Senior counsel, Fox Rothschild, Philadelphia
The culture of the people among whom my parents travelled dictated that sons had to pursue a profession, either medicine or law. A lawyer was a Jewish boy who couldn’t stand the sight of blood – otherwise he would have been a doctor, the more respected profession. I was the youngest of four children and I learned to become effective by arguing for my ‘rights’. Both in high school and in college I was on the debating teams. Incidentally, I must confess that even as a young man I couldn’t stand the sight of blood.
I graduated from Temple University Law School in 1936 – at the height of the Depression. At that time one had to serve as an intern in a lawyer’s office for six months before one could be sworn in as a practising lawyer. Although I graduated with honours, I found it impossible to find a paying job, and through a relative I got an internship with a lawyer for six months – at no pay. My employer had a limited practice and I learned mostly by filing documents in court and serving as a ‘gofer’ buying cigars, cigarettes and lunch for my ‘boss’.
I got a job as counsel for a civic agency that was concerned with the operation of the city and the state governments. I met with public officials, spoke before civic groups and generally broadened my feeling of self-confidence. However there was little practice of law in the business sense. It was all at an intellectual level.
I was appointed as a lawyer for the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (the famous RFC), a federal agency created by the US president at the height of the Depression to help banks and businesses. I learned more law there than anywhere else. I learned to prepare every kind of a security. I was serving as a lawyer for a bank, preparing documents as collateral to insure the repayment of the loans.
At the beginning of my practice I did everything – personal injury cases, criminal cases and a bit of business advice. The business part of my practice began to grow. It became the most profitable. In due time I was handling mergers and acquisitions. I was also involved in large real estate deals. When my present firm offered me a partnership, they told me they wanted me to handle only business matters and real estate. So I became a business and real estate lawyer instead of a litigator.
Having practised law for 70 years, one has experienced many moments of joy and many moments of despair. It is difficult to name a single incident that is particularly descriptive.
The most sustained, exciting experience I had was when I represented a major operator in the purchasing and selling of hotels during the hectic casino period in Atlantic City. The sums involved were in the millions and there were many corporate problems and numerous title questions regarding the properties to be sold or acquired.
For 35 years I was an adjunct professor at Temple University School of Law teaching business planning and real estate. I serve now on the Board of Trustees of three colleges – Temple University, Gratz College, and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel.