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August 2020

DEAN'S COUNCIL MEMBERSHIP REPORT

Many thanks to our alumni, faculty and friends for renewing their Law Dean's Council memberships since our last publication: Scott Sternberg '10; Michael A. Patterson '71; Frederick J. Plaeger '77; Carolyn S. McConathy '75; Joseph "Rock" Palermo '92; Kimberly L. Robinson '98; John L. Luffey '75; Mark C. Schroeder '83; Robert "Pete" Seale '67; Cordell H. Haymon '68; Geoffrey S. Kay '98; Cyril E. Vetter '72' Micah J. Fincher '11; Thomas M. Hayes III '77; Erika F. Anderson '97' Honorable C. Kerry Anderson '92; Troy R. Keller '92' Honorable John W. Kolwe '91; Russel A. Woodard '79; Honorable Cynthia T. Woodard '81; H. Minor Pipes '96' Francis X. Neuner '76; Michael F. West '11; John Z. Blanchard '81; C. Frank Holthaus '75; James P. Roy '76; James P. Lambert '76; Olden Toups '75; John R. Busenlener '75; Professor Olivier P. Moreteau; Professor Elizabeth R. Carter; Professor Raymond T. Diamond; Professor Robert Lancaster;  Professor Wendell H. Holmes; Interim President Tom Galligan; Assistant Dean Jake T. Henry; Karen M. Soniat; and Bobbi M. Zaunbrecher.

See a full list of Dean's Council members. As you can see, the people who support the Paul M. Hebert Law Center with their annual gifts represent alumni of all ages, faculty, and friends. Find out how you can become a member of the Dean's Council.

 

DEAN'S COUNCIL SPOTLIGHT

Denise C. Puente | Class of 1987 | Simon Peragine Smith & Redfearn | New Orleans, LA

You recently celebrated your 33rd anniversary with Simon Peragine Smith & Redfearn. What is it about the firm that has made you stay?

When I was in law school, I had the opportunity to clerk at the firm during the summer after my second year. As a result, I was able to meet the attorneys and the staff and get a feel for the firm. What attracted me to the firm was the mix of personalities and the feeling that people genuinely enjoyed working with each other. In addition, the fact that the firm was not “sectionalized” and I would be able to get a taste all different areas of the law before eventually settling into a certain field was also appealing. Many of the attorneys and the staff that were here when I first started are still at the firm, which reinforces my belief that I made the right choice.

You are well-known for your expertise in construction law. But 10 years out of law school you won the LADC’s Sam Dalton Capital Defense Award, which recognizes dedication to capital defense advocacy. That seems somewhat removed from your current practice. Can you please tell us a little more about that part of your career?

When I was a young associate, our firm was appointed by the Louisiana Supreme Court to represent a defendant in capital post-conviction proceedings. Because I had clerked for a criminal defense lawyer, the partner who accepted the appointment asked me to assist her. We worked together on the case for eight years. While we were not ultimately successful, some of the rulings that we obtained during the process benefited other cases that came after ours. It was an extremely difficult case to work on but through that experience, I came to appreciate the opportunities that I had been given in life which were not necessarily provided to others. I also had the honor to work with lawyers who have dedicated their lives to this very important work. Most importantly, however, is that our client knew that we advocated fiercely on his behalf and never gave up on him or the process.

Over the past 10 to 15 years, LSU Law has grown a formidable trial advocacy program that conducts both internal competitions and fields dozens of teams in national competitions. It also brings home national championships year after year. There wasn’t a comparable program when you were in school, yet you are a formidable litigator. When did you recognize your interest, and how did you develop your obvious talent?

When I was in law school, we had the opportunity to participate in Flory trials. It was great fun as we did all the work in a very short period of time and got the opportunity to partner with different classmates. In my practice, I handle a lot of injunctions that are tried in a very short period of time from when the case is first filed. I like to think that my Flory trial experiences prepared me for this.

As an undergrad, you studied Journalism. What piqued your interest in law school? 

As journalism majors, we learned that it would be our job to report on what was happening. It seemed to me that I might enjoy participating in what was happening more and thus applied to law school.

You were in law school during some very challenging times — more than 30 percent of your classmates didn’t finish. How did you approach the challenge? 

I took a year off between college and law school. So, when I started law school, I was certain that I wanted to be a lawyer and knew I had to put in the time to graduate. I was extremely fortunate to have great people in my section, many of which I am still friends with and in contact to this day. We formed informal study groups, shared outlines and worked hard to help each other succeed.

Who was your favorite professor, and why? 

Professor Maraist. He was the first person I encountered who actually spoke faster than I do. He was extremely challenging and entertaining. While others might have thought he was tough, it was apparent that he felt that it was important to challenge us as it was good practice for what the practice of law was going to be like once we graduated.

Knowing what you know today, would you have done anything differently?

I had a great time in law school notwithstanding how much time I seemed to spend in the library studying. So,  there is not much I think I would have done differently except possibly gotten more involved in student activities related to ABA or LSBA. However, due to my job and the studying requirements, there did not seem to be a lot of free time. It was not until I graduated and got into the “real world” that I realized just how many more hours there really are in a day.

You’ve served on the Hearing Committee for the Attorney Disciplinary Board. And while every case is unique, you’ve probably observed some common threads. What advice would you give today’s students to help them avoid the behaviors that most often get lawyers in trouble?

Many of the cases we dealt with involved the commingling of funds and improper accounting of client trust accounts. In many instances, it is a matter of an attorney not having set up the proper system of checks and balances either because they were not fully aware of their responsibilities or simply relying too much on others. Therefore, the advice that I would give is to make sure that from the beginning of the practice that these systems are in place. I am fortunate that I landed at a firm that had such a system.

You’ve been a member of the Law Dean’s Council for several years and you contributed to the Annual Fund and other Law Center projects before that. Why have you included LSU Law among your philanthropic priorities?

Fortunately, I was the recipient of a scholarship, which helped finance my tuition. Between student loans, scholarships and the money I earned clerking, I was able to pay for law school. I have been very lucky. The law degree I earned has given me great opportunities. If I can help someone else in the same way my benefactor helped me, I am happy to do so.