On Paying it Forward

A Promise Kept

“Even though it is 10 years since Arnold Levy ’35 died, I think about him from time to time,” writes Eugene R. Fidell ’68. “We were neither colleagues nor neighbors, but he was the friend of my friend Stephen R. Kroll ’71 and a law partner of Steve’s father, Milton P. Kroll ’37 (who himself passed away recently).

“In 1983, I was making a career change, and Milton suggested that I pay a call on Arnold. He’d had a distinguished career in Washington, D.C., holding important positions on the Hill, at the SEC, and at the Justice and Interior Departments before entering private practice. The purpose was not to interview for a job, but simply to help me clarify my goals. Arnold rose to the occasion and invited me to come over to his office at Freedman, Levy, Kroll & Simonds. We spent an hour or so together, but before getting to the matter at hand, Arnold extracted a promise from me: I was to do for others what he was doing for me. (At the time I did not know that there is a term for this—‘pay it forward’—something I learned only recently from Steve Kroll.) The conversation proceeded, did indeed help clarify my thinking, and within a month or two I was happily working at the firm now known as Feldesman Tucker Leifer Fidell, where I have become of counsel.

“Over the years, I’ve been consulted from time to time by younger lawyers facing the same career crossroads Arnold helped me navigate. Every time, I begin by telling the story of my meeting with Arnold and the promise he extracted from me—and I proceed to extract the same promise from them. I imagine they’ve followed through. I pass this anecdote along not only as a way of honoring Arnold, but, more practically, as a way of encouraging others who have reached the senior ranks of the profession to do the same thing. Remember Arnold, mentor the young and urge them, as he did, to pay it forward.”