Monday, March 19, 2007

In Memoriam: DLA Piper's Jeff Liss

I was tremendously saddened to learn just a few minutes ago of the passing of a great lawyer and good friend, Jeff Liss, one of the managing partners, and indeed one of the architects, of what is now known as DLA Piper.  I came to know him because Piper Marbury, one of the predecessors of DLA Piper, hadLiss_j done work for Great Lakes Chemical for a long time, and Jeff led a team in for one of our "dog and pony shows" as we pruned our outside counsel relationships down to a few.  We quickly became friends.

Jeff was a loyal alumnus of the University of Michigan Law School, and a fierce supporter of the Michigan football team.  We met to talk during the occasion halftime on the upper level concourse on the east side of the stadium.  He taught Remedies as an adjunct professor at Michigan and Georgetown, and introduced me to his friend Lincoln Caplan, who was the editor of Legal Affairs, the hybrid practice-academic journal loosely associated with the Yale Law School.  (Unfortunately, I was too theoretical for that journal, an ironic twist!)  I confided in him as I started to act on my own academic impulses.  Indeed, I have a piece in the DePaul Law Review that began as a conversation with Jeff about a presentation he wanted me to give at the firm's Marbury Institute, a speaker's series bridging practice and academics.  His son, Harry, and my son, Matt, are both currently students at Michigan, and Jeff was responsible for a special treat accorded Matt.  During the summer of 2004, while Matt was doing a summer program at Harvard, the Democratic National Convention was going on in Boston, and Jeff got him and a friend access to a special Goo Goo Dolls concert and a reception the law firm was hosting for the Democratic senators.

Here's what the firm had to say on its website:

In many ways, Jeff embodied the soul of our firm. Not only was he deeply dedicated to his clients as a leading environmental and business litigator, he was particularly passionate about building the quality and quantity of our pro bono work around the world. For many inside and outside the firm, it was Jeff's advice on a difficult issue, in the end, that mattered most. Outside of DLA Piper, Jeff had been a top student, a favorite clerk to one of the leading judges in the country, and a trusted advisor to various national political leaders. Most important, Jeff was a devoted husband and father.

DLA Piper is blessed to have known and worked with such a remarkable leader, colleague, mentor, and friend.

Jeff fought pancreatic cancer for over two years, and while that's an uphill battle, he seemed to be beating it.  I am just so sad to lose a friend, and for all of Jeff's family, friends, partners, and clients who knew him to be a kind, funny, wise, good, honorable, smart, tough, caring person and lawyer.


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