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In remembrance of

Lewis G. Rudnick


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Lewis Rudnick was a lawyer's lawyer. He was the grandfather of franchise law; a thoughtful man of both people and the law.

"Lew was one of the few, genuine giants of franchise law - literally in on the ground floor of this practice area as an organized discipline...his firm, Rudnick & Wolf, became one of the key building blocks of what we now know as DLA Piper," wrote Edward "Jack" Dunham of Wiggin & Dana in a message to alert his fellow ABA Forum on Franchising colleagues that Lew Rudnick had died unexpectedly in late January.

 

Lewis Rudnick Phil Zeidman

Lewis Rudnick (sitting), with Phil Zeidman, on a Franchise Times cover in 2000. Zeidman described Rudnick as the most "honest, decent, self-effacing of men."

After graduating from Northwestern University's Law School, Rudnick joined his father Harry's firm, which was involved in a fledgling group called the International Franchise Association. It was through this association that Rudnick met his future law partner, Philip Zeidman.

Zeidman said his most lasting memory of Rudnick was his first one.

As general counsel for the SBA, Zeidman was conducting hearings on the loan process when a lawyer from Chicago and general counsel to the IFA showed up, accompanied by his son who was Zeidman's age. "We became friends, then became lawyer and client...then friendly competitors. Thirty years after that meeting, we became law partners," Zeidman said. "In 40 years, in all those relationships, Lew never changed. He remained (the most) honest, decent, generous, self-effacing of men."

Matt Shay, president/CEO of the IFA, was one of the people who benefitted from Rudnick's tutelage. "I was fortunate enough to know Lew for 17 years," Shay said. "Since I've been at IFA." He describes Rudnick as a "prince, an absolutely wonderful man."

"He was present at the creation of franchising and franchise law, (and yet) his expertise was almost incidental," Shay said. "He had a generosity for everyone he met; he made everyone feel like a friend."

Shay remembers hiking with Rudnick in the Montana mountains during a summer board meeting. "It was warm at the bottom of the mountain, but it got cooler as we climbed...we were ankle-deep in snow and then it was up to our knees," Shay said. Finally "they" decided to turn back. Actually, Shay said, Rudnick could have gone on, but realized Shay was no longer enjoying the "stroll." Spending time with Rudnick was worth cold feet. "He was so well read and inquisitive, he knew something about everything," Shay said.

In a story Julie Bennett wrote for Franchise Times in 2000, she quotes Ray Burch, the IFA chairman at the time, saying he was asked to talk to Lew about his beard: "Harry was afraid it would scare away clients. Well, Lew turned out to be the perfect guy to follow in his dad's footsteps. He has the same integrity and professional attitude toward clients. And he still has a beard."

Shay will miss the deep voice greeting him with, "Hello, Matt Shay." "I've heard it a thousand times," he said.

Shay was reminded of another time when he was on IFA business as a 30-year-old kid. Rudnick invited him to his favorite restaurant in Lisbon, knowing Shay was out of his element. "Who has a favorite restaurant in Lisbon?" Shay said. He and Rudnick sat outside watching the boats bobbing in the water and the sun setting, while they ate fried sardines. Rudnick had ordered for both of them, and when he asked Shay if he liked the sardines, Shay answered truthfully, "No." But he did like the company.

When he stopped practicing franchise law the last few years, Rudnick taught Shay another lesson: When it's time to do something else, walk away - no regrets. "I thought that was remarkable," Shay said. "His job didn't define him, it wasn't all about him. He had so many other interests to go to." One of which was helping his son in the mortgage business.

It's a great loss," Shay said. "Mostly for his family, of course, but for all of us. He certainly had more to give and more to do."

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