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“If you had asked me at 12 years old what was my favorite place in the world, I would have said Lincoln Center,” Lesley Rosenthal said from her office overlooking the central plaza of the performing arts complex Rosenthal, 40, a litigator from Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison and mother of two, took over in January as general counsel for Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Rosenthal was chosen by the president of the center along with two lawyers on its board from among more than 250 candidates. The role of general counsel had been long-established at Lincoln Center, but Rosenthal received an additional title of vice president to reflect the expectation that she would participate in business decisions. As a violinist who spent summers attending the Mostly Mozart Festival and recently performed at Alice Tully Hall, this job gives Rosenthal the chance to combine her twin passions: music and the law. “This has been my dream scenario,” she said. Her husband, a jazz pianist, also has a connection to the center — he teaches jazz on the campus. Rosenthal’s move to the nation’s leading performing arts center comes at a critical time for the institution as it nears its 50th anniversary in 2009. The center’s 12 entities — opera houses, schools, theatres, music and dance groups — have been wrangling for years over funding and artistic vision. Last year, the New York Philharmonic, a bedrock of the center, planned to move to Carnegie Hall until those plans fell through. New York City, a large benefactor of Lincoln Center, has cut funds in recent years amidst its own budget shortfalls, leading the center to look for private funding to fill the gap. But now, Lincoln Center is ironing out details for a $470 million redesign, expected to transform the sheets of marble walls and spartan, sometimes unwelcoming campus that spreads from 62nd Street to 66th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues into a destination site for recreation and shopping. Lincoln Center is looking to revitalize and transform its physical campus and programming, Rosenthal said. The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts is an umbrella organization for the collection of constituents. “We play the quarterback role in terms of maintenance and governance of Lincoln Center,” Rosenthal said. As the corporate secretary and vice president of this umbrella organization, Rosenthal works alongside Lincoln Center’s President Reynold Levy and Chairman Bruce Crawford in coordinating the efforts of the entire complex, like the major redevelopment plan, as well as smaller projects, such as the reconfiguration of Avery Fisher Hall, home to the New York Philharmonic and a venue to traveling orchestras and music groups. Because Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts owns much of the real estate occupied by the 12 constituents, Ms. Rosenthal described the umbrella organization as “the steward of the campus.” Stewardship often involves projects that go unnoticed by the public, from improving acoustics and back stage areas to modernizing lighting. Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts also organizes its own projects such as the Great Performers concert series and various educational programs. Two of the other members of the complex, the Metropolitan Opera and Jazz at Lincoln Center have their own general counsels, with whom Rosenthal works closely. The other constituents rely on outside counsel to perform in-house duties. COUNSEL’S COUNCIL Carrying multiple titles as general counsel, corporate secretary, and vice president of Lincoln Center, Rosenthal plays a critical role in developing an environment for fiscal solvency and continued creativity. To that end, she will receive plenty of legal support. In unison with two members of the center’s board of directors, Bart Friedman of Cahill Gordon & Reindel and Richard DeScherer, co-chairman of Willkie Farr & Gallagher, Rosenthal has established a working group of 15 attorneys to provide legal advice and guidance to Lincoln Center. By developing an organized group, rather than relying on ad hoc support, Ms. Rosenthal said she hopes to benefit from advice on an ongoing basis and tap these experts for specific projects. The best part, from the general counsel’s point of view, is that these attorneys will provide the vast majority of legal work for the center for free. The legal group, a unique enterprise, could serve as a model for other non-profits say its organizers, especially for large, complex institutions like the center. Rosenthal was introduced to the idea for a council of lawyers to provide steady legal advice by DeScherer and Friedman. DeScherer said Rosenthal brought the idea to fruition. “I give her the lion’s share of the credit,” for organizing the 15 members, he said. Her experience with pro bono counsel stems from her days at Paul Weiss where Rosenthal, a Harvard Law School graduate, had worked as general counsel of the Child Care Action Campaign, a non-profit group advocating for affordable child-care, as well as other non-profits. But Lincoln Center is unlike many other non-profits. The center’s assets are valued at more than $300 million, and, with 500 employees and hundreds of annual performances and programs, its overall impact on the local economy is estimated to total $1.5 billion. “I’m a one person legal department,” Rosenthal said. At Paul Weiss, “I was in an environment where I was surrounded by 500 lawyers,” she said, and added that now she is in “an environment where I’m surrounded by 500 people, none of whom are lawyers.” As a litigator, Rosenthal worked primarily on commercial and intellectual property cases. With real estate, intellectual property, tax and other legal issues facing the center, there was a need for additional expertise. RECRUITING MEMBERS Friedman and DeScherer signed up their respective firms. Rosenthal recruited her former employer, which will handle real estate financing, and called upon friends and former adversaries to join. For example, she recruited R. Bruce Rich of Weil, Gotshal & Manges to handle copyright work. Rich and Rosenthal represented opposing parties in a case years ago. She also invited Richard Reimer from the law department of The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, one of Rosenthal’s former clients, as well as Michael Solender, general counsel of Bear Stearns & Co., who is Rosenthal’s neighbor in Westchester County, N.Y. These in-house lawyers, she said, can offer general advice on how to manage an internal law department while the law firms can provide expertise on specific legal topics. The council also includes Mark Peroff of Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham, who offered to tackle trademark issues. The attorneys, mostly from large law firms, were enthusiastic about joining this venture, she said. “There is an enormous amount of good will for the performing arts in New York’s legal community,” Rosenthal said. Several of the lawyers had done pro bono work for Lincoln Center before, she added. DeScherer said working for Lincoln Center provides firms with exciting pro bono projects. His firm, Willkie Farr, has done pro bono work for the center since he joined the board in 2003. A fortnight ago, the group met for the first time. While it is a work in progress, Rosenthal and DeScherer expect the group to meet regularly and manage most of the legal work at the center “This really is an opportunity to fashion pro-active legal advice,” Friedman added. The group could head-off problems and prepare for future contingencies rather than simply react, he explained. Lincoln Center will hire other firms as paid, outside counsel. It recently tapped Proskauer Rose to handle labor issues. NAVIGATING THE CAMPUS In her office in the Rose Building at the northwest end of the complex, Rosenthal displayed the architectural drawings for Lincoln Center’s redesign. During a brief walking tour, she highlighted the individual entities that will be most affected by the changes. Rosenthal said she appreciates that Lincoln Center’s success relies on the coordination among the different entities. To that end, she meets regularly with the general counsel of the Metropolitan Opera House and Jazz at Lincoln Center. “We’ve been a tightly knit team since I’ve arrived,” Rosenthal said of the center’s in-house lawyers.

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