"I don’t want to waste my time trying to copy Abba, I’d rather develop according to my own abilities"
Took over: Law firm Dr. J. Weinroth & Co in Ramat Gan, Israel
Succeeded: Father, Dr. Jacob Weinroth
Before I took over
I was a partner in the company, at times leading a legal team and at times accompanying my father to court. Abba was a legal genius and a legend in Israel. Not only did he build a highly successful law firm from the ground up, he defended high-profile clients, including prime ministers, presidents, ministers, and MKs.
The biggest challenge I faced right away
When a team loses its star player, especially a star of undisputed caliber, two things can happen: One is that morale falls, and everyone becomes a shadow of themselves. The other is that everyone plays at 110 percent capacity to make up for losing their leader. The challenge was how to make the second option a reality. I’m so grateful to the entire staff for rising to the occasion.
My first big decision
The decision to take over running the law firm, with no prior management experience, was not an easy or obvious one, and I thank Hashem for giving me the energies it required. Almost immediately after I took over, we incorporated a smaller firm with different areas of specialty. It was a good decision — it widened our areas of expertise and gave us renewed leverage.
What I wish I’d known from the start
There were some business opportunities right at the beginning that I missed. That taught me that in the long term, it’s better to initiate than to wait passively. Yes, when you act, you risk error, but I believe that it’s worse to let opportunities slip by.
When I miss my father most
Abba had a very strong presence. You can’t be in our offices without remembering him every minute. And when it comes to more complex situations, and I’m facing a dilemma that I would naturally bring to him for his creative problem solving, I miss him terribly. Even more than that, I can’t get over his absence at family simchahs.
Something my father did that inspires me
There are so many stories of my father’s kindness and generosity, but I’m always moved by this one, which someone told me when we were sitting shivah. Abba was asked to give free legal advice to a certain man by his concerned relatives, and he agreed. The problem was that this person, although he had no financial means, had his pride, and he didn’t want to accept any free gifts or services — he wanted to pay. Abba came up with a novel solution: He knew this person liked chazzanus and was talented, so he approached him as a fellow lover of chazzanus. “I’ve heard you’re an expert chazzan. I’m looking for good chazzanus recordings to enjoy, can you record yourself singing and give me the tapes? I’d like that in lieu of payment.” The man did so happily, and he wasn’t embarrassed about accepting the legal work — in fact, he felt good about himself. That “tzedakah umishpat” characterized Abba all his life.
Something I do today that my father wouldn’t have done
In my father’s time, the office wasn’t divided into departments. Abba, a legal genius himself, believed that every attorney can and should be able to work in any legal field. Contemporary wisdom, though, is that attorneys should develop expertise in a particular niche. I divided the firm into departments so we can serve clients better. We try to keep the atmosphere the same, to maintain Abba’s ethos of empathy, humanity, and compassion alongside professionalism.
How I’m similar to my father
People always warned and begged him not to, yet my father took each case to heart. There was no concept of emotional detachment from the case, and certainly not from the client. When I feel myself getting emotionally involved, I always think of Abba. I also inherited a love of theoretical law and theoretical knowledge. Although people raise their eyebrows at my involvement in theoretical legal cases where there’s no obvious practical application, I’m interested in pursuing them.
And how I’m different
My father was an inimitable genius in many areas with an unusual power of rhetoric, brilliance, wide-ranging knowledge, and the ability to find creative solutions to complicated issues. But I don’t want to waste my time trying to copy Abba, I’d rather develop according to my own abilities. I think of the saying of Rav Zusha of Anipoli: “After 120, I won’t be asked why I wasn’t Moshe Rabbeinu, but why I wasn’t Zusha.”
If I could ask my father one question
“How did you manage to fight such a difficult illness”— he suffered from cancer for ten years before he died— “and continue despite it? How could you overcome your own pain and focus on other people even in your most difficult moments?” I never told Abba how much I admired his spirit at those times.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 878)
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