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Alumni Breakfast Series for Students - In-House Counsel

The Office of Development and Alumni Relations inaugurated its new Alumni Breakfast Series for Students with a discussion about in-house counsel, featuring guest speakers Lino A. Solis ’96 and Tim O’Neal Lorah ’96.

“The Alumni Breakfast Series and the new Tea on Tuesday Series are both designed to provide opportunities for students to meet and speak with alumni in a smaller, more intimate setting,” Suzanne Davidson, Associate Dean and Vice President, explained.

Although Mr. Solis and Mr. Lorah are both in-house counsels, their jobs are completely different. Mr. Solis is Vice President and General Counsel at Thor Equities, a leasing developer, owner, and manager of commercial properties across the country. Mr. Solis is responsible for all legal issues related to the day-to-day function of the company, including the management of inside and outside counsel. Mr. Lorah is an Executive Director and the Global Head of Morgan Stanley’s Anti Money Laundering (AML) Compliance Group, where he oversees the development and implementation of the firm’s global AML Program.

Although their daily responsibilities differ greatly, both Mr. Solis and Mr. Lorah agreed about the key to a good career.

“Do something that you enjoy, and I guarantee you that you’ll find your place,” Mr. Solis remarked.

Mr. Lorah urged the students not to “foreclose an opportunity.” He added that he never thought when he was in law school that he would do what he does for a living.

"Your life will offer you a number of choices,” Mr. Lorah noted. “The challenge is to find what makes you happy.”

Mr. Solis said he began his legal career with a firm.

“I looked at it as a training ground,” he explained. “I always had an interest in real estate law.”

While in law school, Mr. Solis managed properties owned by his wife’s family. He had several jobs before joining Thor Equities, and explained that he looked at each place as a client for whom he was ready to provide “a legal service to the best of my ability.”

Thor Equities in New York is involved in a number of very large projects, including the redevelopment of Coney Island. Mr. Solis said his firm hoped to turn Coney Island into a year-round attraction. The redevelopment will keep the rides that exist now, but will build new hotels and more entertainment attractions. Mr. Solis manages a staff of ten in-house lawyers and around 15 attorneys in locations around the country. He also interacts frequently with politicians in the cities in which Thor is active, because Thor’s mission is to work with the people who live in the community where Thor owns property, to develop the neighborhood in a positive and lasting way.

“It’s hard to put what I do in a box,” he noted.

Mr. Solis added that the people at Thor have a genuine passion for their profession.

“We really believe in what we’re doing,” he said. “We’re not just there for the buck.”

“Our jobs could not be more different,” Mr. Lorah remarked. In addition to supervising 40 attorneys in New York, Mr. Lorah also works with other lawyers who report to him from sites around the world.

Mr. Lorah initially wanted to be a litigator. After clerking with a judge on the Court of Appeals for two years, he joined the firm of Schulte Roth and Zabel and did trial work and discovery.

“I hated it,” he remembered. Fortunately, he was approached by a lawyer at the firm who asked him to join her new practice group, which focused on regulatory enforcement litigation and advising financial institutions on matters relating to Bank Secrecy Act/USA Patriot Act compliance. Originally, Mr. Lorah went to Morgan Stanley on loan from his firm for a few months. He then was asked to join Morgan Stanley permanently.

On a daily basis, Mr. Lorah’s group does “everything you could pretty much imagine within the law” to uncover money laundering activities.

Mr. Lorah explained that his group works with many government agencies, all of which have different reporting requirements. The Patriot Act, he explained, “criminalizes willful blindness” and incorporates numerous complicated regulations.

“The problem of money laundering and terrorism is a very diverse problem,”

Mr. Lorah explained. He said his practice was quite challenging because of the need to balance customer privacy while protecting the markets.

Mr. Solis said his job also was a balancing act.

Real estate development is “tough because you have to balance the need of the community and the overall objective of the developer,” he remarked. “You need to assess the pulse of the community.”

Several students asked both alumni for advice about getting jobs.

Mr. Lorah said he thought large companies generally didn’t like to hire people right out of law school. You don’t need ten years of experience, he explained to the students, but three to four years is preferable.

Mr. Solis urged the students to take advantage of the services, such as mentoring, that New York Law School offers through the Career Services and Alumni offices. He added that the Law School’s Academic Centers, such as the Center for Real Estate Studies currently in formation, can help students develop skills. Internships also are very useful. For example, a student from New York Law School worked in Mr. Solis’ office for free one day a week last year just to learn the business.When the student graduated, Thor hired her. Mr. Solis said that he does hire people right out of law school. Currently four 2006 graduates work in his office. Three of them are from New York Law School.

“You are in an incredible place at an incredible time,” Mr. Solis remarked. He added that New York Law School is “unbelievable in terms of where it is and where it’s going.”

“I see it as an incredible place to train lawyers,” he said.

Mr. Lorah has two attorneys in his group who are New York Law School alumni.

Both men agreed that they appreciate diversity in a job candidate, but also look for a logical progression. Both also concurred that many people in very diversified areas need the skills the students will gain from law school.