[dropcap sid=”dropcap-1446585320″]A[/dropcap]s the old saying goes: All roads lead to securities litigation.
Well—maybe not quite—but it was certainly the case for Baruch alumni Edward Labaton (’52) and Lawrence Sucharow (’71), who serve, respectively, as partner and chairman at Labaton Sucharow LLP. For over 50 years, the firm has fought for corporate reform and prosecuted precedent-setting securities class actions, representing investors with collective assets under management of more than $2 trillion.
So how exactly did two Baruch alumni work their way to becoming named partners of this storied firm? Labaton and Sucharow followed very different paths along the way, but they did share one Baruch commonality: they both detested accounting.
“Quite frankly, Baruch appealed to me originally because I thought I’d be an accountant,” Sucharow recalls. “But accounting turned out to be one of the most boring things I’d ever experienced in my life. In class, I thought to myself: ‘who cares?’”
Labaton agrees, although he concedes that he did enjoy his first accounting class. “But my second,” Labaton jokes, “that’s when I knew it wasn’t for me.”
After abandoning accounting, Labaton pursued what he calls an “accidental liberal arts education,” majoring in economics with a government minor, allowing him to take classes at both City College uptown and downtown (now Baruch). He participated in extracurricular activities like The Ticker and was famously kicked off the staff by the student–faculty committee after writing a scathing editorial in response to the infamous City College basketball point-shaving scandal of 1951 (“And I was due to become Editor-in-Chief!” Labaton humorously protests).
In class, though, Labaton continued to excel and found that he very much enjoyed his constitutional law course, developing a passion that would lead him to the Ivy League.
“I decided to take the Law Aptitude Test,” he says, “and I did well enough to get into Yale Law. It was a lot easier to get in back in those days—the birth rate in the ‘30s was very low, for example—so there was a perfect combination of fortuitous factors. But it was still a tough law school, and I’ve never been surrounded by so many bright people.”
Two decades later, Sucharow-a Queens native-followed a different path. Like Labaton, he was the first in his family to attend college, but his spare time was occupied by after-school jobs, not extracurriculars.
“I was all about practicality,” Sucharow remembers. “I thought a Bachelor of Arts was a waste. My thinking was: how do I make money? I always assumed that I’d be a ‘professional’—an engineer, accountant, doctor, or lawyer. I knew engineering wasn’t for me, nor was accounting, and I can’t stand the sight of blood, so I settled on law.”
After Baruch, he attended Brooklyn Law School at night while working at a men’s clothing store on Wall Street, eventually quitting that job to take a law clerk position. Despite the reduction in pay, the decision paid off, and Sucharow began to acquire a specialty in securities litigation.
Labaton, on the other hand, joined the army after law school and was on active duty for two years, and, afterwards, landed a job with a single practitioner, allowing him to work in various fields, including a copyright case representing Harry Belafonte, among others.
In 1979, Labaton joined his current firm as a named partner. Sucharow had recently landed a job there as the firm’s youngest associate.
Now, more than three decades later, the firm is named after these two proud Baruch alumni, and its staff includes a number of other Baruch graduates, too, including COO Ray Politano (’85), Director of Marketing Angelica Crisi (EMBA ’08), Paralegal Manager Joseph Russo (’89), and Associate Wendy Tsang (’01).
So what makes Baruch graduates such outstanding employees?
“I guess Baruch graduates are cheap!” Sucharow jokes. “Kidding aside,” he adds, “we look for a background that’s relevant, and we know that a degree from Baruch, especially the business background, is very helpful given what we do.”
It’s been quite the journey for these two outstanding alumni, and both can look back on a wealth of legal successes. Among their highest professional marks: Labaton cites victories he earned in the federal court of appeals, and Sucharow still proudly remembers his first $100 million settlement.
“It’s ironic that neither of us particularly liked accounting, but much of our litigation has required us to get quite knowledgeable in that area,” Labaton remarks. “It all worked out, and neither of us would be here if not for the affordable and high-quality start we got at Baruch.”
Learn more about Labaton Sucharow LLP here.
—Gregory M. Leporati