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Basil O'Connor Loves the Law and the Race Track

What do lawyering and race car driving share in common?

According to Basil F. O’Connor ’75, “You have to be clear minded and focused” to succeed at either. Mr. O’Connor is something of an expert on the subject since he has been succeeding at both for most of his adult life.

The car racing came first.

“I’ve always been car crazy,” Mr. O’Connor recalled. “My mom says that when I was still in a walker, I was driving down the driveway. I just liked going fast.”

As a boy growing up in Maine and New Jersey, Mr. O’Connor participated in soap box derbies and later raced go carts. He also raced during a stint in the Army. It was while he was in the service that Mr. O’Connor discovered his other great passion in life – the law.

While serving in Germany, he was assigned as trial counsel (prosecutor) for a special court martial.

“I really enjoyed it,” Mr. O’Connor said, “and that got me interested in going to law school.”

One professor Mr. O’Connor remembered well from his days as a student was Professor Emeritus Joseph H. Koffler, who taught at New York Law School for more than half a century.

“He was a tough cookie,” Mr. O’Connor said, “and I had been up against some tough cookies in the service. Professor Koffler wanted us to take a position and stick to it and I appreciated that. He really taught student show to think on their feet.”

Initially, Mr. O’Connor thought he wanted to be a criminal defense attorney, but found he didn’t really enjoy that practice area. Another New York Law School professor proved to be very helpful.

“I was at the Law School and I ran into Professor Joe Arenson and told him what I was doing and how I felt and he said I should consider estates because I had done very well in his class,” Mr. O’Connor said.

Mr. O’Connor then went to work for the IRS as an estate tax attorney. Today he is a partner with Schenck, Price, Smith & King LLP in the Tax and Trust and Estate Department.

“I kept coming back to New York Law School,” Mr. O’Connor said. “I still do. It’s a great place. They cared about the students then and they still do, which is not something you necessarily expect from a law school. I loved law school. It was high tension the first semester, but after that, I really enjoyed it.”

Mr. O’Connor also enjoys his work as an estate attorney.

“You really become like a family lawyer,” he said.

Today, Mr. O’Connor combines his law career and his passion for fast cars. In addition to racing, he also officiates at races and instructs new drivers. He owns several race cars and has no intention of slowing down.

“The real thrill is when you have to make a turn at 70 to 80 miles an hour,” he said. “That’s where the challenge is.”