Jerry Kaplan and Maridee Quanbeck
had traded the apparent security of the large Ross, Hardies law firm for what I thought would be a faster development as a lawyer in the more entrepreneurial environment of a small firm. Whereas Ross, Hardies at the time had large business clients such as a major automobile company and large natural gas, electric and telephone utilities, Roan & Grossman mostly represented small companies. Often that also meant separately representing their owners or managers in their individual capacities. This kind of clientele was often represented on a long-term basis, but sometimes there were short-term
clients who came to the firm for one-time transactional work, estate planning, buying a house, getting a divorce and the like.
Most of the businesses the firm represented needed a sophisticated understanding of the tax environment their business dealt with, as well as other corporate law advice. This made Jerry Kaplan, with tax as his specialty well suited to manage the client’s corporate practice as a “billing partner.” Initially, he would then typically deal with strategy or tax issues himself and then parcel out other parts of a client’s legal problems to me. As the 1970s went on, the firm grew as Bill Cowan, from the University of Chicago Law School, and Maridee Quanbeck, from Harvard Law School, joined me as associates in the corporate law area.
Later, in the recession of 1991, Encyclopaedia Britannica went through a crisis with its banks that led to a change in ownership from the William Benton Foundation first to the University of Chicago and then to investor Jacob Safra.
The upshot was EB’s Law Department along the way shrank to one, me. I was very fortunate that I had the opportunity at that point to again practice law with Maridee. By then she had married my early law firm mentor Jerry Kaplan and both of them had moved on from Roan & Grossman.
When EB’s financial crisis passed, and the climate was once again cost effective for rebuilding the inside legal staff, I was fortunate when Maridee agreed to become my Assistant General Counsel and she was able to effectively jump into the task of handling many of the international law problems of the day.
Looking back, I was extraordinarily fortunate to have been able to work closely with both Jerry Kaplan and Maridee Quanbeck together and separately over many years. Both were exceptional lawyers, always self-possessed in any crisis of the day, and beyond their professional skills, great fun to be around in or out of the office.
Throughout the 1970s I had continued to practice law at Roan & Grossman. My one detour was the brief interlude in 1974 and 1975 when I took a leave of absence from the firm to serve as General Counsel and Research Director of Bill Singer’s unsuccessful mayoral campaign against Chicago’s long time mayor Richard J. Daley.
With that exception, I spent the decade nose to the grindstone learning my craft as a corporate law generalist. That meant I was learning to organize and dissolve corporations, merge them, and buy and sell them.
In the interim, I was learning how to write their business contracts, manage their litigation, and handle their copyright, trademark, trade secret and other intellectual property rights. While there was always an ebb and flow to the business, with both busy and dry spells, there were two continuing clients of the firm that I particularly enjoyed and spent lots of time on.
One was a steel company, and the other an alternative newspaper born in the generational disruption of the 1960s.