Published on February 4, 2014 | by LawNews

Steven C. Witkoff ’83

“If you are going to get a graduate degree, go to law school,” says Steven Witkoff ’83, chairman, CEO and the principal shareholder of The Witkoff Group. “You can’t do business if you don’t understand the law.” Witkoff attributes part of his success to his Hofstra Law degree, which allowed him to “understand the rules of the road.”

This understanding enabled Witkoff to grow The Witkoff Group into a successful real estate investment firm. The company’s diverse portfolio includes a number of well-known landmark buildings, including The Woolworth Building, 420 Fifth Avenue, 866 Third Avenue, Devonshire House in London, 1107 Broadway and 10 Hanover Square.

How did Hofstra Law prepare you for your career?

I was really well educated at Hofstra Law. Everything I do has a legal aspect to it, so courses like Property Law and Bankruptcy, and participating in moot court helped prepare me for business. Moot court taught me how to present my oral arguments well. I’m not sure I could have accomplished half of what I’ve done without my law background.

How does law influence your business?

We talk to lawyers all day long. Not just to be protected, but to get deals done. We deal with a very sophisticated tax practice and bankruptcy practice. Lately, we have been buying a lot in Miami. The state foreclosure laws are different than in New York. If I didn’t know how to speak the language, I wouldn’t be able to get a deal done.

What was the first building you bought?

The first building I bought was in Washington Heights. I didn’t take a vacation for three years to save up to buy it. Looking back, I was sort of reckless, but it was what I wanted to do.

What advice do you have for law students who want to go into business?

Practice for two to three years first instead of going straight into business. Learning the law is critical for business. Law school prepares you to practice, and practice prepares you for business.

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