By Jeffrey A. Abrams, Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff LLP
Last month, Zeff Weiss, a friend of mine, a friend to his partners, a friend to the Real Estate and Land Use Section, a friend to many, and a father of four and husband of a fellow attorney passed away from a short battle with cancer. Zeff Weiss was a brilliant attorney. I sat through Phil Bayt’s eulogy, which may have been the longest eulogy I have ever witnessed, but it had such prophetic comments about Zeff and how he practiced law I thought it would be memorable to note the parallels of his life and the philosophies that the IndyBar strives for in civility and compassion within our profession.
Zeff has four children, one of whom is a practicing attorney and two of whom are currently in law school. His only other child is not old enough for law school, but after having spent some time with him following the funeral, it is clear that should he decide to follow Zeff’s footsteps, he will be another outstanding lawyer in a long string of Weiss attorneys. Zeff set the bar high and lived his life as an example for his children. They all admired his life as an attorney and have honored him by wanting to become attorneys. We have challenging lives. It is not always rosy with flowers blooming. But Zeff loved this challenging career and despite the challenges, he still gave his children a reason and desire to study the law.
Many of us were fortunate, yet challenged, to deal with Zeff during our careers. He was a partner at Ice Miller with a substantial number of clients who were also his friends. He was a scholar, but he did not lecture you. Zeff usually represented the 1,000-pound gorilla as compared to some of us representing clients with very little leverage. And while Zeff knew how to leverage his position, he did so with logical arguments to support his position. He never spoke in a demeaning or condescending way but always let you know that he held most of the cards.
I also learned from Phil’s comments that Zeff Weiss was a sage scholar to his children. He taught his children that they needed TO FINISH, whether they were studying for a final exam after having worked all semester to achieve a good grade or finishing something at work that required a significant effort. They always needed to be able to finish and finish well. We should all follow that simple principle – FINISH – and we will be much better off as attorneys, friends, spouses and parents.
Zeff Weiss will be missed by a lot of people. A lot of us will miss the civility that he displayed to his fellow attorneys in artfully advocating for his client, yet despite the vigorous negotiations, he knew the ultimate goal was to achieve success for all parties by closing a transaction. I can only hope that his message will not be forgotten since he is no longer around to tell it. I hope that other seasoned attorneys follow in his footsteps to nurture other attorneys where civility is a high priority and practicing law with respect and humility is the golden rule.