PEOPLE WHO KNOW JEFF BEST
Lance Liebman was among Jeff’s first-year professors at Harvard Law School and his advisor for his third-year paper. Lance has since served as Dean of Columbia Law School and Director of the American Law Institute.
Some four decades after Jeff’s Property Law class as a 1L, Lance remembers him this way:
“As a law student, he was very good and very interested in all kinds of ideas and public issues, problems and solutions. I’m not surprised, based on the person he was as a law student, that his legal path has not been the most conventional.
“I had roughly 150 first-year students at Harvard. The larger percentage of them became boring lawyers. Some really did special things. Some went into government, some made a lot of money and some didn’t. There are a whole bunch whose careers didn’t go where we thought they would. The Jeff I knew then was out to have good consequences, to contribute, solve problems and do good.
“I never would have thought – and I would have been right in this case – that he would become an aggressive fighter on one side or another of disputed issues. Indeed, his very interesting career as a problem solver is consistent with my impression of him as a student.
“He always had a streak of idealism. I think that’s a good way to say it.”
He tells a story about Jeff going to summer clerkship interviews wearing a Dodgers baseball cap during the 1978 World Series, when his team squared off against the New York Yankees.
“I asked why he would go into an interview with stuffy attorneys at some of the biggest law firms in the country wearing that hat. He just shrugged and said, ‘If they’re going to hold something like that against me, it’s not the sort of place I’d want to work anyway.”
Lance believes Jeff excels as a mediator, in particular in this way:
“If the mediator is really good, he or she is able to put together a package that is a net gain for both sides, compared to where they would be if they kept fighting. That’s what Jeff has done, particularly in the areas of intellectual property and insurance disputes.
“In a way, he represents both sides – and sometimes more than two sides. When the parties walk into these things, they haven’t necessarily thought clearly about what their goals are or why they’re unhappy. Jeff is able to find solutions where the net total is better than where they started.”
Emeritus Dean of Columbia Law School and Director of the American Law Institute
Marshall Grossman was Jeff’s mentor and boss. Today, Marshall is senior partner at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, a firm that serves the technology, finance, energy and infrastructures industries globally.
“Jeff joined AG&P right out of law school – and as a young lawyer, he had the rare ability to combine book smarts and street smarts,” Marshall says.
“He quickly rose to the top of the class in the firm. Many lawyers have one but not the other – Jeff has both.
“In terms of book smarts, he was always right on the law. If he told me the law was heading in a particular direction in regard to a case, he was invariably spot on. And in terms of street smarts, Jeff knew when to hold them and when the fold them.
“His ability to analyze complex facts and legal problems was A-plus. I relied heavily on him to do a lot of preparatory work in terms of getting cases ready for trial. And during the trials themselves, he made himself indispensible.”
Today, Marshall says, Jeff enjoys a long-standing reputation as an excellent arbitrator and mediator.
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP
Peter Robinson is Managing Director of the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University School of Law. U.S. News & World Report perennially rates Pepperdine as the No. 1 Alternate Dispute Resolution program in the country. Jeff has been an adjunct professor and is a frequent guest speaker there.
Peter describes Jeff as exceedingly bright, thoughtful, and intentional about the mediation process.
“Jeff mediates with very prominent lawyers. Because of that, he leaves a lot of room for them to manage their cases and the mediation. Some mediators try to push in a certain direction. Jeff knows that his prominent clientele are people accustomed to having a good deal of control over the negotiations and mediation process.
“Jeff mediates in a way that lets them participate in that control … he knows that successful lawyers don’t want to be pushed – they want to be invited.”
As noted earlier, Jeff is often asked to speak at Pepperdine.
“Why do we invite him? Because he’s able to present to the students his way of dealing with the whole situation … He’s smart, thoughtful, and intentional … He has an ability to show our students an approach and philosophy that has more finesse in terms of helping people get through their challenges.
“Jeff really knows how to help people think through and maybe modify their negotiation strategies in order to accomplish their goals. It’s a great lesson for our students to learn.”
Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution
Ken Roberts is head of the construction law group and a member of the Executive Committee at Schiff Hardin LLP, a major law firm based in Chicago. He also is one of Jeff’s clients.
“Jeff is a student of the game, meaning that he’s constantly looking, constantly trying to improve,” Ken says.
“He pays attention to what works and what doesn’t. In terms of effective dispute resolution, he has very good people skills. He has an ability to read a room and gauge personalities.”
Ken says he has used Jeff’s skills to great success. He cites one case in particular:
“It was an international matter involving a lot of big players in the energy field. Jeff was highly effective — coming in at short notice, working with multiple players and dealing with very complex issues.
“Jeff is a quick study. And, he’s effective at working with a number of very high level executives – people who were not used to being told ‘no.’ There were a lot of big egos in the room. Jeff was very deft at handling those egos, getting them to understand. A decision maker can’t make an effective decision unless he truly hears the other side.
“Jeff has a way, a great way of getting the decision makers to see the other side’s position. He really is very very good; one of the brightest, hardest working mediators out there.”
Schiff Hardin LLP
Cecile Miranda knows Jeff as a student in her most challenging yoga class.
“It’s not a class for sissies,” Cecile says.
“I call it my ‘A’ personalities. These are people with vast amounts of get up and go —all highly successful people. The class starts at 6:15 a.m., and Jeff’s always there. He has that discipline. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be there to do the hard work.
“People often ask me, ‘What’s the hardest yoga position?’ I say it’s when you’re lying in bed and the alarm goes off at 5:30, the hardest thing is to get up out of bed and go to yoga class. It’s that moment of crossroads – ‘Am I gonna stay in bed, or am I gonna get up and take care of myself?’”
Cecile and Jeff typically spend a few minutes after class talking. She finds him to be caring and interested in learning both sides of any story. Or however many sides a story might have. The word she uses to describe him is “inclusive.”
“He’s genuine in thanking people for sharing what is on their minds.”
She recalls one occasion when Jeff”s late mother, then almost 90, was going through a seriously difficult patch, one she would put behind her to live three more years. A social worker presented Jeff with authority papers that were highly detailed about what caregivers could and could not do at the end of this particular patient’s life.
Cecile says Jeff told the social worker to put the questions directly to his mother. She was able to decide and so she should, he said. When the social worker left, the R.N. in attendance turned to Jeff and said, “In all my years as a nurse, that’s the first time I’ve heard anyone speak with such respect for someone else’s life. Nobody does that for their parents.”
“To me, it was another indication of how respectful Jeff is of people having a choice.”