This morning I attended a breakfast seminar on insurance issues relating to technology, two areas of my interest and practice, sponsored by Lowenstein Sandler PC, the great New Jersey law firm where I — after spending years as an “associate” — became a lawyer. It is one of the seemingly scores of firms where I have worked (it’s really something only slightly more than half a dozen … or so … ) and I have not stayed in close touch. I went to a reunion once, which was nice; but you usually move apart from people personally when you part from them professionally, and all the more so when they are moving along at a different speed from yours entirely.
Years after I left, I watched with wonder when the firm’s star litigator Ted Wells pulled himself out of the Lowenstein orbit and was plopped by God into the leadership of the firm that regards itself as His very own, Paul Weiss. I knew Ted, a little. Even Lowenstein could not contain the practice that he moved across the Hudson, but as my friend and mentor Bruce Shoulson would remark whenever asked, it was a fine testament (and a fine bit of business) that someone of Ted’s stature stayed at a firm in the suburbs of Essex County as long as he did. Ted became a little more famous earlier this year when he represented Scooter Libby, and his high level of achievement was as usual a reminder of my own bittersweet relationship with our old firm.
But Lowenstein, Sandler, Kohl, Fisher & Boylan, a Professional Corporation, which was what the firm was called when I worked there and when Lowenstein, Sandler, Kohl, Fisher and Boylan were all firmly ensconced in their offices in Roseland, New Jersey, is never all that far from my mind. It is high up in my crowded “what if” file (I did leave under my own power, but the next stop was a disaster only slightly of my own device) and also in most cases the place where I refer people looking for the best New Jersey lawyers, especially in corporate law, even though I worked at another very fine New Jersey firm (UPDATE: which no longer really exists), and for longer.
Another reason I never forgot Lowenstein, though, was Lowenstein — Alan Lowenstein, the firm’s founder. Alan was already in semi-retirement when I worked at the firm he made, but was in and around and very much the avuncular firm presence during that time. We would sit together in the cafeteria together from time to time, and he was always generous with his time and his attention, this man old enough to be my grandfather who had founded a firm that then had grown to about 120 lawyers, half of its present size. He even seemed to have genuine insight into me, my career and what my future strategy might be, and he was probably right about it.
Ours was a little like the relationship I had fostered with the great former Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals, Stanley Fuld, when he was of counsel at the quasi-white shoe New York firm where I had started my career, where no one under 40 but me seemed to realize who it was padding around the halls looking for a reason to be needed. But only a little; Mr. Lowenstein was not quite so Olympian as Judge Fuld, nor so old, and in no way so bored.
Over time, though, the name partners of the firm moved into various other forms of retirement, including Matt Boylan, the name partner to whom I was closest (both in terms of our relationship and our styles of work) and who was probably my biggest fan in the firm both during and after my service there. Now the firm leadership is largely made up of lawyers who had been associates, even new hires, when I was there, and it was less, not more, comfortable for me because of that. But this time I decided to accept the invitation to a seminar because it was so closely allied to my practice interests, and while it was a bit dreary — as any talk involving insurance in a room largely full of risk managers will be — it was worth it for what I learned.
And on the way back I remembered vaguely that a few weeks ago I had wondered how Mr. Lowenstein was doing, and whether I would know when his time came, and if I would be able to honor him for the small part he played in making a callow litigation associate feel like a mensch in a great institution.