This article can be found on the Philadelphia Business Journal.
Article written by Jeff Blumenthal
Lawyers and human rights activists from around the country are remembering Philadelphialawyer Jerome J. Shestack, who died Aug. 18 at age 88.
I spoke Friday with David Smith, chairman of Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis , where Shestack practiced for the bulk of his 62-year legal career. Shestack had been Smith’s mentor since Smith joined Schnader Harrison from University of Miami Law School in 1975.
“If you attend his funeral Sunday, you will find hundreds of his mentees there and not just lawyers,” Smith said. “Jerry had diverse interests. But he felt the best thing he could do for the world was to mentor the next generation.”
“When I went to see him at the hospital last Thursday night, what he wanted to talk about was that when he came back to work, he wanted to be more involved in an organized way in mentoring young Schnader lawyers.”
Though many, including Shestack himself, said Shestack was tough on young lawyers, Smith saw things differently.
“I didn’t see him as tough but rather insistent that each person give his or her best,” Smith said. “And if they didn’t, the worst thing he could say was that it wasn’t their best work. It was kind of like your Dad saying he was disappointed in you. So I saw him as being demanding of each person producing their best work and accepting nothing less.”
Smith said he learned many things from Shestack but nothing was more important than the biblical quote, “Justice, Justice Shall You Pursue,” that became his mantra.
“It was not just lip service,” Smith said. “Jerry never took a position with an organization simply to have the honor on his résumé. He threw himself into everything he did as if it was his first job.”
Smith said a perfect example was in 1963 when he became the first executive director for The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, an organization formed by President Kennedy in response to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Shestack became the organization’s first full-time executive director despite having a full-time job at Schnader. The organization remembered him Friday with a statement.
The American Jewish Committee also remembered Shestack for his extensive work with that organization. In 2008, Shestack received the AJC’s Gruber Prize for Justice for a lifetime of work to “bring justice to the victims of oppression and discrimination.”
A documentary about his life was produced.
And Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Rudolph Garcia also issued a statement Friday.
“In every sense, Jerome Shestack was the consummate Philadelphia lawyer,” Garcia said. “He exemplified the ideals of keen intellect, personal character and professional commitment. He was a natural-born leader and international human rights advocate who was a treasured friend and colleague to countless lawyers, judges, public officials and ordinary citizens.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton released a statement Friday, praising Shestack for his “commitment to the highest of American values and international human rights standards. Jerry was an effective advocate for the causes—and people—he cared about because he had a rare mix of wonderful qualities: optimism, resilience, humor, a thick skin, and a way of making everyone feel at ease.”