This article was originally posted in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin on July 16, 2012
PUBLISHER: MICHAEL B. KRAMER | EDITOR: OLIVIA CLARKE
Recently, Philip Corboy, a giant in the legal community, passed away. Many extraordinarily kind things were said about him after he passed. Though I know the legend of Phil Corboy, I never got a chance to get to know the man.
I have no doubt that he is worthy of all the praise he has gotten. What I admire most about him is the fact that he mentored so many lawyers who went on to become successes with Mr. Corboy’s full support and help.
I had some excellent mentoring myself and I write this article to honor my mentors and to salute other mentors, like Mr. Corboy, who are out there. These are lawyers who are real living examples of respectable professionals in our legal community. Though we need more, I have the good fortune of having some of them as my mentors and would like to acknowledge them in this article.
David Rapoport is the lawyer who gave me my first shot out of law school. He exudes legal proficiency and diligence. He leaves no stone unturned in his factual and legal investigations. I had the honor of handling and trying several complex cases with him and was always amazed with his uncanny ability to make something that was extremely complex, simple to understand. If just a little bit of his legal brilliance rubbed off on me over the years I worked for him, I am lucky. He truly is a lawyer’s lawyer.
Another lawyer I worked for early in my career was David Kupets. He taught me that it’s a round world and to treat everyone, even your adversaries, with respect. He often reminded me that the lawyer who you may have the upper hand with today will be the same lawyer that will have the upper hand on you later in your career and to act accordingly. I learned from him that you can fiercely advocate for your clients, and at the same time, act in a civil and professional manner.
For a couple of years, I got out of the “trenches” and worked for an insurance company. My job was to coordinate and manage the strategic direction of million-dollar-plus cases. My boss was a renowned Alabama trial lawyer by the name of Davis Carr. His leadership skills allowed him to get extraordinary achievement from ordinary people. He demonstrated day in and day out that integrity was the most valuable and respected quality of leadership. While he passed away long before his time, my life was enriched by the time I spent with him.
After the insurance company and before starting my own firm, I worked at Clifford Law Offices. I had the privilege of trying a catastrophic injury case with Bob Clifford, a tough case with a very good chance for a defense verdict. This was well after he reached his high profile status in the legal community. While some lawyers of his stature would have delegated the case to someone else or passed on it completely, Mr. Clifford didn’t. He tried the case and the jury came back with a multi-million dollar verdict in our client’s favor. During that trial, I learned a lot from Mr. Clifford, not only about the art of trial advocacy, but about confidence and courage.
My mentors’ law practices and lives are marked by integrity, compassion, courtesy, bravery and honor. They treat people with respect. They enhance the image of the legal profession in general. These lawyers are an inspiration for guys like me, who strive to do our best for our clients and our families while also finding energy to do what’s right for our communities. I hope that if you are reading this that your mentors are as good as mine and that you are or will become one of those mentors yourself.
Lastly, I must not forget to acknowledge my number one mentor. He never practiced law. However, he was very ambitious and demonstrated a remarkable work ethic. He grew up poor, but eventually did well for himself and more importantly to him, for his family. Though he didn’t spend much money on himself, he didn’t wince when it came time to pay for his five children’s post high school educations. As hard as he worked, he never lost his sense of family. He dedicated himself to work, but always had time for his wife and kids. He demonstrated a good sense of humor and a touching sensitivity. I only hope I inherited some of his traits. This man was my father.