Serving executives in higher education throughout the United States. Admitted New York and Connecticut bars.

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As executive employment lawyers who work with leaders in higher education and independent schools, we feel rewarded when our clients express their gratitude for our services. Yet the work of lawyers rarely survives the present moment because clients have contracts, needs and questions in real time.

This makes it all the more important to remember those legal colleagues who rendered service to many people. In our world, two of those who passed away in the last year deserve special attention.

Ray Cotton was an excellent attorney who spent most of his professional lifetime working in higher education. He represented dozens, maybe hundreds of college and university presidents; he would also act on behalf of schools which were hiring a new president.

Ray became a friend of our practice in the course of a number of transactions where we represented a new college or university president and he represented the institution. Always a fine gentleman, Ray was a pleasure to deal with because he was so knowledgeable. He understood that the job of a college president was sufficiently difficult that he or she deserved a certain level of reward and protection. Ray always worked for a fair outcome. He had no interest in scoring meaningless points. He was not self-aggrandizing.

Ray was an executive employment lawyer who had the courage of his convictions, and did his clients the service of telling them what he thought, which was not always what they wanted to hear. There were even instances where he told a client that the contract they had been offered was sufficiently unsatisfactory that the client should not take the job.

Ray passed away earlier this year, and will be fondly remembered by those of us who had the privilege of dealing with him and being his friend.

Another real loss in the past year was my Harvard Law School classmate Mary Campbell Gallagher. Mary was a lovely and brilliant person. She had a Ph.D. as well as a law degree, and dedicated her career to helping law students and foreign lawyers pass the bar exam. Mary founded and ran her own company in New York City called BarWrite, and she was a gifted educator with a particular expertise in assisting candidates for the Bar for whom English was not their first language.

Some years ago Lisa and I had, as a legal assistant, a talented young woman who was already admitted to the bar of Switzerland. She was a native French speaker whose difficulty in passing the New York bar exam was purely linguistic. Mary knew exactly what this young lawyer needed, tutored her and exulted when the young lawyer had success on the next bar exam. Always lively and intellectually curious, Mary was dedicated to all of her students, and it was a gift to have known her.

Both of these legal professionals were fully committed to the interest of their clients. Both will be missed and long remembered by their friends, acquaintances and colleagues.

On a happier note, two other colleagues and friends are not only still active, but produce their own periodic blogs, both of which are usually timely and informative.

Richard Friedman has his own law firm in New York City dedicated to executive employment law and litigation, and Richard periodically writes compellingly on relevant legal topics. His most recent opus, a detailed review and assessment of the “Faithless Servant” Doctrine in New York State, is well worth reading by any executive employed in any area. This article and Richard’s other writing can be accessed at

Richard Harrison is an insurance expert and writes a monthly column dedicated largely to developments in the insurance industry, with his own pungent comments on larger economic issues. Richard not only writes well, but his monthly pieces offer real nourishment for everyone concerned with today’s economic issues, particularly with respect to insurance. I understand that Richard does not ordinarily post these to his firm website, but anyone who wants to be on his distribution list should contact him at

With the coming of autumn (“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,” as Keats said), the academic year has begun in earnest.

Lisa and I wish all our friends and clients well for the remainder of this year and the year to come.

About the Author

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George Birnbaum

Since 1980, sophisticated business people have relied on George to apply the meticulous preparation, attention to detail, and devotion to his clients he learned from fabled trial lawyer Louis Nizer. A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, George has over 35 years of distinguished deal-making, litigation, mediation and arbitration experience which he has used to negotiate high-stakes agreements for senior executives and select business clients throughout the United States.