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February 2020

DEAN'S COUNCIL MEMBERSHIP REPORT

We welcome new members: Tim Barfield, '89; Richard M. Gaiennie, '93; and Blake R. David, '01.  Our thanks to them and to renewing members: William B. Conway, '82; W. Mike Adams, '73; Jack McElligott, '76; Pat Juneau, '65, Phyllis Cancienne, '89; Larry Centola, '71; Ed Abell, '63 and Elaine Abell, '69.


DEAN'S COUNCIL SPOTLIGHT

Michael F. West | Class of 2011 | Penn National Gaming, Wyomissing, PA

Life is pretty exciting for you right now. Last year, Penn Gaming lured you away from firm practice and sweet home, Louisiana. You’ve been in Pennsylvania for a year and already have a new job within the company. Tell us what you’ve been doing and what you’re going to do. 

When I was practicing in Baton Rouge, I had the good fortune of representing Penn National Gaming as they purchased five Louisiana casinos (and many more across the country). I ended up taking a position in-house with Penn National in their compliance department and moved to Wyomissing, Pennsylvania. My initial role was to oversee regulatory matters such as licensing, anti-money laundering issues, investigations and other issues that arise in the gaming environment.

Yes, my role has recently changed. It’s an exciting time at Penn National. A couple of weeks ago, we announced a minority investment in a media company called Barstool Sports to help us promote our gaming and sports wagering offerings. I will be helping with the integration of the minority investment from a regulatory and compliance perspective. It’s an incredible and exciting opportunity to be a part of something truly unique in the gaming space.

Before you left Louisiana, you worked directly with your father, Paul West (’80), certainly one of the best gaming lawyers in the country. How was that experience, and how did it prepare you for the Penn opportunity?

Working with my dad was incredible. He is one of the country’s best gaming lawyers—of that I have no question. He taught me what it means to be a regulatory lawyer and I am where I am today because of him (as a person and a lawyer).

He has been in gaming since it was legalized in Louisiana and has seen it all. Beyond learning from his subject matter expertise, he taught me that being a great lawyer is not enough. He offered a great example of focusing on ethics, being trustworthy, and never compromising your reputation. Gaming is one of the most regulated industries out there and earning the trust of our regulators is vital. He obviously has that trust and it was a true honor to learn from him.

How’s the weather in Pennsylvania?

Hah! Winters are cold and the snow is not something I am used to (and do not think I will ever get used to), but the break from August heat in Baton Rouge is not the worst thing in the world.

What about football? Rutgers, Maryland, Penn State–a lot of Big Ten teams in your new “neighborhood." Do you see much purple and gold? More of it since Jan. 13?

Eagles and Penn State colors are everywhere. The first thing I did when I moved in was put up an LSU flag. That gets some looks. Not a lot of LSU up here but they love sports and that’s been fun. It’s been a great year to walk around wearing LSU colors and I’ve been able to convert some Pennsylvanians into LSU fans.

You’ve maintained ties to LSU Law. Earlier this year, we were delighted to see you among the volunteer instructors for the 3L Trial Ad program. Had you been on the cadre before? Is it more fun to be on the instructor side than the student side? How has the program changed since the fall of 2010, when you were a student at LSU Law?

Yes, I have participated in that for several years now and really enjoy it. The instructor's side is great. Every year I am astounded at how talented the students are and how willing they are to dive in and try something new. The program is completely different from how it was when I was at LSU Law. I found the program beneficial when I participated in it but I think the updated program is first class. It is much more focused on giving the students the opportunity to learn by doing, which is great.

You’ve been a member of the Dean’s Council since 2015just a few years after you graduated. And we are very grateful. Why do you make leadership annual giving to LSU Law a priority? 

LSU Law opened doors for me beyond what I could have ever imagined. From a federal clerkship and practicing law in Dallas to working with my father and working at Penn National, my relatively young career has been unexpected and incredibly rewarding. My law degree has been integral in each of those opportunities. I am not practicing law in the traditional sense now, but I trade on the knowledge and skills I acquired through my time at LSU Law every day. It feels appropriate to give back and try to help the next group have the same experience.

Knowing what you know today, what advice would you give yourself back in 2008 when you were starting at LSU Law? Is that the same advice you’d give the Class of 2020?

I don’t know if anybody is looking for any advice from me but I would just be encouraging. The only goal I had when I started law school was to not fail out. When I graduated, I was focused on a clerkship with a federal judge and legal career in Dallas. Now I work for the largest regional gaming operator, I live in Pennsylvania, and while I never could have expected any of it, I am having a blast every day at work. Be flexible, work hard and take a risk. Believe in yourself.