Business Boot Camp Offers Lessons for Lawyers and Entrepreneurs Alike


Brooklyn Law School held its annual Business Boot Camp in collaboration with Deloitte Financial Advisory Services and John P. Oswald ’84, president and CEO of the Capital Trust Group and a member of the Law School’s board of trustees. Now in its fifth year, the four-day “mini MBA” winter session course, led by Professor Michael Gerber, brought together industry experts, alumni, and students to discuss business issues often faced by lawyers and their clients.

Business Boot Camp offers students intensive instruction in developing a business plan, reading financial statements, valuing assets, raising capital to create and run a company, and meeting business goals. Presentations and panels focused on everything from cybersecurity to how to buy and sell a business, culminating on Thursday with a Q&A session with Susan Posen ’78, chair of The House of Z, the fashion house founded by her son designer Zac Posen, and Dean Nick Allard. Posen was formerly a partner at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan and spent several years as assistant general counsel at Cablevision. She also ran a short-lived venture capital firm focused on women-owned businesses called Diva Capital that was stymied by the NASDAQ crash of 2001. Posen shared with Boot Camp students how she leveraged all of that experience into her successful career.

“My philosophy has always been, don’t regret anything. You can learn from every experience,” she said. “My experience with Diva Capital taught me so much about entrepreneurship, and what you don’t do.”

Posen used those lessons to help her son avoid pitfalls as his company was launching. She also made the unconventional request that companies looking to buy House of Z designs pay for their purchases up front. Stores balked at first, Posen said, but they wanted the Zac Posen designs in their stores enough to agree to those terms. The upfront payments helped keep the company afloat during its first few years.

Earlier in the week, Oswald held a Q&A with Fred Curry ’03, practice leader of anti-money laundering and economic sanctions at Deloitte. Curry, who was profiled in the fall 2016 issue of Brooklyn Law Notes, spoke about the benefits of having both an MBA and a JD and encouraged students to take personal responsibility for their continued education and careers after law school.

“Leaders are self-made,” Curry said.

A panel on advising new businesses and ventures led by John Rudikoff ’06, CEO and managing director of the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship (CUBE), included Greg Zamfotis ’07, founder of coffee chain Gregorys Coffee; David Porzio ’06, a venture capital investor; Louis Smookler ’02, general counsel of Insomnia Cookies; Kathleen Warner ’92, Vice President and Managing Director of the New York City Economic Development Corporation’s Center for Urban Innovation; and Neil Goldstein ’67, chairman of Robinson Brog Leinwand Greene Genovese & Gluck’s real estate department. Porzio encouraged entrepreneurs—and the lawyers representing them—to focus on design, product, and getting money in the door before worrying about intellectual property. Zamfotis cautioned against overleveraging and emphasized the breadth of opportunities for a lawyer with good business sense.

Professor Minor Myers led a panel on buying and selling businesses that included Oswald, Mitchell Littman ’83, founding partner of Littman Krooks; and Andrew Sturner ’90, an entrepreneur who most recently founded, an Airbnb-like company for sharing boats. Littman noted the importance of understanding why a client or entrepreneur wants to buy or sell a company, and Sturner shared that “acquisitions rarely work out exactly as expected.”