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Akron law professor inspired by legal portrayals in literature and television

Professor Jack Sahl more closely resembles literature’s Atticus Finch than television’s Denny Crane. In fact, the portrayals of “lawyers-as-statesmen” on television and in the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, were some of Professor Sahl's early inspirations to practice law. Like Finch, who embraced the ethics of law, Sahl has become one of the major contributors to discussions about professional responsibility. Sahl is a presence in the legal profession, both for his work with the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) and in protecting citizens from the unauthorized practice of law.

A longtime member of the OSBA and the American Bar Association (ABA), Professor Sahl is a renowned resource for colleagues and reporters on matters of professional responsibility and the unauthorized practice of law.

Sahl’s involvement in the University of Akron School of Law’s Miller-Becker Institute for Professional Responsibility, where he serves as faculty director, is another example of his dedication to legal ethics. The institute’s primary focus has been Ohio’s disciplinary system but recently has broadened its focus to include a wide variety of issues concerning the legal and judicial professions. For example, this fall the institute is holding its first national professional responsibility symposium over a two-day period. More than 20 speakers from all over the U.S. and abroad will visit Akron to discuss two topics, multijurisdictional practice and practicing law in the electronic age. “The Miller-Becker Institute has quickly established itself on a national level as a significant player in the field,” Sahl says.

Recently, Sahl was appointed by the Supreme Court of Ohio to serve on the Board on the Unauthorized Practice of Law. During the time he served on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Sahl worked on several investigations and helped advise a subcommittee’s chair, Senator Hank Brown of Colorado, on judicial nominations and sports franchise relocation bills. He considers one of his most rewarding experiences to be a judicial clerkship with Chief Judge William J. Holloway Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. Sahl describes Judge Holloway as a “great teacher and mentor” who helped him gain perspective about judicial decision-making and the law.

Sahl is also a new member of the ABA’s Standing Committee on Professional Discipline, which reviews and makes recommendations regarding discipline policy. He calls the committee a “valuable resource for various states that are seeking input in evaluating their lawyer and judicial disciplinary regimes.”

In addition to his commitment to fostering professionalism and protecting the public, Sahl also played a key role in the OSBA’s efforts to prepare its members for the future. He served as an active member of OSBA’s Future of the Legal Profession Committee. The group’s work focused on anticipating the needs of future legal clients and examining challenges and trends related to legal services in Ohio. Sahl continues to serve on the Member Service Advisory Panel that was formed to implement the recommendations that came out of the Futures Study, and to identify other aspects of the profession that need attention.

Of his career choice, Sahl says, “I’ve always enjoyed helping others to learn a subject or an activity.” He recalls, in particular, assisting with his brother’s athletic teams. “It seems like I’ve always been teaching in one capacity or another. To me, whether it’s teaching law students, working with practitioners on professionalism issues or helping my profession to prepare for the future, I see myself in a teaching role. It’s something I relish and believe makes a difference.”

Sahl earned his undergraduate degree in History from Boston College. Later, he graduated from Vermont Law School and received a Master of Laws from Yale Law School. Within his Bath, Ohio community, Sahl serves on The Bath Historic District Commission and the Friends of the Yellow Creek Watershed Committee. When asked what he would do if he weren’t a lawyer, Sahl said, “Ideally, I’d be a film producer.” He and his wife, Professor Joann Sahl, have two children: Mandikini, 10, and Anish, 6.

Sahl’s influence on the profession likely will be long lasting, particularly regarding ethics and responsibility. His students and colleagues, government officials, members of the media and the public all know they have a champion in Jack Sahl. Perhaps, as Atticus Finch served to inspire him, Sahl will, in turn, inspire future law students.

The Ohio State Bar Association, founded in 1880, is a voluntary association representing approximately 25,000 members of the bench and bar of Ohio as well as nearly 4,000 legal assistants and law students. Through its activities and the activities of its related organizations, the OSBA serves both its members and the public by promoting the highest standards in the practice of law and the administration of justice. The OSBA CLE department has served Ohio’s legal professionals for more than 40 years and provides a full-service curriculum.

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EDITORS NOTE: For a high resolution photo of Jack Sahl, please contact Debby Cooper at 614-487-4425 or dcooper@ohiobar.org.

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