CBA Record January-February 2022

The lessons history teaches us can lead to a better understanding of our place in the world. With the value of life’s lessons in mind, we asked some of the senior members of the CBA to reflect on their long careers in the legal profession and share some insights with other CBA members. We received guidance from more than a dozen attorneys—most of whom continue to practice law today in some form or fashion. In recognizing that life must be “lived forwards” they help us realize that the key is not to live in the past, but to apply timeless truths to present-day situations.

Civility and Reputation The precepts of integrity and civility go hand- in-hand. Many of the professionals (attorneys, judges, professors, and community leaders) had something to say about the importance of civility and maintaining a good reputation. Lee Abrams is Senior Counsel at Mayer Brown, having practiced at the firm since 1957. His advice to the current generation of lawyers reflects advice he was given more than 60 years ago. “The main thing is to be thoughtful and considerate to everyone you come in contact with,” Abrams said. By “everyone,” he emphasized that he is referring to literally every person with whom you interact—including opposing counsel, court personnel, and corporate and government officials. Warren D. Wolfson has been a crimi- nal defense attorney as well as a trial and appellate court judge for more than 30 years and Dean of the DePaul University College of Law. He advises that a lawyer’s reputation begins on the day of swearing in. “Your constant goal should be to earn and retain the trust of judges, lawyers and your clients,” Wolfson said. “To protect that reputation, you must follow some simple rules. First, honor the truth in all matters, whether in legal documents, court proceedings, in-person or written communications. Promises must be made in good faith and always kept. Be known as a lawyer who carefully prepares his or her legal positions, acting according to law or in a good faith effort to change or advance the law.” “Your reputation is everything,” said Mitchell Goldgehn . Goldgehn gradu- ated law school in 1953. For most of his long career he was an insurance coverage attorney and name partner at Aronberg, Goldgehn, Davis & Garmisa. Goldgehn observed that “back in the day,” there were more solo practitioners, and many lawyers had to be in different places at the same time. Lawyers had to trust one another to hold the call or ask for a continuance. So the first lesson he learned was, “Don’t lie and don’t screw another lawyer.” He noticed a change over the years as firms

got bigger and the stakes got higher. He began seeing a “win at all costs” mentality emerge. More recently, however, he said, there has been a shift back toward collegial- ity and decency as the current generation of lawyers has begun climbing up the ranks of the profession. Jerry Levy has been in private prac- tice for more than 50 years. He included civility as one of the three pillars of the practice of law, but he ranked number one as—sympathy. “It is important to use sympathy and understanding if you want to have clients agree with your advice,” Levy said. Number two is—patience. “Be patient. Most of the major cases in which I have been involved take a great deal of time. Recognize that the race is a marathon and not a 100-yard dash. It takes patience, and a lot of work, to get the best results.” And third—civility. “You can catch a lot more flies with honey than you can with vinegar. Besides just the ethics involved in dealing with other lawyers with courtesy, in the long run, you can expect a lot more cooperation and eventually a better reso- lution if you are courteous to opposing counsel.” Commitment to the Profession On being asked about life’s lessons, Joe Curcio immediately replied, “It goes back to my law school days [at John Marshall Law School, now UIC] when one of my professors said, ‘Law is a jealous mistress.’ Over the years, a lot of lawyers can agree that law is a demanding as well as a reward- ing and productive career.” Admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1956, Curcio has been practicing primarily per- sonal injury law for 65 years. “The profes- sion allows us to do meaningful things, but you only get out what you put in. My practice has always lived by these words,” Curcio said. “It has been the pursuit of ideals, and something I try to instill in everyone that practices in our office.” Curcio finds it particularly rewarding to see his son, Robert J. (RJ) Curcio, gradually take over the firm he has built and carry on his legacy.

Lee Abrams

Mitchell Goldgehn

Jerry Levy


Joe Curcio

Sharon King


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