By Charles Ronan
What the Business Law Society (BLS) has been able to accomplish in less than a year is impressive. This is not to say that there is not amazing work going on in all the USD student organizations, but when Phillip McGill, J.P. O’Hanlon, and Henry Ciocca set about revitalizing the defunct BLS last year, it seemed like an uphill battle. However, with a highly ranked MBA program on campus, a respected and nationally ranked LLM in Taxation Program, and a concentration in Business and Corporate Law, it seems like the BLS would be a natural fit for University of San Diego School of Law. The fact that San Diego is an entrepreneurial market also lends itself to being an excellent breeding ground for lawyers focused on business.
When making important decisions about the structure of the BLS, both hard work and luck were involved. First, the BLS was able to enlist the help of the co-director of the Center for Corporate and Securities Law, Professor Partnoy, as one of the faculty advisors. If you are not familiar with Professor Partnoy, just Google his name, and you will quickly realize how lucky the school is to have him and what an asset he is to the BLS. Luck came into play when, after the BLS was already in progress, the new dean was announced. Dean Ferruolo came to the law school from Goodwin Procter LLP, where he focused on transactional work, with a special emphasis on corporate finance and governance and mergers and acquisitions. When Dean Ferruolo agreed to be the other faculty advisor, the BLS not only gained access to an experienced business attorney with a unique outlook, they also gained prominence due to the dean’s position in the school.
With the start of the new school year Phillip, JP, and Henry set out to put in place a functioning board. They made a number of positions available, so there would be more opportunities for students to be actively involved, and held elections. While the list of participants is much larger, the key positions are:
Phillip McGill – President Jamie Hylland – Vice President
Henry Ciocca – Treasurer J.P. O’Hanlon – Of Counsel
Alexander Gershen – SBA Rep Kathleen Donahue – Secretary
The BLS functions are based on a stated mission to facilitate open dialogue in various areas of business and transactional law, provide a forum for students to network both within the USD community and the surrounding legal community, educate interested students in specialized issues of business law, and to positively impact the community through philanthropic ventures and service projects. To accomplish this the BLS is going to host speaker events, workshops, networking events, and mixers. The BLS will also sponsor teams for business law competitions, and put on philanthropic events.
One thing the BLS would have to do to stay viable was to build a strong membership base and hold interesting events. For this year, J.P., Henry, and Phillip really wanted to kick things off and build interest in BLS. The first event was the November 3 event “Business Law: Transactions or Litigation,” which was a huge success. Moderated by Dean Ferruolo, and featuring panel speakers Professor Stiska and Professor McCloskey (who teach Securities Regulation together), the panel provided the BLS members with valuable insight into careers in both business litigation and transactional work. No punches were pulled, and the discussion was interesting and animated. WH 131, where the event was held, was overflowing, so next time the BLS will have to upgrade to the larger LRC 132. Even the lunch was excellent- no pizza.
As the semester comes to a close, Phillip and the rest of the board are hard at work mapping out events for the Spring Semester. These include a Resume and Personal Statement workshop, Interviewing Workshop, the year’s main philanthropy event, and several topical speaker events on different practice areas within transactional law.
Phillip put it this way, “Our plans for BLS are twofold and focused on internal and external environments. By internal environment, I mean within the USD community. Our main goal within USD is to build relationships among students, between students and professors, and to connect with students in the MBA program. By external environment, we’re looking to boost USD’s presence in business law both regionally and nationally. On the regional level, we’re reaching out to alumni and professionals, law firms, and businesses. For example, we’ll be taking a group of our members to visit Sony’s local office and meet with the general counsel. On the national level, we’re sponsoring a team that will compete in a national “Transactional Moot Court” event hosted in Pennsylvania, with a Regional Meet in Los Angeles.”
“What we’d like to do is facilitate an environment for students receive practical advice and make connections. We understand that, ultimately, helping our members learn about law, choosing a career path, making themselves marketable, and getting a job should be our main goals. Hopefully through our events and activities we’ll make this happen,” he added.
When asked why he was involved with the BLS, Professor Partnoy said “It is great to have something like this for students interested in business law. I try to support it in any way I can, but to get something like this off the ground it has to be driven by the hard work of someone like Phil.” Dean Ferruolo said that he expects nothing less than for the BLS to “fix the economy.” It was hard to tell if his smile revealed that there was some humor behind this idea or if he is just confident in the possibility that BLS will pull it off.
To find out more about what is coming up with the BLS friend the club on Facebook (of course), connect on Linkedin, or visit the website at http://www.usdbls.com. There are also plans to have an online Business Law Journal where you can find interesting articles or even submit your own. The BLS is working hard to be an important part of the USD Law landscape, and you owe it to yourself to stop by one of its events to see what is happening.