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Spotlight on Evening: January 5, 2006

More than 50 students, alumni and faculty participated in New York Law School’s first Spotlight of 2006 – Spotlight on Evening Division – in the Wellington Dining Room on Thursday, January 5. The Spotlight series offers students a chance to share a lunch or dinner while hearing alumni and other guest speakers address a variety of topics. The next two events in the series are Live from LA/Spotlight on Entertainment on January 19 from 12:30 to 2 p.m. and Spotlight on Entrepreneurs on February 15 from 12:30 to 2 p.m.

Spotlight on Evening Division presented three speakers – Sam Metzger, Stewart Pinkerton and Edward D. Ricchiuto – who represented very different career paths. The speakers did agree on several key points: (1) going to law school at night is really difficult; (2) careers today involve many job changes; and (3) a legal education is a tremendous asset whether a person goes into practice or business.

Sam Metzger, a director of eStudentBiz, spoke on behalf of his partner, Richard LaMotta ’75, who is recovering from surgery. Mr. LaMotta is perhaps best known for inventing the Chipwich ice-cream sandwich in 1981. Their current business, eStudentBiz, employs a network of high school and college students to promote new products. Mr. Metzger is a graduate of the College of William and Mary and holds an LL.B. from the New York University School of Law.

“I really have a feeling for the students here who go to school at night and work because that’s what I did,” Mr. Metzger said.

Mr. Metzger noted that Mr. LaMotta also worked (as a video engineer) while he went to New York Law School. In remarks read by Mr. Metzger, Mr. LaMotta said, “A law degree opens many avenues. It bestows credibility and professionalism.”

Mr. Metzger offered the students three pieces of advice. After observing that his partnership with La Motta has lasted more than a quarter of a century while an earlier partnership with his own brother lasted only eight years, Mr. Metzger told the student not to partner with a relative, close friend or a person like oneself. “Find a partner with different skills and interests,” he said.

Mr. Metzger also advised the students to “take the time to dream your dreams and then put them into action.” Mr. Metzger recounted the story of Steve Ross, a friend of his, who began his career in his family’s funeral parlor business, expanded into parking lots, eventually purchased Warner Brothers and finally engineered the creation of Time Warner. Steve Ross succeeded, Mr. Metzger said, because he allowed himself the time to have a vision of his future. “Look for people who are dreamers,” Metzger advised.

Stewart Pinkerton ’82, the evening’s second speaker, is Deputy Managing Editor of Forbes magazine.

Mr. Pinkerton said his first job after college was as a proofreader at the Wall Street Journal. Mr. Pinkerton ended up spending 24 years at the Journal and went to law school about halfway through.

“I was inspired to go to law school by some of the people I met as a journalist,” he said. “I got hooked on the mental gymnastics of law and I felt that combining the media and the law was the right thing to do in my career.”

His legal training, Mr. Pinkerton said, made him a better journalist. Going to law school at night was difficult, Mr. Pinkerton said, but “the evening program here enriched my career and made it more rewarding for me. My only regret is that I did not go to law school earlier.”

Mr. Pinkerton told the students that “media law is changing almost daily.” The proliferation of Web sites and blogs has led to “legal pitfalls all over the place,“ Mr. Pinkerton said, including the fact that the use of electronic media allows plaintiffs to shop for favorable jurisdictions.

The final speaker of the evening, Edward D. Ricchiuto ’84, began by noting that “I guess I am the token lawyer here.” Mr. Ricchiuto, a partner in the New York office of Sidley Austin LLP, is primarily involved in overseeing the firm’s liability management practice. He is a specialist in corporate debt restructurings involving issuer buy-backs of outstanding debt securities.

Mr. Ricchiuto agreed that working and going to law school at night was challenging. He also echoed the other speakers’ observations that law careers today are varied and that the reality of the new market is that people change jobs often. “The right job right out of law school is not the be-all and end-all it once was because of the mobility of lawyers now,” he said.

Mr. Ricchiuto said his own career had involved “lots of moves and jumps.”

“Even within a specific area of practice, one reinvents oneself every few years,” he said.

Practicing law, Mr. Ricchiuto observed, “is a dynamic experience. Part of being a successful lawyer and a happy lawyer is seeing the clues that are going to present themselves. People look at the practice of law as one thing, but it really isn’t.”

The students attending the Spotlight said they felt encouraged by the speakers and enjoyed listening to them.

“I like it that the speakers were all very different, very diverse,” Nicole Planell 2LE, said.

“Last year a lot of the speakers talked about how you could turn your day job into a law job,” Victoria Loughery 2LE said, “so this was very different.”

"I enjoyed hearing about the different options,” Kimberly Savage 2LE said. “It’s great for me because I don’t like my day job.”

“It was nice to hear people from different areas,” Douglas Clark 2LE commented. “There was a broader array of speakers and I thought it was especially interesting to hear from someone (Sam Metzger) who was not an alumnus.”