Lisa Greer Quateman grew up in Westwood, on Roscomare Road. During her junior high and high school years she would spend time at UCLA’s Student Union, imagining one day studying at the school she considered the “top of the mountain.” Now, a double graduate with a successful law career, she says, “I’ve had the satisfaction of knowing that the education that I got at UCLA has enabled me to make a difference.”
She graduated from high school at age 16, and transferred to the French Department at UCLA after two years at Cal State Northridge. Graduating UCLA Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa, with a Bachelor of Arts in French, she took a one-year break to work, travel and plan for her future. As the first grandchild she wanted to help manage her family’s real estate holdings, which led her to apply to law school. She says, “It was one of the happiest days of my life when I received my admission to the UCLA School of Law.” She graduated in 1978 at the age of 24.
After law school, she moved to New York City, one of a large class of incoming associates at a Park Avenue law firm. She wondered if she would be “outgunned” by her colleagues who had gone to Ivy League law schools, and was pleased to discover she could hold her own.
Quateman credits her UCLA education, and her supportive husband of 30 years, Neil Quateman, with making it possible for her to follow her dreams. Her role-model was her grandfather, an immigrant from Eastern Europe, who was driven to pursue excellence. She says she inherited this trait, and when she started practicing law, “I didn’t want to be just another banana in the bunch. I wanted to be a very good, very successful lawyer.” She has earned many prestigious accolades, including being named one of Los Angeles’ Top 100 Attorneys, a Southern California “Super Lawyer,” and was included in the 2013 Los Angeles Daily Journal’s list of California’s Top 30 Real Estate Attorneys.
Quateman chose to work on the business side of law because she loves to see things get created. She says, “What I love about business deals is that we’re bringing people together to build something. I get a charge out of that.” Recent projects include working on the financing for the refurbishment of facilities at LAX, electric vehicle car sharing in Los Angeles and the financing for the state agency that makes low-interest loans to military veterans. These types of projects involve starting companies, resolving disputes between partners and avoiding risks. She also happens to be one of the best proofreaders around, learning from her grandfather to pay attention to the fine print.
Quateman is now a Principal for the Los Angeles office of Polsinelli, one of the nation’s largest law firms. She was Office Managing Partner for five years, helping the firm to grow five-fold. Polsinelli is now a full-service firm with more than 740 attorneys in 19 offices nationwide. Polsinelli came into the California market in July 2011 by acquiring Quateman LLP, a firm that Quateman founded and built. Building her own firm had been a highlight of her career, and she enjoys continuing the work with Polsinelli.
Back when she was deciding to attend graduate school, she chose law over business school to avoid a career based on self-promotion. She later learned that to become a rainmaker, generating income by brokering deals and attracting clients, lawyers also have to self-promote. When Quateman attended UCLA School of Law, more than 40 percent of her class was female, yet she found that less than 20 percent of equity partners in law firms were women. This disparity has propelled her to defy the statistics by growing her own firm, becoming a rainmaker and serving on boards in hopes of inspiring others.
This was part of her motivation to join the advisory board of the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate, along with giving back to the university. When she joined, there were no female members; there was only one woman on the founding board and a few women at the sustaining level. Joining at a major gift level gave her the opportunity to show that women can become successful enough in the real estate industry to make a high level gift to an institution.
Quateman serves on several nonprofit organization boards. She served a two-year term on the UCLA Alumni Association Board of Directors as general counsel and is currently serving as vice-chair. She is also chairing the Nominations Committee and helping to put together the incoming board. She is excited about the current work of the Alumni Association Board and looks forward to the year ahead. She says, “Bring what you learned in law school to help nonprofit expand its reach. You can contribute in so many ways.”