Herbert H. Hirschhorn ’32, JSD 34
Herbert H. Hirschhorn has been with Gair, Gair, Conason, Steigman & Mackauf and predecessor firms for the past seventy years. During his career, he has been the recipient of numerous awards in recognition of his achievements and philanthropy. Mr. Hirschhorn serves on the Board of Directors of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association where he has been a charter member for fifty years and remains an active participant in several bar associations.
He earned four degrees from three different New York University Schools, including an AB in 1930 and AM in 1937 (both degrees encompassed studies in European history). He earned his JD and JSD in 1932 and 1934, respectively.
Mr. Hirschhorn and his late wife, Rose, funded a long-standing NYU School of Law Scholarship, which provided educational opportunities to dozens of students over the years.
Interview with Alumnus/Alumna of the Month
Herbert H. Hirschhorn ’32, JSD ’34
What types of personal qualities should lawyers possess?
To me, being a lawyer can be likened to a rite embracing the concept of personal sacrifice on behalf of others. Who are these others? Persons who require assistance in its many forms, as alleviating pain and suffering, emotional and physical, and redressing financial and material losses. All of these and their ancillary requirements are within the ambit of a lawyer’s reach. In his or her accommodation to a client, a lawyer must be generous with his time and efforts, always mindful that the client is in need of his professional skills to impact and convey compassion, understanding and caring to those in need of his input to advance the cause undertaken.
What advice would you give to current students?
I would encourage students to become active and attentive to the influences of the Alumni Association. I also would encourage that they become friends of the faculty, deans, and adjunct professors. It’s the spiritual and emotional contact throughout the graduate years that is sustaining. Post graduate work and the intimacy with the Law School further created strong emotional ties for me. Part of the reason for my longevity is due to the relationships that I have created throughout my school years and thereafter in alumni affiliations.
How has NYU changed since you attended as a student?
In 1926, when I entered Washington Square College, the entire institution of New York University in Manhattan was located in the Waverly Place building at Washington Square. The building was a reconstructed edifice, which formerly housed manufacturing and commercial tenants. The first eight floors accommodated the College. The ninth and tenth floor served the purposes of the Law School. That was the entire physical structure in 1926.
Today, our marvelous University is known as a global University. The School of Law, too, enjoys the reputation and distinction of being a global Law School. Who in my early years could have envisioned such cosmic events? It would have been beyond one’s most indulgent dreams and expectations.
As a student attending New York University for eleven years, earning four degrees in course, I acquired an especial attachment and singular affection for the institution, which will continue for all the days remaining to my destiny. By using the word “affection,” I am reminded that my late wife, Rose, often mentioned to me that if the University weren’t an institution, she would have been insanely jealous of my attention and devotion to it, which she shared. Deservedly, her name is inscribed with mine on some items of recognition awarded to me.
For seventy-seven years I have taken heart-felt pride in being a student in Washington Square College, the School of Law and the Graduate School of Arts and Science and being an active alumnus to the present time.
What is your area of specialization and how did you come to practice in this area?
My specialty is medical jurisprudence. On December 12, 1932, I was accepted as a clerk in the law office of Harry A. Gair, my first position. Little did I know beforehand that his specialty embraced every area of tort litigation. Mr. Gair was a trial lawyer whose knowledge was encyclopedic and beyond expansive latitude. His forensic skills were without measure. He proved my mentor until his death in 1975.
On December 12, 2002, I found myself in the successor firm now known as Gair, Gair, Conason, Steigman & Mackauf, enjoying a tenure of seventy years. I am mindful of the fact that the firm has provided me with emotional, spiritual and financial support that has enabled me to survive into long-lived existence. My gratitude is beyond measure.
Mr. Robert L. Conason, the lead lawyer in the firm has emboldened his colleagues to follow Mr. Gair in many professional areas, especially in the uncompromising integrity of morality and ethical conduct in the practice of the law, although they had already possessed such qualities.
If you could chose another profession to be in, what would it be?
When I was about 8, my father was a tycoon in the ladies coat and suit business. As a hobby, he bought a farm in Mount Freedom, New Jersey. I used to go to the farm on weekends and vacations and help out the farmer with milking the cows, plowing, planting, and so forth. I would also ride the horses. I did this throughout high school, and loved it. After graduation from high school, I was encouraged by my father to enter a profession. My father said I could always work on the farm, but it was necessary to get a profession first. So I went to college and later, became a lawyer. The farm was sold eventually, but it was something that I had always enjoyed because of its environmental impacts.