August 26, 2020 Member Spotlight

Member Spotlight: Alan M. Di Sciullo

By Alan M. Di Sciullo

Tell us a little bit about your career.

Last year, I retired as Director of Global Real Estate at Shearman & Sterling LLP in its New York office, where I was responsible for the firm’s real state and construction of its worldwide offices. It was a very exciting culmination of my career in law and real estate.

I graduated from Georgetown University with a B.A. in Government and Economics and Georgetown Law Center in 1977. I had the privilege of clerking for the Honorable John H. Sachs on the U.S. Tax Court and moved back to New Jersey where I started as a litigation associate with Shanley & Fisher (now Faegre Drinker) largely doing insurance defense work. In 1978, I had an opportunity to take a position with Paine Webber (now UBS), a Wall Street investment firm where I was hired as a real estate attorney. This position formed the basis for my career up until my retirement where I concentrated on commercial real estate for New York companies or law firms.

My longest tenure, about 25 years, was with Morgan Stanley where I handled their legal requirements for real estate, IT, and privacy.

I have been an Adjunct Professor at New York University for almost 30 years teaching graduate and undergraduate students in courses in Real Estate Law, Commercial Leasing, Land Use, and Negotiation. I continue to teach at NYU.

In 2003, I was elected a fellow of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers (ACREL) and have been recognized as a Super Lawyer along with an AV rating from Martindale.

Is it what you had planned when you started law school?

Not really. I had planned to do regulatory law and be involved in government. Unfortunately, I did not see any positions in that field when I graduated and, like many students today, had large school loans to pay, so I started private practice as a litigator. While I focused the largest part of my practice as a transactional and business lawyer, I felt the litigation experience was a very valuable experience in making sure my documents were clearly drafted and we worked our transactions to avoid the possibility of later litigation.

What has been the highlight of your career?

Apart from directing the Shearman & Sterling’s worldwide real estate office portfolio, and what I would describe as more a seminal event than a “highlight,” would be working with Morgan Stanley’s managers in recovering our firm after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. My office was on the 65th floor of 2 World Trade Center and I escaped the collapse of that building. Our teams started work that afternoon in helping to get the firm back on its feet, both in finding new space to house our 2500 employees who lost their offices and 1.5M sq. ft of office space that housed these employees. A silver lining of that attack was that it brought our firm together as individuals who did their work as of a sense of mission rather than merely a job. There were also examples in the real estate community who reached out to us to help us in finding space and in closing these deals. Many of us at Morgan Stanley also survived the 1993 bombing but the 9/11 attack was a truly horrific experience.

If you could go back to the beginning of your legal career, would you have done anything differently?

I was fortunate early in my legal career to have gotten into the field that matched my interests and skills for the rest of my career. It took some navigation since I was the first in my family to graduate college and law school, but I had some early mentors who gave me good advice in getting into commercial and corporate real estate.

What advice would you give to someone considering law school today?

Make sure that you really want to be a lawyer and be ready for all the demands and skills this profession requires. I teach many graduate students who have found their life career and now have come back to school to foster their career. I think many prospective law students may want to do this and work in the legal field a few years to determine if they want to make a lifetime career before going to law school. I remember a number of students when I was in law school who worked as paralegals and they seemed to be more focused than students who may have come right from college and looking for a profession rather than having chosen law itself.

What were the biggest changes you saw in the legal profession over the course of your career?

In a very good way, the adoption of technology into our practice giving us much more flexibility than we have now. When I first started, our lives were physically tied to the office since our materials and files were there. Fast forward to 2020, and we can work nationally, if not globally, from our homes with the technology that affords video and electronic communications to facilitate transactions. When I first started in real estate, we were on the road flying around the country meeting with landlords and seeing spaces; Now, we are able to meet and view space virtually. I could not have done a global practice otherwise. My team got its first dose of remote work during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 when none of us were able to get into our offices. I found, as a manager in that incident, that it could work well with dedicated professionals.

Someone might consider the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as being a challenge rather than a supplement to our legal practice but to paraphrase one panelist said at an ABA seminar last year on the “The Future of Legal Practice,” “AI can help but never replace us as lawyers; there will always be a need for someone who can empathize with a client and offer his or her advice based on that understanding and compassion.”

The emphasis on work/life balance and rise of women in the legal and other professions is certainly welcomed. I never regretted the time I spent coaching our two daughters in softball and soccer and as they have grown and are in their own professions, it is time that I cherished, even as a lawyer.

Being a husband and father of daughters, I appreciate the growth of women in the bar and in other professions as my wife and daughters have had successful careers and have been contributors to their fields. I appreciate the ABA’s commitment to diversity which our Real Property Trust & Estate (RPTE) Section had as a major mission.

When did you first become a member of the ABA and why did you decide to join?

I joined almost 40 years ago, in 1982, as a member of the RPTE Section. I joined to learn more about real estate law. We had an excellent mentor in Emmanuel (Manny) Halper, who chaired the Commercial Leasing committee, and he gave many of us junior lawyers the opportunity to speak and write about the law. I enjoyed the camaraderie with other lawyers around the country who were excellent professionals and people. Along with Manny, there were many other colleagues and mentors who helped me be a better lawyer and brought me along into leadership in the Section. My wife and I have enjoyed traveling to the various locations where the ABA had past meetings, including England, Hawaii, and Banff, among other interesting places

What has been the highlight of your work with the ABA?

I have been able to chair or co-chair a number of leasing committees and was elected to serve on the Section’s Council and Planning committee. My best experience, however, was co-chairing our Groups and Substances Committee (GSC) where I was able to work with a group of experienced attorneys many of whom I consider friends in serving as the “backbone” of that Section’s meetings and work.

If you had not become a lawyer, what do you think you would have done?

My lifelong dream was to play right field for the New York Yankees and even wore Roger Maris’ #9 in my Little and Pony League careers. Unfortunately, there is a very good Judge in that position now and I don’t think a mere lawyer can replace him.

More practically, I might have considered being an economist since I was drawn to the field academically when I was in college, especially the statistical and mathematical aspects, but have found commercial real estate law to be a good application of these skills. I am fascinated by the work of the Federal Reserve and how it affects economic and fiscal policy.

My governmental work has been very rewarding. As a college student, I got to work with a group working to lower the voting age to 18 and was selected when I was 19 to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on statistical research I had done on voting patterns where states had already allowed 18 year olds to vote. The work of this group and many others resulted in the adoption of the 26th Amendment.

When I was with Paine Webber, I got to work for three years on President Reagan’s Private Sector Survey on Cost Control (the “Grace Commission”) to examine ways government units could adopt private sector practices.

The Mayor of my town selected me to chair our Planning Board which I did for four years. We got to help shape our community in managing growth, bringing in ratables and meeting our community’s affordable housing requirements.

Entity:
Topic:

Author

Alan M.  Di Sciullo is the retired Director of Global Real Estate from Shearman & Sterling. The bulk of his career was as real estate attorney for Morgan Stanley in New York. Early in his career, he was law clerk for Judge John H. Sachs on the U.S. Tax Court in Washington. He has been an active member and officer of the ABA since 1982 and elected as a fellow in the American College of Real Estate Lawyers (ACREL) in 2003.

He is a graduate of Georgetown University and its law school. He also has an M.B.A. in finance from New York University where he has been an adjunct professor for thirty years.

He and his wife, Mary Jo, reside in the Princeton, NJ, area and also have a home in Corolla, NC. He has two daughters, Megan and Corinne, and a granddaughter, Emilia Grace Noel.