Robert S. Strauss. (May 2008). (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/NLJ.)
Recalling his wisdom, integrity and humor, lawyers in Washington offered tributes to Akin, Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld co-founder Robert Strauss, who died yesterday at age 95.
A legend in the bar, Strauss was chairman of the Democratic National Committee and advised presidents of both parties, serving as Jimmy Carter’s trade representative and George H.W. Bush’s ambassador to the Soviet Union and then Russia.
He co-founded Akin Gump in Texas in 1945, and later moved to Washington, where he helped grow the firm into a global powerhouse. Legal Times asked lawyers who knew him to share their thoughts on his life and his legacy.
- “Bob Strauss defined our law firm. He built an institution based on integrity, tenacity, strength of character and commitment to service. His leadership shaped our firm and we are all part of a world that benefited from his incredible skills and ability to connect with people. He will always define all that is right about Akin Gump and to those of us lucky enough to have known him, this firm will always be The House That Strauss Built. The man was a true legend and we will miss him.” —Kim Koopersmith, Akin Gump chairwoman
- “He was one of the legendary lawyers that really don’t exist anymore. Bob Strauss, my former client Clark Clifford, Lloyd Cutler—these were guys who were giants and really knew Washington, they really knew politics and they would be relied upon by presidents of both parties to advise them. These guys were great advisers and had been around in this city forever. And I think current presidents would have avoided a lot of the problems that they had had they called and listened to people like Bob Strauss.” —Robert Bennett, Hogan Lovells
- “Bob Strauss was one of a kind and there will never be another like him. He loved his family, his country and he loved the law firm that he founded. We who were his partners strive every day to live up to the standards of excellence and integrity that he set. He was a shrewd and effective lawyer. At the same time he could light up a room with his warm smile and Texas wit. Politically, he was a part of another era, an era when Republicans and Democrats put aside their differences to do what was best for America. We will miss Bob but his legacy will live on in our firm.” —R. Bruce McLean, Akin Gump chairman 1993 to 2013
- “Bob Strauss was truly a great American, a great diplomat and a brilliant lawyer. He combined his legal and political skills to become one of the premiere national and international lawyers. Bob built Akin Gump into a globally successful and influential law firm.” —Thomas Hale Boggs Jr., Patton Boggs
- “I did not have the honor of meeting Mr. Strauss—and none of us ever thought of him in less reverential and respectful terms—until I had the good fortune to become his junior partner around his 87th birthday. No one had better judgment, or deserved greater respect. He always had an open door, whether for a file clerk or a President. If law and politics in Washington, D.C., had a deity, it was Mr. Strauss.” —Thomas Goldstein, Goldstein & Russell, former Akin Gump partner
- “Bob Strauss was an exceptional human being. The same traits that enabled him to succeed in politics and diplomacy—his sound judgment, remarkable vision and legendary sense of humor—made him a successful lawyer and a wonderful partner. He was a mentor to younger lawyers and showed us by example how partners should be partners. He handled both success and adversity with humor, perspective and a generosity of spirit that were always apparent. It was a joy and a privilege to be his partner.” —Valerie Slater, Akin Gump partner
- “My partner Bob Strauss lived the principle that being a lawyer was not simply about building a financially successful law practice (though he quite obviously did that). He was consistently committed to the ideal of the lawyer as public servant, whether that was through government service or by providing access to justice to those unable to afford legal services. He laid a strong foundation for Akin Gump’s pro bono practice, and we will keep serving those most in need in our communities in his honor and memory.” —Steven Schulman, Akin Gump partner and firm pro bono practice head
- “At the national level, he was a giant of bi-partisanship in his public service, even as he was also an adversarial Democrat in politics. He served as an exceptionally able Ambassador to the Soviet Union and then to Russia when I was Secretary of State. He was highly effective both in politics and in public service. Most of all he was my good and close friend. Bob will be sorely missed by all who knew him.” —James A. Baker III, 61st U.S. secretary of state, partner, Baker Botts
“Bob Strauss was the consummate Washington insider but also a gifted lawyer and wonderful human being who never met a stranger.” —Richard Wiley, Wiley Rein