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D.C. Bar Remembers Legal Legend Jacob Stein

April 11, 2019

Jake Stein portrait resizeJacob A. Stein, 11th president of the D.C. Bar, revered legal legend in the nation’s capital, and author of the beloved “Legal Spectator” column in Washington Lawyer, passed away on April 3 at the age of 94.

With a law career spanning over 60 years, Stein was known for his sense of brevity in his arguments, his masterful skill in the courtroom, and his impeccable style: tailor-made double-breasted suits from London, bow ties, and two-tone shoes.

A founding partner at Stein Mitchell Beato & Missner LLP, Stein focused on civil and criminal litigation and participated in several high-profile cases that gained national attention, including two that involved sitting presidents.

“Jake embraced the practice of law with an intense, all-consuming, quiet but relentless passion, and he did it with style and grace,” his firm said in a press release announcing his death. “He was very generous with his time and gave back to the legal community more than he received. Jake was the go-to lawyer when lawyers needed advice or professional help with their own legal problems.”

In 1974 Stein represented campaign lawyer Kenneth W. Parkinson against charges of conspiracy and obstruction of justice for his role in the Watergate scandal, and secured the only acquittal in the trials. A decade later, Stein was called upon to serve as independent counsel to investigate Edwin Meese, counselor to President Reagan and then-attorney general nominee, on questions concerning Meese’s business deals. In the mid-1990s Stein successfully defended former Oregon senator Robert Packwood against charges of influence peddling. In one of his many victories, Stein helped obtain an immunity deal for Monica Lewinsky, allowing her to testify about her relationship with President Clinton.

“Jake Stein was highly respected by members from across the wide spectrum of our Bar’s membership,” said former D.C. Bar president Patrick McGlone. McGlone, senior vice president, general counsel, and chief compliance officer at ULLICO Inc., also remembers fondly Stein’s elegant sense of style. “Jake had such sartorial panache! I can’t count the times I saw him strolling down the street in a tailored seersucker suit, two-tone shoes, and dashing Panama hat, looking like he was born to wear that ensemble.”

A Washington, D.C., native, Stein was born on March 15, 1925. He graduated from George Washington University Law School in 1948. He served as president of the Bar Association of the District of Columbia Bar from 1968 to 1969, and as D.C. Bar president from 1982 to 1983. He also taught at several local law schools, including George Washington University Law School, Georgetown University Law Center, and American University Washington College of Law.

From 1991 to 2015, Stein wrote the monthly “Legal Spectator” column for Washington Lawyer, sharing his stories and musings on lawyers, judges, and life in the law that readers eagerly looked forward to — and often read first — in every issue.

“Jake was a real legend — renowned for his masterful lawyering, his leadership in the Bar, and his wit,” said Susan M. Hoffman, incoming D.C. Bar president and public service partner at Crowell & Moring LLP. “I can still remember eagerly turning to the last page of the Washington Lawyer magazine to see what tale Jake would be spinning in the ‘Legal Spectator’ column.”

D.C. Bar President Esther H. Lim said Stein was a “lawyer’s lawyer” who exemplified the very best of the Bar. “Jake will be long remembered and sorely missed,” Lim said.

Stein’s passing is a tremendous loss to the legal community, said D.C. Bar CEO Robert J. Spagnoletti. “I appreciated his commitment to the legal profession and our Bar, and his unique — and often humorous — insights.”

Stein is survived by his daughter Julie and son Joseph. He was predeceased by his wife, Mary, who died on July 25, 2018.