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Jeffrey Liss, co-managing partner of DLA Piper’s U.S. offices, and a highly regarded environmental and insurance litigator, died of pancreatic cancer on March 17 at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He was 55. “Jeff has been the heart and soul and moral compass of the firm, and he was the embodiment of the word �partner,’ ” said Lee Miller, joint chief executive of DLA Piper in a statement. “ He will be with us every day. His fingerprints are all over the firm.” During the past 10 years, Liss helped navigate the firm through mergers and global expansion, resulting in DLA Piper having more than 3,200 lawyers, with 63 offices in 24 countries. In the mid-1990s, Piper & Marbury was just another usual suspect among the lower ranks of The American Lawyer 100. At the time, Liss was managing partner of the firm’s D.C. office. After Piper & Marbury’s merger with Rudnick & Wolfe in 1999, itself a regional player (and AmLaw 100 refugee with success predicated mostly on its corporate work), Liss became Piper Marbury Rudnick & Wolfe’s chief operating officer, overseeing the hiring of lateral associates. Then, in 2005, Liss again played an integral part in the DLA-Piper merger, which made the firm an international player. “Jeff was a big driving force behind all our mergers,” says Ann Ford, managing partner of the firm’s D.C. office. “He vetted candidates and helped integrate the firms.” A litigator, Liss was recognized as an authority on environmental and insurance coverage law. He also sat on the firm’s global board and its U.S. executive and policy committees. “He had unbelievably impeccable judgment,” says Ford. “He was the kind of person you would call in the toughest of circumstances. If it was an ethical or legal question, you’d turn to him for guidance.” It was in the winter of 2005 that Liss was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. For the next two years he continued working while undergoing surgery and chemotherapy — helping the firm’s merger with DLA, despite having to reduce his schedule. “Actions speak louder than words,” says Elizabeth Dewey, DLA Piper’s pro bono partner. “And Jeff spent a lot of time on pro bono cases. He was a great mentor and friend.” J. Terence O’Malley has served as the sole U.S. managing partner in Liss’ absence. The firm says no decision has been made on a replacement for Liss. Beyond his firm, Liss served in the public sector as a special government employee, assisting the Office of the White House Counsel in several Cabinet-level confirmations. He also was an adviser to former Vice President Al Gore and to 2004 Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). “Jeff was a great lawyer and a good friend,” says former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-Maine), chairman of DLA Piper. “All of us at DLA Piper will miss him terribly, in both a professional and a personal sense. He represented the best of what our country and our profession has to offer.” Liss began his legal career in 1975 as a law clerk to U.S. District Judge Charles Richey. Later, he rose from associate to partner at Wald, Harkrader & Ross before joining Piper & Marbury in 1985. Liss, who lived in Chevy Chase, Md., was born in Baltimore, where his father, Solomon Liss, was a City Council member and judge. Following in those legal footsteps, he entered the University of Michigan as an undergraduate and didn’t leave until 1975, when he had earned both a master’s degree in history and a law degree. During that time, he served as notes editor for the university’s Journal of Law Reform. Those years at Michigan made him a devoted fan of Wolverine football; attending the Ohio State-Michigan games was an annual event. Liss also wrote and taught, holding a long-standing position on the adjunct faculty at Georgetown University Law Center. He served on the board of directors and executive committee of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, where he chaired the board committee for the Music Center at Strathmore. He was a fellow of the American Bar Foundation and a board member of the Historical Society of the D.C. Circuit and the D.C. Bar Foundation. Liss is survived by his wife, Susan, who served as Tipper Gore’s chief of staff while Al Gore was vice president and is currently the chief Washington representative for Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D); his daughter, Joanna Liss Strait; and son, Harrison Liss, both of whom live in the D.C. area.
Nathan Carlile can be contacted at [email protected].

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