SAN FRANCISCO Jerome Falk Jr.'s new career move has been more than a year in the making.
This week Falk began work at JAMS, concluding four decades of appellate advocacy spent predominantly at San Francisco's Howard Rice Nemerovski Canady Falk & Rabkin.
At 72, an age when some lawyers might be looking to retire, Falk said he's ready for his "second act" at JAMS, where he will work full time as an arbitrator and mediator for a range of commercial, intellectual property, employment, insurance and other disputes.
Falk, who has experience as an arbitrator, was prepared to make the move a year ago, around the same time the 80-lawyer Howard Rice struck a merger deal with Arnold & Porter. He stuck around to see his partners through the transition.
"At the end of one year, I was ready to return to Plan A," Falk said in an interview Wednesday.
Douglas Winthrop, then managing partner of Howard Rice, said Falk's support helped smooth the merger with Arnold & Porter, which took effect in January 2012.
Falk joined Howard Rice in 1966 when the firm employed fewer than a dozen lawyers. He started in general litigation but disliked preparing for trials, only to see cases settle.
In time, Falk built a reputation as one of the region's top appellate specialists, securing recent victories on behalf of clients Advertise.com, Autodesk Inc. and F.B.T. Productions, the production company for rapper Eminem.
In a less successful venture, Falk represented twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss in their legal bid to invalidate a $65 million settlement with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
He clerked on the U.S. Supreme Court for Justice William Douglas and returned there to argue four cases, including Faretta v. California in 1975, which helped establish a criminal defendant's right to self-representation.
Appellate work suited him and, unlike with trial advocacy, he generally got to see matters through to resolution.
"I was very lucky that I got to do what I do best," Falk said. "I like to write and analyze complicated legal problems."
Falk added: "I didn't like losing, so I tried not to do that too much."
Over the course of his career in private practice, Falk served as president of the Bar Association of San Francisco, the Association of Business Trial Lawyers of Northern California, and the California Academy of Appellate Lawyers.
One of Falk's strengths as an appellate lawyer came from an ability to look at problems with fresh eyes, said Winthrop, now head of Arnold & Porter's Bay Area offices.
"In every matter I worked on with Jerry, he'd come up with some creative way of looking at a problem and often it was a simple way of looking at something," Winthrop said. "He has a knack for taking complicated matters, breaking them down, and making them simple and understandable."
He was also a speedy writer and a stickler for proper formatting and citations, colleagues said, noting Falk served for decades as the editor of the firm's style manual.
Covington & Burling partner Simon Frankel, who worked with Falk for more than a decade at Howard Rice, described his former colleague as a sought-after advocate for clients with big civil litigation problems.
"He's been one of the lawyers you go to when you get a terrible verdict that you want reversed or a terrific verdict that you want upheld," Frankel said.
In his new role, at JAMS San Francisco Resolution Center, Falk will be the one making the decisions. It's a different mindset than advocacy, Falk said.
"The job of the arbitrator is to decide cases correctly and secondly to leave everyone feeling they got a good shot," he said. "It's really incumbent upon the arbitrator to create that kind of atmosphere."