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2009 Women to Watch: Francine L. Semaya

Nelson Levine de Luca & Horst L.L.C.

Francine L. Semaya

Chair, Insurance Transactional and Regulatory Practice Group
Nelson Levine de Luca & Horst L.L.C.
New York


With more than 30 years of experience, Francine Semaya oversees Nelson Levine de Luca & Horst L.L.C.'s national and global insurance insolvency, regulatory, reinsurance and transactional practice. Previously with Cozen O'Connor P.C. for nearly 10 years, Ms. Semaya joined Nelson Levine earlier this year, where she also provides guidance on financial guarantee issues. She is president of the International Assn. of Insurance Receivers. She also is chair of the American Bar Assn.'s tort trial and insurance practice section task force on federal involvement in insurance regulation modernization and has been instrumental in the ABA's adoption of several insurance-related modernization policies. She is a frequent lecturer at law and insurance conferences, and mentors law students at her alma mater, New York Law School.


Your professional role model: I'd say several of my former bosses when I first started my career in a huge insurance holding company and worked in the state relations department. There was particularly one boss' influence that really encouraged me to pursue my career as an attorney. I always wanted to attend law school, but I wasn't 100% sure I could balance marriage, kids and everything else, and he was very encouraging. That was Bill Brustman. Also, in tribute to Patrick Foley, who just recently passed away, I learned so much about the insurance industry. He was a legend in this business. One of the most influential insurance women in my life, who's a very dear friend, is Linda Lamel, who actually is a former recipient of this honor. But most important has been the influence of my family and their encouragement. I had an aunt who passed away many years ago, who in her generation was the first one in our family, a female, to graduate college. She had a tremendous influence on me, encouraging me to read and pursue my education and to succeed in anything I tried to do. To this day, I think of her often. She was very unique for her generation, and I am proud to have had her in my life.


Best professional advice you've received: If you know you're right, to stand up for it, support it and not to be intimidated and back down. When you know you're right, even though there are those who would challenge you otherwise, stick to it.


Advice for women entering the field: To pursue their career with the energy and zest that they start out with. To always realize that you learn something new from every experience. You're never too old to learn something new. If I can give one piece of advice, it is that there is no question that's too simple or too foolish to ask. Never assume, and don't be afraid to ask.


What you wanted to be professionally while growing up: When I was very young, I wanted to be a teacher. I also fell in love with law, but I really wanted to teach, and I did that for a number of years before I started my law career. Back then, I was an elementary school teacher. I taught in some very tough neighborhoods in New York City, first and third grades. I'd like to, when I have time, go back and teach again. I'd probably go back and teach either at the college or graduate level, or possibly law school.


The best book you've read recently: "The Difference: How Anyone Can Prosper in Even The Toughest Times" by Jean Chatzky. I found interesting the different options that are available, particularly to women, to succeed and how even the most unsuspecting person can be successful. Sometimes when you think there's only one way to approach a problem, there are alternatives. Life, particularly in these hard economic times, is not a cookie-cutter approach.


Phone or e-mail and why: I do like one-on-one, face-to-face contact with people. E-mail is very helpful, but what happens is that you get so caught up in your e-mails you can't accomplish the tasks you set out to do.

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