Random Profile: Lee Cusenbary, San Antonio

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 87,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next?

Bet you didn’t know: I was a professional actor for the three years between college and law school, and was represented by Actors’ Clearinghouse, the same agency that represented Renee Zellweger when she won the Oscar for the film Jerry Maguire. I was featured in twelve national commercials during that time period, including Stop N Go, Volkswagon, and Nation’s Bank.

If you could be anyone else for a day, who would it be? If it were just one day, Justin Beiber.

What has changed the most technologically or practice wise since you have been licensed? The use of email, flash drives and cell phones has created an expectation in clients to immediately respond to needs. It’s great for people who are natural communicators. It’s very difficult for less extroverted individuals who feel a burden of having to communicate before they have finished all their research or drafting.

What most people don’t know about me: I painted most of the paintings in our home.

Favorite movie: Philadelphia Story.

The last movie: Inception.

Favorite magazine: Popular Science

Family: I am married to pediatric cardiologist Teri Hospers. We have four children, two of whom will attend college next year at UTSA and Trinity University. We also have a 13 year old at Saint Mary’s Hall

Areas of practice: I am a corporate attorney with a focus on FDA regulatory and acquisitions of pharmaceutical drug products. I have a background in pharma defense litigation as well.

Education: I attended UT Austin and have a JD from St. Mary’s University Law School. I was the Executive Editor of the Law Journal.

Another little known fact: In addition to being the General Counsel for Mission Pharmacal Company, I write, produce and direct The Ethics Follies® for the South/Central Texas Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel.  This year, we’ll perform the musical ethics conference for The Texas State Bar, The Texas Minority Counsel Program, The Walmart Superconference (with Laurence Fishburne), and the San Francisco Bay Area ACC Chapter’s Fundraisering Dinner.  See video of the shows at www.ethicsfollies.com. I also write a weekly ethics blog for MySA.com, the San Antonio Express News’ Online Edition.

Bad habit: Put work and the Follies ahead of sleep in the order of importance.

Culinary talent: I make an omelet that is beyond compare.

Community Involvement: I have chaired the board of directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters and The San Antonio Mental Health Association. I am currently on the Board of Directors for the San Antonio Bar Association and serve as a trustee for the San Antonio Bar Foundation.  The Ethics Follies raised $25,000 for The Community Justice Program in 2010, which is over half its operating budget.

Mentors/heroes: Justice Phylis Speedlin has a been a good role model and taught me a lot about health care’s unique laws and regulations. My wife is one of my mentors as well since her laser focus on the future was an inspiration to do the same long term look at life.

Most important career lesson: I represented some very dominating physicians when I was a young attorney and let their expectations grow beyond what was reasonable. I learned after that to communicate regularly with the facts of the representation and bring the bad news about their deal/case when it is warranted so they have time to adjust their expectations before it becomes a reality.

Latest pursuit: I am having a great time negotiating pharmaceutical drug purchases for Mission and helping its Executive Committee define some long term growth strategies. In my spare time, I’m enjoying the fun of performing with my friends in Ethics Follies, ending the year with two shows at the Empire Theatre in San Antonio, and a show in San Francisco.

Current Project: I’m reviewing abbreviated new drug applications to determine if they would be a good purchase for Mission’s subsidiary, BioComp Pharma, Inc. in Philadelphia.

Favorite saying/quote: Ignorance is our only real enemy. (I say that a lot, and I’m sure someone else has said it before me, I just don’t know who)

Pet peeve: People not being on time.

Secret for staying young: Play with your kids. When they move on with their own families, play like a kid.

Favorite TV program: 30 Rock.

Favorite artist: Sara Bareilles

Favorite composers: Stephen Schwartz

Favorite album: 'Kaleidoscope Heart'

Favorite music/musician: all music with heart and soul.

Generally likes to read: I read ethics blogs and editorials for The Follies and my blog for the newspaper.

Memorable vacation: a two week cruise around the boot of Italy with my wife, kids, and parents for their 50th and my wife and my 20th wedding anniversaries. Amazing trip.

My favorite weekend retreats are: hiking with my family in the hill country or escaping to our back yard to work in the garden or cook in our outdoor kitchen.

If I had more time, I would: tour with the Follies all over the world to give me a semi-excuse to be on the road with my wife and friends.

Best thing about being a lawyer: Helping others reach their goals. I think the key to being a good lawyer is to identify your client’s goal and help them get there, all while staying within the law.

Biggest misconception about me: I’m an intimidating corporate lawyer.

The part of my job I do best is: provide guidance to get deals closed and contracts signed.

The best piece of advice ever given to you and by whom: By George Spencer, Sr., who told me to always respect law practice as a profession. It creates trust by other attorneys and helps your client get the best possible outcome.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing attorneys today? Maintaining the integrity and nobility of the legal profession. For some attorneys, it has become a job instead of a profession.  The fiduciary duties and trustworthiness seem to be lost on some attorneys.

Who is your favorite on-screen or literary attorney, and why? Billy Flynn in Chicago. He embraces the theatre of a criminal defense and is able to create reasonable doubt for all his clients. It so clearly defines the flaws of the court system, but makes the audience realize there’s really no better system than what we’ve got. 

If you weren't an attorney, what profession do you think you would be in? I taught law school as an adjunct and enjoyed that. I would probably teach.

Favorite place to find albums: Rhapsody download service; XM radio

Favorite sport: Basketball (Go Spurs!)

Favorite food: Mexican

Favorite restaurant: Wildfish

Talents (besides law): Sing, act, write musicals, oil painting, Photoshop, short film production/editing

Hobbies: All the things that I consider talents above. LOL

Collects: friends and acquaintances. Not into things much.

What's the turning point that made you decide to become an attorney? I like giving advice and thought I could get paid for doing it if I learned the law. I was right.

When you are not practicing law, what do you like to do? I like to work in my yard, write music, paint oil paintings, work out in my home gym, edit video for Ethics Follies short films, and use Photoshop to create art for the Follies Playbill and ads.

Who are the people you admire most, and why? I admire self made people who have foregone immediate gratification to get where they wanted to go. In a nutshell, people with a high emotional quotient.

How do you think the practice will change in the next 15 years? The communication age will probably cause an even higher dependence on outside counsel to participate in management of client’s companies. Being able to be on a video screen in corporate board rooms will create a comfort level with outside counsel that didn’t exist before. It’s also likely that more companies will hire outside attorneys to come in house. More attorneys will go directly to work for companies instead of first looking to law firms for employment. The billing practice will also change over the next decade. The billable hour is on the way out because it encourages waste in the small number of attorneys who have no ethical issues with billing “until the client squeeks.”  Billing for projects will be found to be the desirable way to present a fee structure to clients since it increases their predictability of budgets and incentivizes both the client and outside attorney to finish the project or settle the litigation as soon as possible.

Lee is a corporate attorney with Mission Pharmacal Company.

You can also view Lee's TexasBar.com profile.


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