A Man of Honor: Lewis R. Baron (1931-2002)
With great sorrow we announce the death of our honorable colleague, Lewis Baron, a widely respected practitioner in tax, corporate, estate and trust law for more than 45 years. Lewis joined our firm soon after SRZ colleagues learned the law firm he had served for 20 years was about to close and insisted our firm's leadership invite him to join us. Lewis, whose quick wit was legendary, immediately became a compelling force in our estate management group.
The quintessential family lawyer, Lewis represented families for many, if not all, of their legal needs. He planned and implemented the succession of many closely held businesses from the first generation to the second and, in some cases, to the third. His clients and colleagues valued his wisdom, humanity and legal skills.
In 1975, as the originator of the "rabbi trust," Lewis made a substantial contribution to executive compensation planning by devising a plan of deferred compensation that became known by this name. His accomplishment was in addressing a set of facts that required a particular solution to the problem of advance funding to provide adequate pensions to clergy and other not-for-profit personnel reaching retirement age. That plan now is widely used as a basic executive compensation device for business and not-for-profit entities and is the subject of safe harbor forms developed by the Internal Revenue Service for use without a private letter ruling.
Lewis was an expert on financing community development, an authority on federal tax credits for low-income housing and, beginning in 1994, an editor for Journal on Affordable Housing and Community Development, published by the American Bar Association. For many years he also was the attorney member of the Community Development/Housing Initiatives Committee of the United Way of Chicago.
Lewis earned an A.B. in 1951 from the University of Chicago and an LL.B. in 1955 from Harvard University, where he was an award-winning legal scholar and from which he graduated Cum Laude. Just two years out of law school he successfully handled and settled a significant Tax Court case for a client he later took public, representation that established his credentials and predicted his subsequent success.
A creative practitioner, Lewis focused on the organization, operation and taxation of many commercial, industrial and real estate enterprises. Long known for effectively applying technical knowledge to real-life situations and for legislative activism in the face of social need, Lewis Baron was wise and attentive, warm and engaging. He will be sorely missed.
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