We sat down with January 2016 Executive LLM graduate, Sean Galliher, to learn more about his legal career path and what brought him to the ELLM program. Mr. Galliher is currently the Associate General Counsel at Skechers USA Inc., the three billion dollar performance and lifestyle footwear company based in Manhattan Beach, California.
You’ve worked for the government, in law firms, and now in-house. Can you describe what was behind each of those moves?
After interning to the Counsel to New York Governor Mario Cuomo while in law school, I was offered a full-time position after graduation with the New York State Civil Service Department. My first boss was a Boston University law graduate who was a phenomenal attorney. After becoming involved with arbitration and mediation while working for New York State, I knew that I wanted to become a trial attorney and eventually moved on to a small trial firm located in Rochester, New York. While there, I was able to participate in numerous jury trials, argue appeals and get involved in every facet of litigation. I was involved in personal injury, criminal, and malpractice trials. I even found myself in a trial involving Amy Fisher and her claim that several prison guards had sexually assaulted her while she was incarcerated at Albion Correctional Facility. The practice was varied and exciting, but eventually my partner retired and the business was sold to a large personal injury firm and I spent several years consulting with that firm.
I had taken the California bar exam while on vacation one year and had been admitted to practice there in 2001. After the consulting job ended, a New York law firm hired me in 2006. I was hired to go to California and work inside Flynt Publications representing Larry Flynt. This was my first exposure to an actual business environment. I handled court appearances and motions in the Los Angeles area for his casino and entertainment enterprises.
In order to eliminate the cross-country travel I was doing, and time away from family, I eventually went to work with Skechers USA, Inc. as in-house counsel handling all aspects of the day to day legal business including international law, employment law, insurance and litigation among other issues.
Having such a varied and successful career, what made you decide to go back to school and pursue the Executive LLM?
After many years as a trial lawyer I found myself in a business setting. Without a solid foundation or background in business, I was forced to learn on the job. The longer I worked at Skechers and the more their business expanded, the more I began to handle very complex international legal issues. I felt it would be helpful to get a traditional business education in order to become a more effective attorney in my current role.
Unfortunately, working a full-time job, I thought, made it impossible to get that education. That is, until I heard about BU’s ELLM program and was very impressed by what I read and heard. The program was designed in such a way that it allowed me to maintain my busy work schedule and get the formal legal business training I needed to be more efficient in my role as in-house counsel. The fact that the Law School at Boston University was universally recognized as one of the top law schools in the country only made the program all the more appealing. I had also worked for and met several attorneys from Boston University* throughout my career and was always impressed by their knowledge and ability.
*On a personal note – I was accepted to go to BU as an undergraduate way back in the early 80’s. My father had died when I was 7 and my mother had no money. Unfortunately, I was financially unable to go to BU at that time. I had to go to work and found jobs as a dishwasher and digging ditches in downtown Buffalo. I married and then joined the Navy and spent the next decade working my way through school and law school, and raising a family. When this opportunity arose, I was thrilled that after all these years I was able to finally attend and get a degree from BU. It was very personal for me and I can’t thank you enough for all your help in making it happen.
Now that you’ve finished the Executive LLM, what have you learned or improved on that you find particularly useful at work? Were there any classes or professors that ended up really touching on something you’re facing in the office?
This question is very difficult to answer. I have found the things that I learned throughout the course of the ELLM constantly coming up in a workplace setting. For instance, while taking the class in International Mergers and Acquisitions I found myself in the middle of an acquisition of several companies and distributors in South America and Central America. The very issues we were discussing on a daily basis were suddenly issues I was dealing with professionally. Professor Sullivan was incredibly knowledgeable and I also relied on the training I received from Professors Wilson, Greiman, Cormier, and Campbell while dealing with different aspects of the deal. The confidence I had, based on the training I was receiving was invaluable in successfully completing the multi-million dollar deal I was involved in.
While in the ELLM program, I was also consulted on an international arbitration situation that involved Skechers, a Russian company and an arbitration in Switzerland. While studying with Professor O’Neil I took an examination in class and was admitted to the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators in London. This training allowed me to react accordingly and give sound advice, which helped my company navigate a difficult legal situation.
It would be impossible to single out a specific professor, as they were all incredibly knowledgeable. In the courses I took while at BU Law, it seemed that every single professor was an expert in their field who had practiced in the area of their expertise. That kind of background allowed them to impart theoretical training, which was important, but they also were able to teach the application of the material in the real world. This proved invaluable to me after completing the program.
I think that for any attorney who thinks that they may end up doing international business work, and wants a program that will help them professionally from day one, this program should be the top program for them to consider. The staff and the people running this program are first rate and they constantly strive to make your time at the university, and the time studying at home, productive and useful. They consistently work to put you in a position to succeed. Ian and Zachary were incredibly helpful and instrumental in making the ELLM program the first-rate experience that it is. This is a program that actually will pay immediate dividends in your professional practice.
What are some of the new challenges and legal issues you’re seeing in your practice areas?
Most of the new challenges that I face revolve around the many international areas that Skechers is entering, or doing business in. I have dealt with legal issues from Europe to Asia to South America. Each time a problem arises in a different country, it poses legal issues, communication and cultural issues that you have to learn and react to. The BU ELLM has been invaluable in helping me to properly approach these problems. My experience at BU has made me a better attorney and equipped me with skills and resources I have found useful in navigating the challenges posed by the evolving world economy.
Professionally speaking, where do you see yourself five years from now?
I work for a corporation with a wonderful group of people that does business all over the world. My office is located at the beach in Southern California with a view of the Pacific Ocean. The job I currently have is both challenging and rewarding. Hopefully, five years from now I am right here.
Last question, what’s your favorite legal movie and why?
Like most attorneys my age or older “To Kill a Mockingbird” is my favorite legal movie. I remember watching it and wanting to emulate Atticus Finch (didn’t everybody?). Made me think being a lawyer would be a great job.