Robert Grossman & Frank Roan
opening the Chicago law firm’s Sarasota, Florida office 1977
he newly organized Roan & Grossman offices were on the 16th
floor of 120 South LaSalle Street in the Loop. My office in the firm’s space had a large window with a perfectly nice view of similar windows on the building’s interior airshaft. While this was evidence of my low position on the totem pole, it beat one of my Pentagon basement office caves I’d worked in. That office space was so small and claustrophobic that my desk took up most of its area. I finally found a exactly the right poster I could put up on one of the walls to cheer me up. The poster looked like a large, open window looking out on a bucolic country scene on a sunny day.
In my brief time at Ross, Hardies before entering the Army, I had been assigned to work as a junior associate lawyer helping Jerry Kaplan, then a senior associate at the firm.
Having personally recruited me at the end of my Pentagon tour, it was a natural shift to return to my prior role in working under his direction. He was a fine lawyer and great mentor to me both at Ross, Hardies and now in his new role as a founding partner of the Roan & Grossman firm.
After graduating from UCLA, Jerry had gone to Harvard Law School, and then had gotten a master’s degree in tax law from New York University. While that made him a specialist in the tax code, I quickly learned tax issues are just one of the myriad of problems corporate lawyers have to deal with. My earlier narrow exposure to utility laws and regulatory issues at Ross, Hardies was now expanded and I began to see to a broader range of day-to-day legal problems being faced by the small to mid-sized business clients represented by Roan & Grossman.
Jerry Kaplan, Des Moines, Iowa 1973
I also began to appreciate that while businesses are organized and operated under the corporate law statutes of the various states, corporate clients in an important sense aren’t at all the abstract entities themselves.
The real clients are the flesh and blood humans who have the serious responsibility of making these businesses thrive in a highly competitive environment. Having technical competence as a corporate generalist or specialist is certainly an essential part of any corporate law practice, but the secret sauce of being a truly successful corporate legal advisor is securing the personal trust of the businesses’ managers or owners. That first means being able to listen very carefully to what people are saying, and sometimes to divine what they may not be saying. It also means that you have to be able to give an evenhanded and independent assessment of your client’s situation. You can’t pull your punches just because it’s something the client would rather not hear. I found out that learning how to deliver bad news to a client is every bit, if not more important, than learning how to deliver good news.