Monday, March 14, 2011

Stephen Zack >

Stephen Zack, Administrative Partner at Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP; First Hispanic President of the American Bar Association.  

Being Hispanic, does it have any influence on your business?
It reminds me, as a Hispanic lawyer, how important it is that the legal profession expand its ranks amongst Hispanics in order to reflect the society we serve. Hispanics now make up more than 15% of U.S. society but less than 5% of all U.S. lawyers. America's global reputation is as a draw for newcomers and a melting pot: its lawyers should demonstrate this. A diverse profession keeps the justice system connected to the people.

In the face of adversity, how do you decide to keep going?
It’s not really in my DNA to take no for an answer. I also believe in the Chinese adage, “Never waste a crisis.” I view crisis as an opportunity to learn.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced?
The night in my life, nearly 50 years ago, when I was detained by the G2 (the Cuban equivalent of the KGB) as my family tried to flee the country. It left its mark on me forever. I didn’t know if I would go free, or ever see the rest of my family again. That feeling of helplessness and being wronged drove an interest in justice that led me to become a lawyer.

If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be?
Not a thing. Life is about moving forward, not looking back, and life has been full of great opportunities and moments.

What was your childhood ambition?
From the beginning I always wanted to be a lawyer.

Tell us about three people that you admire?
My grandfather, who showed tremendous courage in fleeing his country for the freedom of America

My mother, who instilled in me my values

My former client, Al Gore, who refused-no matter what happened in the counts during the Bush v. Gore litigation-to allow anyone on his legal team to say anything that denigrated the American system of justice.

For meetings: breakfast, lunch, or dinner?
Lunch: I’m not a morning person and after the intensity of the work day, I enjoy spending time relaxing with family and friends.

What sacrifices in your personal life did you have to make in order to become a business success?
Busy lawyers work a lot, and when I was younger and building the practice, that was even more true. Besides business obligations, there were a lot of community and public service demands. I’m glad now I’m getting to spend a lot more time with my adult children and their children. But also, note my favorite quote.

What is your favorite quote?
Choose a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life. My dad said that and I took his advice.

I will add that these days I also think a lot about the four words carved in marble above the entrance to the United States Supreme Court, “Equal Justice Under Law.” Ensuring those words are more than a promise is behind a lot of the ABA’s work.

Is it difficult to be unconventional?
Change is rarely made by conventional people.

Biggest mistake made?
Like all of us, as you get older you get better at listening to and taking the advice of others. I’m glad that acquired skill is one of the gifts of time.

Do you consider yourself an innovator? Why?
I hope I am. True innovators drive others to do the extraordinary and to think of new ways to get things done.

About the Company
Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, founded in 1997, has become one of the nation's premier law firms. Today, with over 250 lawyers practicing in offices across the country, we regularly serve as lead counsel in the most significant and highest profile disputes in the world. While best known for landmark cases such as United States v. Microsoft; Bush v. Gore; Perry v. Schwarzenegger; Lloyds of London vs. World Trade Center; and American Express vs. Visa, we represent some of the largest and most sophisticated organizations in the world when the results matter most. We have been described by The Wall Street Journal as a "national litigation power house" and by the National Law Journal as "unafraid to venture into controversial" and "high risk" matters.

And we are just getting started.

The talent of our partnership is matched by the skill and diversity of our associates. Likewise, our corporate practice brings our standard of excellence to bear in negotiating complex and sophisticated transactions. For that reason, the American Lawyer noted that the firm has assembled "a team of seasoned attorneys to form one of America's most successful and sought-after law firms for cases that matter."

Our clients know and rely on our talent, standard of excellence, relentlessness, creativity, and track record of success in a wide variety of practice areas and industries, for both plaintiffs and defendants. We have successfully defended and brought actions on behalf of our clients in some of their most high-stakes litigation.

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