Insights and tips from legal professionals: Gary P. Lilienthal
EK: Where did you grow up?
LILIENTHAL: I grew up in the Boston area, went to the University of California-Berkeley in the ’60s for undergrad, and then Boston College Law.
EK: What made you want to become a lawyer?
LILIENTHAL: My godfather was a Suffolk County assistant district attorney his entire career. We would go out to lunch and have fascinating discussions about the law and many other topics. He was the only lawyer I knew growing up. He made quite an impression on me, and I admired him.
EK: Tell me about your background.
LILIENTHAL: I’ve been involved with real estate since day one out of law school. I started at a residential conveyancing firm doing HUD/FHA housing closings and title work in the registry.
Then I had a unique opportunity to work as the first New England general counsel for a West Coast title insurance company expanding into the East Coast. I did all the title work, underwriting and closings. This was before title insurance was popular. The company developed a significant market niche and is now one of the largest title companies — First American Title. I became a lawyer’s lawyer. It was a great experience.
After two and a half years at the title company, I left for a position at Bernkopf Goodman and have been with the firm since 1974.
EK: And what does your practice involve?
LILIENTHAL: I represent commercial developers in all facets of their real estate business, including site selection, acquisition, development, permitting, construction, leasing, financing, syndication, title and sale of real property.
EK: How about other professional involvement?
LILIENTHAL: In the mid ’70s, I became interested in land use and taught a land use and planning course at BC Law. I also served on zoning and planning boards for over 20 years.
EK: What do you find important in life?
LILIENTHAL: Paying it forward to teach others what others have taught me. It’s a very important part of my life.
EK: What are your interests?
LILIENTHAL: I became a pilot and for 25 years flew light twin- and single-engine airplanes. I also developed an interest in aviation law. I work with clients on buying, selling and financing airplanes, as well as business and operating aspects of aviation.
I also have an interest in exotic birds and have raised and bred many parrots. This led to my serving, pro bono, for two decades as the VP and general counsel of the American Federation of Aviculture. Among my responsibilities was representing the organization in legislative hearings and testifying before U.S. House and Senate subcommittees on legislation relating to exotic birds.
Lastly, since I was a little kid I’ve been an avid car lover. In particular, I enjoy ’50s and ’60s exotic cars and have been fortunate enough to own and drive a number of vintage cars.
EK: Of all the exotic cars you’ve owned, which is your favorite?
LILIENTHAL: A 1957 Ferrari.
EK: What accomplishments are you most proud of?
LILIENTHAL: Twenty years ago, I taught a family friend how to fly. She is now a Navy commander and F18 test pilot, and we have remained close friends.
Also, having mentored many of my current partners.
My wife and I endowed a scholarship fund at BC Law School. I have been very fortunate in life and want to help people who need support from others.
EK: What advice do you have for others?
LILIENTHAL: Stop and think. That’s the most important thing.
You have to like what you do. It’s not always perfect, but, generally speaking, if you really like what you do, you will do well.
Build relationships. If you like what you do and build relationships, it’s contagious.
Have a sense of humor and laugh. My current team and I laugh a lot!
Ellen M. Keiley is president of EMK Consulting Group, which offers business development coaching and consulting, public relations and training for law firms. She can be contacted at email@example.com.
Originally published in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, December 1, 2018.