The Lowell Milken Institute: Preparing the next generation of leaders in business law

January 9, 2023

The Lowell Milken Institute for Business Law and Policy (LMI) is celebrating its first full decade of operations—10 years during which the institute has strengthened UCLA Law’s academic standing in the world of business law while guiding hundreds of students toward successful careers in business and tax law.

Embracing its ambitious goal of preparing the next generation of leaders in business law, LMI is, without doubt, a critical piece of the fabric of UCLA Law.

The institute’s success is a testament to the generosity and vision of Lowell Milken ’73. “Lowell’s original major gift, in 2011, permitted the law school to found the Institute,” says Joel Feuer, the executive director of LMI, “and he has been extremely generous with strategic funding of its growth and expansion. Of equal importance is Lowell’s vision for LMI’s potential to leverage UCLA’s foundation of education and research in corporate law and entrepreneurship to nurture the next generation of law and business leaders. Lowell always asks me, ‘How are we making a difference?’ or says, ‘Tell me how we can deepen our impact.’”

“Throughout my career,” says Milken, “I have seen firsthand how the worlds of education, law and business intersect. Leading schools like UCLA Law recognize the reality and importance of that intersection. UCLA’s business law faculty are simultaneously pursuing knowledge to advance the state of the art in corporate and tax law and preparing future generations of practitioners. My hope was that LMI could be effective precisely at that intersection between theory and practice. It is gratifying to see how the institute is evolving to support faculty and students alike.”

Eric Zolt teaching UCLA Law students in a classroom

‘‘LMI provides a wonderful platform for UCLA Law students seeking to maximize their business law experience. It offers guidance for students for course selection and specializations as well as career opportunities after law school. LMI sponsors a wide range of extracurricular programs that nicely complement the business law courses offered by UCLA faculty and distinguished practitioners.’’

UCLA LAW PROFESSOR ERIC ZOLT
Michael H. Schill Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus
Inaugural LMI Faculty Director, 2011–2013

 

LMI’S BROAD REACH AND MANDATE

LMI is a hub of activity: It helps train law students. It supports legal scholarship. And it brings together the business law community to examine challenging issues facing business in the U.S. and the global economy.

“We have a very broad mandate,” says Professor Andrew Verstein, a faculty co- director of LMI, “but it always comes back to building on the foundation of UCLA Law’s academic prowess. LMI helps to ensure that UCLA Law is part of the larger conversation about law and business. Simultaneously, we strive to give students practical knowledge that supports their successful transition to practice.”

LMI’s most important mission is to help UCLA Law students develop the skills they’ll need to be successful in their first years as attorneys for business clients. Expanding on the law school’s tradition of experiential learning, LMI creates opportunities for students to learn and practice skills that will benefit them in law practice.

As part of a leading research institution, LMI also supports UCLA Law’s business law faculty and their legal scholarship. The institute hosts academic conferences and workshops that bring scholars and practitioners from around the world to the law school to debate the most important business law issues. LMI thus enhances legal scholarship that depends on both the dissemination of ideas and the opportunity to improve (or discard) them.

Moreover, LMI opens the law school’s doors to business law practitioners and business leaders who share their expertise and experience with faculty and students regarding today’s business issues. LMI’s influence has turned UCLA Law into a recognized venue for the business law community to meet, learn, and debate the challenges facing current and future business.

‘‘LMI events show UCLA law students the myriad of things they can do with a law degree. Through its Lunch and Learn program, LMI introduces students to alumni with exciting careers and provides important networking opportunities. Through its Sandler competition and transactional law meets, the institute teaches students the nondoctrinal skills that a practicing lawyer needs. By supporting academic research, LMI shows how ideas can affect policy and practice. LMI has also been extremely valuable to the business and tax law faculty by providing the resources to throw the very best academic conferences, invite the most important speakers, and collaborate with the premier academic institutions in the world.’’

UCLA LAW PROFESSOR JASON OH
Lowell Milken Chair in Law
LMI Faculty Co-Director, 2020 to the present

 

TEACHING, RESEARCH AND OUTREACH

Eric Zolt, the Michael H. Schill Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus, worked closely with former Dean Rachel Moran and Lowell Milken to create LMI and served as the institute’s first faculty director. “The Lowell Milken Institute allowed us to make a really first-rate business program even better,” he says. “The objective from the beginning was to construct a business law curriculum specifically tailored to the needs of our students.”

The bedrock of the UCLA business law education is, of course, the more than 70 business law and tax law courses offered by the faculty. Teaching and research go hand in hand, and LMI supports faculty scholarship in several ways. “The institute devotes considerable energy to making UCLA Law a venue for respected scholars from around the country and the world,” says Verstein. “We host academic conferences and workshops to bring new ideas to the campus—which also builds the UCLA Law brand.”

In 2022, for example, LMI partnered with Bucerius Law School, in Hamburg, Germany—that country’s most prestigious private law school—to hold an academic conference on current corporate law issues. “This event brought together leading scholars from the United States and Europe to discuss several issues critical to corporate law,” said Professor Sung Hui Kim, one of the event’s organizers. “For example, a key topic was how countries on both continents are viewing recent moves by corporations to address environmental, social and governance concerns. Several academic papers were produced for the workshop, and I have no doubt that several more will be generated as a result of it.”

LMI also cosponsors the annual NYU/ UCLA Law Tax Policy Symposium. Cofounded in 2011 by Professor Zolt, this symposium attracts leading tax law professors and economists to explore major policy issues, such as income and wealth inequality and its impact on the U.S. The symposium alternates between the two host schools, UCLA School of Law and NYU School of Law. Professor Zolt and Professor Kirk Stark, the Barrall Family Professor of Tax Law and Policy, frequently served as chief organizers for the symposium when it took place at UCLA Law.

The 2023 symposium will be hosted by UCLA Law and LMI. Professor Jason Oh, an LMI faculty co-director and the Lowell Milken Chair in Law, Professor Kimberly Clausing, the Eric M. Zolt Chair in Tax Law and Policy, and Eric M. Zolt, Michael H. Schill Distinguished Professor of Law, are leading the planning of this influential event. Professor Clausing has returned to UCLA Law after spending more than a year working as the deputy assistant secretary for tax analysis in the U.S. Department of the Treasury and serving as the lead economist in the Office of Tax Policy at the beginning of the Biden administration.

Professor Oh says, “We are excited to partner with NYU Law School and the UC Berkeley Department of Economics to organize our 2023 symposium around the topic ‘The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) Five Years Later.’ TCJA was the biggest reform to the tax code in three decades, and this conference will focus on whether TCJA delivered on its tax and economic promises. Five years later, we have the data to take a critical look at what worked and what didn’t. The conference will also consider the most pressing areas for further reform.”

While such conferences and symposia are primarily directed at the law school’s faculty, LMI also brings legal and business scholars to campus to give students a chance to learn about new scholarship and public policy in tax and corporate law. Examples of courses that feature visiting scholars are Colloquium on Tax Policy and Public Finance and Advanced Topics: Corporate and Securities Law. Opening these learning opportunities expose law students to some of the country’s leading experts, with a focus on current events.

Another particularly relevant course, developed and taught by Professor Zolt and funded by a generous gift from UCLA alum William Kahane ’74 and his wife, Elizabeth Kahane, is Business Strategies and Corporate Governance, a class that features case studies of high-profile companies—Theranos, Uber, Wells Fargo and Enron—to help students understand issues and consequences of strategy and governance. The course requires students to see corporate strategies and challenges from a number of perspectives: those of lawyers, investors, managers and regulators.

UCLA Law students holding a certificate and celebrating with their arms in the air

‘‘LMI has been critical to UCLA Law School’s ability to continue developing one of the best business law faculties in the country. It has funded conferences and workshops on corporate boards, cryptocurrencies, Delaware, insider trading, international corporate governance, securities litigation, and tax. In doing so, LMI has supported the faculty’s research and helped us build valuable connections with other scholars.’’

UCLA LAW PROFESSOR JAMES PARK
LMI Faculty Director, 2017–2021

 

COLLABORATIONS ACROSS CAMPUS

LMI also serves law students interested in business through business courses taught at the law school by professors from UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, such as Entrepreneurship and Venture Initiation and Accounting and Financial Skills for Lawyers. In addition, LMI has built strong connections with multiple UCLA programs focused on entrepreneurialism, including Startup UCLA, UCLA Anderson’s Price Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering’s Institute for Technology Advancement.

Says Feuer, “We want law students to understand executive decision making, the larger enterprise perspective, and the entrepreneurial mindset.”

LMI also fosters networking opportunities with students from the Anderson School of Management— “people who might one day be clients of lawyers,” as Feuer puts it. “Successful lawyers are skilled networkers.”

An example of this is LMI’s Global Business and Policy Forum—40 law students and 40 business school students are invited to hear presentations on newsworthy issues of the day. Recent events addressed topics such as the purpose of the corporation, cryptocurrency, and the Paris Accords and climate change. The popular Business Law Breakfasts bring in legal and business leaders to discuss, say, the legal ramifications of self-driving cars or current antitrust challenges.

HIGH-IMPACT LEARNING

LMI has also established initiatives designed to give students opportunities to apply their classroom learning and acquire practical skills necessary for success. “We like to call this high-impact learning,” says Feuer. “We give students the opportunity to roll up their sleeves and practice negotiating, drafting, and presenting in the context of solving a business problem.” These co-curricular programs help law students understand and experience the challenges of business and the lawyer’s role in meeting those challenges through active participation and real student engagement.

Perhaps the most noteworthy of these initiatives are competitions. The increasingly popular Lowell Milken Institute–Sandler Prize for New Entrepreneurs encourages UCLA students to develop new business ventures and compete for cash prizes. Now in its sixth year, the competition brings together teams of four to six UCLA students (at least one must be a law student) to present their ideas for new companies in a highly competitive Shark Tank–style event. Students learn what entrepreneurship really entails, from conceiving an idea and vision to crafting a business plan, from courting investors to developing a startup.

Richard Sandler ’73, who started the competition with Lowell Milken, says, “It is powerful for law students to see the bigger picture of how the skills they are learning at UCLA Law translate into the world of entrepreneurship.”

LMI’s competitive opportunities also include the Intramural Transactional Law Competition, which is the final exercise of the Transactional Law Competition course. Sarah Korobkin Karlsson, LMI’s director of special projects, teaches the course and organizes the competition. After studying a complex transaction, small teams— some students represent the buyer, others the seller—learn to negotiate and draft contracts. The intramural competition, judged by a panel comprising faculty and alumni, is exclusively for UCLA Law students; the Interscholastic Transactional Law Competition pits UCLA Law teams against teams from across the country. In 2022, 30 teams from 20 law schools competed at UCLA Law.

LMI also supports UCLA Law students and UCLA Anderson students in the annual Holland & Knight JV Challenge, formerly known as the Pircher, Nichols & Meeks Joint Venture Challenge. The teams must negotiate a real estate transaction designed by that real estate law firm powerhouse. Additionally, the institute sponsors UCLA Law students who participate in the Duberstein Bankruptcy Moot Court Competition and the American College of Bankruptcy Biennial Law Student Bankruptcy Negotiation Competition (9th Circuit).

“Competitions,” says Feuer, “raise the stakes and ignite a spark in students.”

One particularly practical LMI offering explicitly targets first-year law students— the Program on Professional Development. This program helps them develop prowess in technology and understanding of professional branding, mental wellness, presentation skills and even business etiquette.

Student Mary Vu speaking into a microphone with two other student behind her

‘‘LMI has done a great job at offering innovative special events and cocurricular programs targeted at business law students. These help students fill in the gaps between our regular business law courses and help keep them attuned to the latest developments; they also provide students with opportunities to network with people working in law, business, or finance and with people in other departments on campus.’’

UCLA LAW PROFESSOR STEVEN BANK
Paul Hastings Professor of Business Law
LMI Faculty Director, 2013–2016

 

THE FUTURE OF LMI

In just over a decade, the Lowell Milken Institute has proved integral to the UCLA Law experience for students interested in corporate law and the business world, as well as for the professors who specialize in this critical area of legal education. “LMI seeks to promote and elevate the educational experiences of our students in business law,” says Professor Oh. “Its impact has been indelible.”

Oh noted that LMI’s success is a testament to “the enthusiastic participation of the UCLA Law business law and tax law faculty in LMI’s programs and initiatives” and added, “LMI has also greatly benefited from the unwavering support of UCLA Law Deans Rachel Moran, Jennifer Mnookin, and Russell Korobkin.”

That success promises even greater returns ahead. “We are moving into the future with enthusiasm and momentum,” says Feuer. “Business law is a dynamic field, as enterprises continually face new challenges from the marketplace, regulators, and competitors. Lawyers are frequently at the center of those challenges. LMI’s job is to engage its constituencies— law students, faculty, the greater business law community—so they can understand and address these issues. Our work at LMI positions UCLA Law School at the cutting edge of business law and, as a result, is a valuable resource for students, scholars and the business law community.

“To me,” Feuer continues, “the first 10 years of LMI have set a high bar. We will continue to build new programs and develop new strategies to effectively engage in tomorrow’s inevitable changes and challenges.”

A prime example of this development is the recently announced Program on Philanthropy and Nonprofits, inspired by Lowell Milken’s interest in the changing dynamics of the nonprofit sector and encouraged by former Dean Jennifer Mnookin’s vision for UCLA Law as a law school that has a national impact. Led by Jill Horwitz, who serves as faculty director and the David Sanders Professor in Law and Medicine, the program will help prepare a new generation of lawyers to aid their clients with the challenges and opportunities of the nonprofit sector. Professor Horwitz is a leading policy expert in health care reform and a recognized scholar in the area of nonprofits. As an editor and reporter for the American Law Institute’s Restatement of the Law, Charitable Nonprofit Organizations, she led the ALI’s first restatement on this subject.

“Lowell Milken has extended his philanthropic legacy again with the establishment of this initiative, which resides in LMI,” says Feuer. “We are in the midst of an unprecedented transfer of wealth from the aging baby boomer generation to younger generations,” Feuer says. “Nonprofits will be the beneficiaries of this largesse, and the need for trained lawyers is manifest. Moreover, nonprofit leaders need to understand the complexities of tax law and governance.”

“Embracing this opportunity,” says Professor Horwitz, “LMI expects the Program on Philanthropy and Nonprofits to develop a national profile for nonprofit law. We intend to become a leading source of scholarship, education and engagement for the nonprofit sector.”

The program is already off to a strong start: Rose Chan Loui has joined as the inaugural director, beginning October 1. Additionally, Professor Horwitz organized the program’s very successful inaugural conference on the “Restatement of the Law, Charitable Nonprofit Organizations,” which was held earlier this fall. The program will also collaborate with Loyola Law School to host the 26th annual Western Conference on Tax Exempt Organizations, in December 2022. And as a cornerstone of the program, Professor Horwitz developed and will teach a new course, Nonprofit Law and Policy.

“The worlds of law and business have always overlapped, of course,” says Lowell Milken, “but the creation of LMI was driven by my belief that lawyers need practical, hands-on experience of business challenges. The innovation and reach, the scholarship and achievements of this first decade would not have been possible without the institute’s exemplary leadership, faculty and students, and partnerships in academia, business and policy. Together, we look forward to LMI’s continued and significant impact.”


First published in UCLA Law's fall 2022 magazine.

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