Michael Botein
Michael Botein (NYLJ/Rick Kopstein)

Michael Botein, a pioneer in the study of communications and media law who loved teaching died Wednesday at his home in South Orange, New Jersey of complications from cancer. He was 71.

Botein was a professor emeritus at New York Law School, where he established the school’s media center in 1977. From there, he was well-positioned to witness a revolution in communications that included the unprecedented growth of cable television and the internet, the advent of broadcast satellites and the breakup of AT&T.

James Goodale, a retired partner at Debevoise & Plimpton, said Botein helped to start a weekly television program around 1980 about the telecommunications revolution. Goodale hosted the program when it became “Digital Age.”

“He was very interested in the development of cable television, and the program was focused on the impact that cable TV and other telecommunications would have on society,” Goodale said. “He was on the cutting edge of the major changes in the communications world.”

When New York Law School approached him about joining the faculty, he agreed to accept on the condition that the school start a media center.

“I’ve never looked back,” Botein said in his faculty profile. He added that in the communication law field, “you have to be responsive to change. You can’t forecast a damn thing.”

Botein was born and raised in Manhattan, where his father, Bernard Botein, was a major figure in the legal community and served as presiding justice of the Appellate Division, First Department.

He received his B.A. degree from Wesleyan University in Connecticut in 1966. and his J.D. from Cornell Law School in 1969. He received L.L.M. in 1972 and doctorate in law (J.D.S.) from Columbia in 1979.

According to New York Law School, while a student, Botein was introduced to the Federal Communications Commission, an agency that had been familiar to him from his ham radio activities.

While a senior attorney-adviser for the FCC in the early 1970s, he worked on the inaugural cable television regulations and taught one of the first courses in media law at the Georgetown University Law Center.

Botein initially had planned to practice civil rights law in Washington before going into teaching, according to his New York Law biography, but decided the Nixon-era Justice Department would not offer the right climate for a young liberal-minded lawyer. Instead he decided to focus on academia, becoming an instructor at Brooklyn Law at the age of 24.

He taught at numerous law schools in the United States and abroad and shared his expertise as a Fulbright Senior Scholar. He wrote more than 90 articles and 15 books and contributed articles to the New York Law Journal and Law.com. And he was an activist in areas like freedom of speech and access to the internet.

Botein retired at the end of the 2013-2014 academic year.

Even then, said his wife, Kris Fischer, he wanted to “keep his hand in. He was relentless” about keeping up with developments in the law, “so intellectually curious.”

New York Law School dean and president Anthony Crowell said in a statement, “He was not only prominent here at the Law School, but was a leading voice nationally and globally. His imprint on our school, as well as on the careers of many of our alumni, is indelible. New York Law School will celebrate Mike’s wonderful life and tremendous contributions in the new school year.”

But admirers said that Botein’s career was more than the sum of his scholarly expertise.

“Mike was extremely kind, gentle and caring,” said New York Law School colleague Nadine Stroessen.

In particular, Stroessen said he was a tireless advocate for his students. “He treated students with enormous respect,” she said, adding that “he always went the extra mile to insure that his students had excellent opportunities” for jobs.

Botein worked often with students on articles and other projects and was “a real role model,” she said. Fischer said he “kept up with students for years.”

“He would go out of his way to help people,” said his daughter, Liz Walker.

Services will be held Friday, Aug. 5 at 10 a.m. at the Bernheim-Apter Funeral Chapel on 68 Old Short Hills Road in Livingston, New Jersey. The burial will be at the Stillwater Cemetery on Route 521 in Stillwater, New Jersey.

Shiva will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday at the family’s home at 630 Hamilton Road in South Orange.

Botein is survived by Fischer, the recently retired editor-in-chief of the New York Law Journal, son Matthew Botein and daughter Liz Walker, son-in-law Ike Walker and daughter-in-law Susan Herzinger Botein.

Donations can be made to the Michael Botein Memorial Scholarship Fund at www.youcaring.com/michael-botein-616201.

Michael Botein, a pioneer in the study of communications and media law who loved teaching died Wednesday at his home in South Orange, New Jersey of complications from cancer. He was 71.

Botein was a professor emeritus at New York Law School , where he established the school’s media center in 1977. From there, he was well-positioned to witness a revolution in communications that included the unprecedented growth of cable television and the internet, the advent of broadcast satellites and the breakup of AT&T .

James Goodale, a retired partner at Debevoise & Plimpton , said Botein helped to start a weekly television program around 1980 about the telecommunications revolution. Goodale hosted the program when it became “Digital Age.”

“He was very interested in the development of cable television, and the program was focused on the impact that cable TV and other telecommunications would have on society,” Goodale said. “He was on the cutting edge of the major changes in the communications world.”

When New York Law School approached him about joining the faculty, he agreed to accept on the condition that the school start a media center.

“I’ve never looked back,” Botein said in his faculty profile. He added that in the communication law field, “you have to be responsive to change. You can’t forecast a damn thing.”

Botein was born and raised in Manhattan, where his father, Bernard Botein, was a major figure in the legal community and served as presiding justice of the Appellate Division, First Department.

He received his B.A. degree from Wesleyan University in Connecticut in 1966. and his J.D. from Cornell Law School in 1969. He received L.L.M. in 1972 and doctorate in law (J.D.S.) from Columbia in 1979.

According to New York Law School , while a student, Botein was introduced to the Federal Communications Commission, an agency that had been familiar to him from his ham radio activities.

While a senior attorney-adviser for the FCC in the early 1970s, he worked on the inaugural cable television regulations and taught one of the first courses in media law at the Georgetown University Law Center .

Botein initially had planned to practice civil rights law in Washington before going into teaching, according to his New York Law biography, but decided the Nixon-era Justice Department would not offer the right climate for a young liberal-minded lawyer. Instead he decided to focus on academia, becoming an instructor at Brooklyn Law at the age of 24.

He taught at numerous law schools in the United States and abroad and shared his expertise as a Fulbright Senior Scholar. He wrote more than 90 articles and 15 books and contributed articles to the New York Law Journal and Law.com. And he was an activist in areas like freedom of speech and access to the internet.

Botein retired at the end of the 2013-2014 academic year.

Even then, said his wife, Kris Fischer, he wanted to “keep his hand in. He was relentless” about keeping up with developments in the law, “so intellectually curious.”

New York Law School dean and president Anthony Crowell said in a statement, “He was not only prominent here at the Law School, but was a leading voice nationally and globally. His imprint on our school, as well as on the careers of many of our alumni, is indelible. New York Law School will celebrate Mike’s wonderful life and tremendous contributions in the new school year.”

But admirers said that Botein’s career was more than the sum of his scholarly expertise.

“Mike was extremely kind, gentle and caring,” said New York Law School colleague Nadine Stroessen.

In particular, Stroessen said he was a tireless advocate for his students. “He treated students with enormous respect,” she said, adding that “he always went the extra mile to insure that his students had excellent opportunities” for jobs.

Botein worked often with students on articles and other projects and was “a real role model,” she said. Fischer said he “kept up with students for years.”

“He would go out of his way to help people,” said his daughter, Liz Walker.

Services will be held Friday, Aug. 5 at 10 a.m. at the Bernheim-Apter Funeral Chapel on 68 Old Short Hills Road in Livingston, New Jersey. The burial will be at the Stillwater Cemetery on Route 521 in Stillwater, New Jersey.

Shiva will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday at the family’s home at 630 Hamilton Road in South Orange.

Botein is survived by Fischer, the recently retired editor-in-chief of the New York Law Journal, son Matthew Botein and daughter Liz Walker, son-in-law Ike Walker and daughter-in-law Susan Herzinger Botein.

Donations can be made to the Michael Botein Memorial Scholarship Fund at www.youcaring.com/michael-botein-616201.