Tribute to Firm Founder, Len Rivkin
1925 – 2020
On July 10, 2020, Leonard Lambert Rivkin, Founding Partner of Rivkin Radler LLP, passed away peacefully in his sleep, surrounded by family, at the age of 95.
“Len was charismatic and charming, as well as ambitious and driven. Those qualities allowed him to create and grow a large law firm outside of a major city, a concept that was ahead of its time,” reflected Evan H. Krinick, the Firm’s Managing Partner.
Rivkin founded the Firm that bears his name in 1950. In 1953, Rivkin added his first partner, Victor Leff. Sadly, Leff passed away suddenly in 1957, but the Leff name remained until 1985. The Firm began to grow. By 1959, there were 4 lawyers, and by 1975, the firm had moved from a storefront in Freeport to a luxury professional building at 100 Garden City Plaza, in Garden City, NY. By 1986, there were more than 200 attorneys in multiple offices.
William Savino, former managing partner (2000-2013), was among the young lawyers recruited by Rivkin to build the firm. Savino remembers Rivkin as “always focused and decisive; a person with a compelling personality matched by tremendous enthusiasm and generosity. He had a remarkable influence and impact on so many people. Len was truly a unique human being and his legacy is palpable in the spirit and character of the Firm he founded.”
Rivkin served as national trial counsel in high profile, landmark, and precedent-setting cases, including the representation of a major insurer in The Franklin National Bank crash, one of the largest bank failures in American history. He has represented insurers’ interests in some of the most challenging environmental-related insurance coverage litigations across the United States, including involvement in the cases made famous by the films, Erin Brockovich and A Legal Action. In 1978, the first Agent Orange case was filed. Rivkin served as lead counsel for Dow Chemical on the class action suits that thrust the firm into the national spotlight. A team of 12 attorneys, and 22 paralegals worked full-time on the Agent Orange class action alone. By 1985, the National Law Journal had reported that Rivkin, Radler, Dunne & Bayh was among the “Ten Fastest Growing Law Firms in the Country.” The New York Law Journal labeled the firm “the largest suburban law firm in the U.S.”
Building the firm, Len expanded the partnership by attracting many luminaries to the masthead, including former U.S. Senator Birch Bayh (IN) and former New York State Senator John R. Dunne. Prominent litigator Warren Radler joined the partnership in 1981 and a Chicago office was opened. Radler retired in 2000. Over the years, the firm added offices in Los Angeles and Santa Rosa, CA, Washington, D.C., New Jersey, White Plains, Manhattan, and Massachusetts.
In 1986, the firm moved into the newly constructed EAB Plaza, now known as RXR Plaza, occupying 90,000 square feet of prime office space across three floors. Today, the firm has 200 attorneys across five offices. In addition to its RXR location, the Firm has offices in New York City, Poughkeepsie and Albany, and a New Jersey office in Hackensack. Rivkin Radler is the largest law firm on Long Island and ranks #209 among the largest law firms in the county.
In 2000, the firm celebrated its 50th anniversary with a series of events, including a gala with a keynote address by former Governor Hugh Carey. Rivkin’s memoir, “May It Please the Court,” was published by Carolina Academic Press, chronicling his professional life.
In an excerpt from the book, Len explains how he grew the Firm;
“How did I do it?”
“… With a uniquely aggressive and creative approach to business development and litigation strategy.
The essence of that approach; take the initiative.
In other words, do not sit on your hands waiting for something to happen: make it happen.
Do not react to your adversaries; make him react to you…”
Among the first to embrace legal marketing, Rivkin added, “This approach is not just a litigation tactic; it is a sure-fire way to develop and expand a law practice. Clients do not materialize in an attorney’s office out of thin air. They will not find you unless you find them first…”
In recent years, Len would stop in at the Uniondale office on Monday mornings to survey the goings-on and offer a marketing idea.
Len grew up in Far Rockaway and attended the University of Virginia, where after one semester he enlisted in the United States Army to defend his country in World War II. A year later, he returned with a Silver Star from President Roosevelt and two Purple Hearts. He returned to the University of Virginia and completed his undergraduate studies and law school in three years.
Len loved life and he lived it to the fullest with enthusiasm and commitment. Known to be an intense and sometimes relentless leader in the years that he managed the firm, he was also charming, generous and able to endure the countless roasts he was the subject of in skits at the Firm’s annual holiday parties. Countless clients and attorneys have benefited from his drive and larger-than-life personality that made him a force to be reckoned with. His belief that he could accomplish anything he set out to do is reflected in his mantra, “take the initiative.” That sentiment echoes in the firm’s tagline today, “Driven to Deliver.”
An avid boater, Rivkin was a member of the governing board of the New York State Maritime Academy and has published articles on cruising.
Len was married to Lenore (deceased) for 34 years and they raised two children Janet (Zuckerman) and John, a retired partner of the Firm. He thereafter married Betty (deceased) for 28 years. Len was an adored brother to Judy Feldman (deceased), cherished and generous father to Janet (Joseph) and John (Nancy), beloved grandfather of Scott (Autumn), Matthew, Erika, Diana (Matthew) and Michael (Emily). He was a devoted stepfather to Douglas (Linda) and Robert Friedman, and beloved step-grandfather to Jessica (Adrian) and Rachel (Nate) Friedman.
He will be deeply missed by his family, friends and the numerous lives he touched.