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Richard H. Borow, In Memoriam


Irell & Manella LLP mourns the passing of partner emeritus and founder of its Litigation practice group, Richard H. “Dick” Borow.

Dick passed away on September 3 of complications of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (with which he had heroically battled for two decades), cardiac and other co-morbidities. He was 87. He is survived by Trudy, his wife of 65 years, his son Harlan Borow (and wife Ellen Schultz), his daughter Carolyn Sorenson (and husband Patrick Sorenson), his daughter Jennifer Borow, and four grandchildren, Joseph Borow, Amanda Borow, Ryan Sorenson and Olivia Sorenson.

He and the love of his life, Trudy Frances Speiser, were married in 1957. They first met in 1952 when both were staff at summer camp. They (and their family) treasured their annual trips to their cottage on Maine’s Sebago Lake each summer for over six decades. Trudy was Dick’s steadfast and devoted partner throughout their long life together. He credited her consistent loving support for much of his success. Trudy and Dick found their greatest reward in life in loving and nurturing their children and grandchildren, of whom they were immensely proud.

Dick had the fighting heart of a lion, but he was kind and generous, particularly towards his family, friends and law firm. He was a tireless advocate for his clients and a principal creator of one of the most powerful litigation departments in the country. He was a loving and devoted husband, father and grandfather. He will be greatly missed.

Dick was a member of the Bars of New York (1959), California (1966) and Maine (1985). He taught for 14 years as an adjunct professor of law at UCLA School of Law. He also served as chair of the Judicial Evaluations Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. From 1987 and continuing until his death, Dick was a trustee and member of the board of directors of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a project about which he was passionate and proud.

He was a tenacious and successful champion of his clients’ causes, but he viewed his greatest accomplishment in the law in building, training and mentoring a world-class litigation group at Irell, many of the members of which came to be acknowledged as among the best in the nation. His ability to recruit, train, mentor and promote truly exceptional lawyers and then to get out of their way to enable them to succeed in their own right was the hallmark of his success. He frankly acknowledged that the most difficult task was getting out of their way.

Richard Henry Borow was born in New York City in 1935. He attended the Bronx High School of Science and then Hunter College receiving a B.A. in economics with honors in 1956. He received the first Outstanding Scholar/Athlete Award of Hunter College (where he later was also elected to its Athletic Hall of Fame). He lettered for four years in soccer and in track and field.

Dick attended Columbia Law School and was elected to the board of editors of the Columbia Law Review. Fellow editors included later Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He graduated from Columbia with highest honors in June 1959.

After graduation, Dick was associated with Paul Weiss in New York City, where he was selected to be a law clerk to the Hon. Simon Rifkind, acting as Special Master for the U.S. Supreme Court in Arizona v. California, the interstate water rights case allocating the Colorado River water flow among the states of its lower basin, and among U.S. Government dependencies (such as Native American reservations and national parks). He wryly noted that his first case unquestionably included some of the most important issues of his career.

Dick came to Los Angeles in 1965 to start the Litigation group of Irell & Manella, then a boutique tax and transactional firm of some 13 lawyers. He became a partner in 1968 and retired at the end of 2005, having served as the firm's general counsel, chair of its Litigation group and member of its executive committee for over three decades. Under his stewardship, the Litigation group at the time of his retirement exceeded 150 lawyers with a national and international reputation for excellence, creativity, integrity and diversity.

In 1969, Dick successfully represented the faculty of UCLA in a nationally publicized case involving the decision of the Regents of the University of California (including then Gov. Ronald Reagan) directing the chancellor of UCLA to fire Angela Davis, a Black, openly Marxist woman who had recently been hired by UCLA's Philosophy Department. The sole ground for the termination was her acknowledged membership in the Communist Party. Representing the UCLA Academic Senate, Dick and colleagues filed suit and in 30 days obtained a permanent injunction preventing the termination of Prof. Davis as unconstitutional.

In 1973, Dick was one of those named on then President Richard M. Nixon's infamous "Enemies list.” He always acknowledged this proudly. 

Another noteworthy early case was Dick’s representation of the California Democratic congressional delegation in the electoral reapportionment following the 1980 census, resulting in a unanimous victory in the California Supreme Court.

When the children were grown, he finally had the time to take up golf. His crowning achievement on the golf course was to play “Amen Corner” at Augusta National Golf Club in one under par commencing with two consecutive birdies.

He was an extraordinary, complex, brilliant and passionate person who left an indelible mark on those with the good fortune to know him.

Alumni and friends who wish to honor Dick's legacy can make a gift here. The Irell & Manella Foundation, Morgan and Helen Chu, and David Siegel will match contributions up to a total of $150,000. Donations can also be made in Dick’s memory to The CLL Society or to The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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