of respect for. So I took a chance to do something different."

The offer from Clifton was sudden and unexpected, Aguggia says. He will succeed John Celentano as chairman and chief executive and Walter Celuch as president. Celentano and Celuch are retiring.

"This wasn't part of a long-term plan," Aguggia says. "I wasn't looking for a job."

The succession will take place as Clifton nears a crossroads. It is eyeing a second-step conversion that could bring in substantial capital. Aguggia has been the company's primary legal counsel as management has prepared for a conversion.

"I bring a level of expertise representing companies to go public," Aguggia says. "So it is a good fit from that perspective."

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.