"A world without Phil will be a world that will be hard for many of us to get used to living in," said attorney Robert A. Clifford today, after the death of Philip H. Corboy, founder of Corboy & Demetrio P.C.
Clifford was one of many lawyers in Chicago today with deeply fond remembrances of Corboy.
Corboy was "one of the greatest friends, mentors, pals, bosses, teachers that I could ever have been privileged to have in my life," Clifford said.
Clifford said he was a DePaul University College of Law student when Corboy gave a speech there in 1974.
Clifford asked his teacher how to get a job "with a guy like that." He was told it was impossible.
So he went to Corboy's office at 33 N. Dearborn St. and said he wanted to ask about Corboy's lecture. The question really was: Would Corboy hire Clifford?
Clifford became a law clerk for Corboy in 1974, then a lawyer with Corboy's firm from 1976 to 1984. That year, Clifford went out on his own. In 1994, for one year, Clifford's and Corboy's firms merged, then split again.
Corboy "changed the lives of a lot of people in so many positive ways, it's incredible," Clifford said.
This is a photo of the Loyola University Chicago School of Law Building named after Philip H. Corboy. The building was dedicated at a ceremony in 2009 (below photos).
Photo courtesy of Loyola.
Corboy "was a giant of the law. He's irreplaceable," said Nicholas J. Motherway of Motherway & Napleton LLP, who worked for Corboy from 1973 to 1982.
"He had a very large impact upon trial law not only in Illinois, but throughout the country," Motherway said. "He fine-tuned the techniques by which (personal-injury) cases would be presented. And through his advocacy, he was able to expand the rights of people who were injured.
"He will be missed by all who knew him."
Cook County Circuit Judge William D. Maddux, presiding judge of the Law Division, said he tried a case against Corboy in the 1960s.
"I can't imagine a more skillful lawyer than I encountered in that case. I have always been impressed with his tremendous skills as a trial lawyer," Maddux said.
"He was a great innovator. … He was not afraid to take a risk on behalf of his clients."
Mark E. McNabola of Cogan & McNabola P.C. said he first saw Corboy in the Daley Center when McNabola was in high school.
"At that time, he was the most feared plaintiff attorney in the country and well-respected locally," McNabola said.
"People would come to watch him in action. At trial he was in complete control. He was tough but kind. He was handsome and had a style that has been emulated by many. As big as he got, he always had time to stop and say hello and ask about your life."
Dean Emerita Nina S. Appel of Loyola University Chicago School of Law (pictured at left with Corboy), said, " I had the privilege of knowing him for almost 40 years. He was a compassionate man, truly a 'person for others' who left a lasting impact on us all. I extend my deepest condolences to Mary and the family."
David N. Yellen, the current dean of Loyola's law school, said, "Few lawyers have had as much impact on the profession and the community as Phil did. He transformed personal-injury practice, mentored a generation of lawyers and zealously represented thousands of clients. He did all this with grace, intelligence, tenacity and a keen sense of justice."
"We considered Phil Corboy to be our local king of torts. He had been among the best and brightest lawyers over the last 40 some odd years and trained many of the current stars in the field dealing with juries. Many of the people getting the magnificent jury awards now were trained by Phil Corboy back when they worked as relatively new lawyers in his law firm. And in addition to Phil Corboy being a great lawyer in the courtroom, he was a humanitarian with great compassion outside contributing to law schools scholarships at several law schools including his alma mater. He and his wife Mary Dempsey were interested in urging children all over the community to read more. They sponsored many activities around the One Book One Chicago program." - Timothy C. Evans, chief judge of Cook County Circuit Court
“Philip Corboy was more than an attorney; he was an advocate for everyday people. His long career of service on behalf of consumers has made us all safer. His commitment to justice was exceeded only by his commitment to his family. On behalf of the people of Illinois, I want to extend my condolences to his loved ones and the legal community for the loss of a friend and mentor." - statement released by Gov. Pat Quinn
"Phil could joust with you at trial with sharp legal skills, mastery of the law and a top read on the human condition. Yet, he would be the first to help a fellow lawyer professionally. He kept everyone on their toes but would also lend a helping hand. Twice I had the opportunity to experience him at trial and it was a masterpiece to witness. He was a good man and we will miss him. Mary, he was so proud to have you as his partner in life. Sleep gently Phil." - Dan L. Boho, Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP
"In 1986 I filed a 'Jane Doe' complaint that garnered national attention. I received many calls from the media but in particular there was one from Phil Corboy. I returned it first. Phil asked me what legal authority was I relying on to file a 'Jane Doe' complaint. I froze. I finally said I relied on an old complaint he had filed. He let out a loud laugh and then suggested we write a statute to allow ficticious pleadings in Illinois. As a result of that conversation we now have Sec. 401(e) of the Civil Practice Act that allows for 'Jane Doe' pleadings. We remained friends every since. He was always a mentor and a friend to young lawyers everywhere. He will be missed but not forgotten." - Enrico J. Mirabelli, Beermann, Pritikin, Mirabelli, Swerdlove LLC
"As a young lawyer growing up at a trial firm in Chicago, there was no better way to learn about successful trial techniques than to watch the great masters at work. I would always try to catch part of a Phil Corboy trial because it offered me an education that law school could not provide. It was true drama, not melodrama. He was subtle, tough, persuasive and passionate. He was generous outside of the courtroom. Loyola’s Law School can attest to that. Trial lawyers can’t copy another lawyer’s style, but they can learn by example. Phil set a great precedent for lawyers to follow in his footsteps." - Lawrence R. Smith, SmithAmundsen LLC
"I never had a case directly against Mr. Corboy myself, but I was privileged to watch him on trial many years ago when I was a young defense attorney. I learned a great deal, from my observations, about what not to do as a defense attorney! Mr. Corboy and I were complete strangers, we did not know each other, but a number of years ago, I sent a letter to him on a matter that had nothing to do with any case or legal issue. To my amazement, I received a personal reply from him, thanking me for my comments. When you endeavor to excel at something, one of the most effective ways to do it is to allow yourself the challenge of going up against the very best. A lot of defense lawyers over the years allowed themselves the challenge of trial against Mr. Corboy and became better lawyers for it. My deepest sympathy to his family and his colleagues. The plaintiff's bar has lost a great champion." - R. Howard Jump, President, Illinois Association of Defense Trial Counsel
"On behalf of the firm of Aronberg and Goldgehn we send our deepest sympathies to the entire Corboy family. We have lost not only a dear friend, but a brilliant lawyer, advocate and example for the entire legal community to follow. He will be missed by all of those whose lives he has touched." - Michael A. Zaslavsky, Aronberg, Goldgehn, Davis & Garmisa
"It was all the things he did for people that no one ever knew about that I will always remember about him." Robert J. Bingle, Corboy & Demetrio
"Phil Corboy"s legacy will endure forever in the family and friends he loved, the many lawyers he mentored, the multitudes of clients he assisted, and countless lives he touched through his philanthropy." - William T. Gibbs, Corboy & Demetrio
"Twenty eight years ago, Phil saved my life by doing an intervention on me. His tough love and kindness allowed me to recover my sobriety. I learned later how involved Phil and other legends in LAP have been in saving lives for many, many years. Phil was dedicated to helping anyone in need whether a client or not. When he saw suffering, he tried to end it anyway possible. I loved him as a boss, a mentor, a friend; and for saving my life." - Francis Patrick Murphy, Corboy & Demetrio
"I am honored and privileged to have worked with and learned from one of the best. Mr. Corboy enjoyed the law and that enjoyment helped so many; whether it be the client he was zealously advocating for, the public whose safety he was trying to protect before the legislature, or the new lawyer, like myself, who wanted be a trial lawyer that was as good as he, his tenacity for advocacy helped many, and will continue to do so through his charitable offerings." - Michelle M. Kohut, Corboy & Demetrio
"One of the great professional experiences of my over 30-year career was trying cases with Phil Corboy. No one mentored better." - Michael K. Demetrio, Corboy & Demetrio
"Every trial lawyer, on both sides of the bar, owes a debt of gratitude for this field of law, which Phil Corboy pioneered and developed for all of us." - Dan Kotin, Corboy & Demetrio
"Phil's charisma was legendary but the quality that struck me the most was his compassion for his clients. He didn’t just sympathize with them, he empathized. He knew what they were going through. One source of that knowledge was his service in the Army in World War II. When his unit was deployed to Europe, Phil had to stay in the states for medical reasons. One day he showed me a copy of his unit's history and pointed out more than a few of his buddies who died in the Battle of the Bulge. These kids had been through boot camp with him and had spent hours talking about their hopes and dreams and fears. He was profoundly affected by their deaths, and by his inability to be there. I think his ferocious drive to succeed and the type of clients he chose to represent were his way to honor those buddies who died in the cold in Europe." - Kenneth T. Lumb, Corboy & Demetrio
"As an employer, he was always concerned about the welfare of everyone at the firm, not just the lawyers. He made himself available to all employees if they had problems or concerns. He was always willing to help. Phil’s love for this firm showed itself at Christmastime when he gave huge office parties, not just for the staff but for the children of staff. He had a separate party for them and had presents for everyone. It was a reflection about him because it showed that he cared so much about the firm. He made sure everyone was remembered." - Margaret Power, Corboy & Demetrio
"He showed us all, by unfailing example, that there is no substitute for excellence." - David R. "Chip" Barry Jr., Corboy & Demetrio
"Most folks know what a great lawyer he was. He was just as great of a friend. To have practiced law with him and have had his friendship for over twenty years has been one of my greatest blessings." - Shawn S. Kasserman, Corboy & Demetrio
"One of the first lessens Phil instilled in me was that in the practice of law, if you do not learn something new every day of your career, then you are doing it wrong. Every day, for the past 14 years, I have asked myself what I learned today. Today, I learned that I miss my mentor and miss the lessons which he had yet to teach." - Daniel S. Kirschner, Corboy & Demetrio
"There has never been anyone like Phil Corboy. Many, many tributes will be given to him, but none will be sufficient to describe the positive influence he has had on literally thousands of people. Anyone who has had the blessing of having had contact with Phil has come away a better person." - Jerry A. Latherow, Latherow Law Office
"Phil and I were never on the same side of any case or issue, but his generosity and kindness to me were overwhelming. He cheered my every victory, memorialized, framed and sent me everything written about me, toasted my remarriage and was my good friend. He and our own Max Wildman were leaders, mentors and were in a very special class by themselves. Phil will be remembered and honored for many years to come." - Anne G. Kimball, Edwards, Wildman, Palmer LLP
"I remember him coming to Loyola Law School to speak when I was a freshman there in the fall of 1975. He said there were 18 great trial lawyers in Chicago, and 17 of them 'came from Loyola.' I assumed he was one of the 17. It was a funny statement but somehow it was also reassuring at a time when people were telling us even then there were limited opportunities for graduating lawyers. He also emphasized the importance of always doing the right thing legally, ethically and morally. He told us if we always did the right thing, 'the angels would take care of' us. I never forgot that statement." - L. Steven Platt, Clark, Hill PLC
"Phil was an extraordinary lawyer, and he was also an extraordinary person, with a big heart. He will be missed." - Joseph M. Gagliardo, managing partner of Laner, Muchin, Dombrow, Becker, Levin & Tominberg Ltd.