Visiting Professor Lesley Rosenthal, Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York, returns to Miami Law for her second year teaching her one-week course titled "The Role of In-House Counsel at a Nonprofit," from Feb. 17-22. At Lincoln Center, Rosenthal counsels and supports a 75-member board. She is the author of the bestselling book Good Counsel: Meeting the Legal Needs of Nonprofits).
In response to a request from Emily Horowitz, a Post-Graduate Student Service Fellow at Miami Law, Rosenthal provided answers to the following questions:
1. What should this year's students expect from your class?
“Similar to last year, we do hard-core drafting: we decode a joint-venture agreement, we create an intern program that complies with law, we correct an illegal sweepstakes entry, we draft a cease-and-desist letter, and more. We'll also role-play a wide variety of circumstances that can face a nonprofit's general counsel at any time: a negotiation of a complex digital media deal, a sticky employment law situation, a demanding donor, an ailing founder who doesn't want to let go of her leadership of the charity she founded, a political law quagmire, a conflict of interest, and more. Through these hands-on, interactive activities, the students will gain insight into the demands and rewards of the job. They'll get a healthy dose not only of the legal skills required to serve with excellence as part of a management team, but also of the diplomatic skills, the legal educator role, a certain amount of "managing upward" to the CEO and the board chair that comes along with the lawyer's professional duty to render independent legal advice. On the last day, I will challenge the students to envision themselves as candidates for the general counsel job of a major nonprofit seven or so years after graduating, and then get up on their feet and convince me they're the one for the job.”
2. Why did you choose to return to Miami Law and teach this course again in 2014?
“I was so energized by the students' enjoyment of the course last year - even though they worked hard, they genuinely appreciated the practical perspectives and skill building. Even though it's just a one-credit, one-week course, I aim to provide lifelong learning and inspiration about how they can build and use skills such as drafting, negotiation and principles of good management and governance to serve nonprofits they care about throughout their careers. I found Miami Law students to be super-smart, engaged, welcoming and well prepared. They rose to the occasion of the nightly hands-on writing assignments and daily team negotiations, presentations and active discussions. I've been looking forward to returning all year!”
3. How do you know the course is working?
“Last winter I introduced my students to my friends in the Arsht Center's leadership, and two of them landed summer legal internships! Others launched or further developed nonprofits, or brought their insights into for-profit business settings. I'm looking forward to seeing more of my students' endeavors take off in the future.”
4. What new experiences or perspectives are you bringing to Miami Law since last year?
“When my book Good Counsel first came out, I met with law students just about everywhere – L.A., Chicago, Penn, Columbia, Syracuse and more – about being in-house counsel at a nonprofit organization, and I saw there's a real hunger for information about this rewarding career track. Since then, I have launched and taught short courses at Georgetown and Harvard Law based on this material. I hope the book and these courses will catalyze America's law schools to make this kind of learning into a permanent feature of the curriculum. Miami was the first!”
5. What have you been doing over the past year?
“In 2013 my husband the jazz pianist Ted Rosenthal and I traveled for business and pleasure to France, China and Japan. As of January 2014, Lincoln Center has a new President, Jed Bernstein. I'm looking forward to working with him and to expanding my role and professional skills under his leadership. I've also been elected Vice President of the New York Bar Foundation and nominated to the Harvard Board of Overseers, so I'm deepening my own charitable engagements. At home, I helped my older son apply for college this winter and saw firsthand how much more is being expected from students now than when I was applying to school in the 1980s.”
6. Your course is oversubscribed, will other students have a chance to hear you talk about serving nonprofits' legal needs?
“I'm giving a book talk at Books & Books in Coral Gables on Monday evening, Feb. 17th- I'd love to meet UM community members there. To paraphrase Gloria Gaynor, I will inscribe!”