I received the sad news that Ross Kodner, a Wisconsin lawyer who left practice to market law office technology, has died of a heart attack. Ross left a college-age son and daughter, both as bright and engaging as their dear father. Ross loved his kids more than anything, far more than even Corel WordPerfect or Fujitsu scanners (and for Ross, that’s saying a lot). There are few who can match the contributions Ross made to helping lawyers understand the emerging technologies that have transformed our lives and practices.
I feel as though I’ve known Ross forever, and I will miss him as long. We met decades ago, on the law technology speaking circuit back when Ross pretty much WAS the law technology speaking circuit. His campy humor, sardonic wit and (horrific) PowerPoints were legend. For years, no self-respecting Bar Law Office Management organization mounted a credible program without Ross as a key presenter.
Ross loved the spotlight and deserved its shine; but, Ross was always happy to share the dais (although you had better be willing to fight for the microphone as Ross genuinely knew so much of value and aspired to convey it in such copious quantity that it could be hard to get in a word edgewise). I learned a lot from Ross; not only about law office technology, but also about speaking, promoting legal technology, being a good father and—most of all—about the joy of bringing the “aha” moment to a room full of legal professionals.
There are thousands and thousands of lawyers across the nation who have Ross Kodner to thank for understanding some aspect of legal technology, whether it was how to slay the paper dragon or speed one’s use of software or make wise buying decisions. Ross was our oracle and inspiration.
Like so many who ride the forensic technology circuit, I have endless Ross Kodner stories. I won’t forget enjoying frozen custard in Milwaukee, tapas in Chicago, Peking duck in San Francisco or the countless times we broke bread, raised glasses and burned the midnight oil at Solo and Small Firm bar events in every big city and small burg you can name.
Back when Ross and I were always showing up at the same events and talking about many of the same topics, Ross took me aside and said, “Craig, you’re killing me. I charge for my presentations and you’re giving yours away for free.” Ross pressed me to seek honoraria to speak. When I reluctantly took his advice, I suddenly found that, instead of being just another presenter, sponsors started calling me the “featured speaker” and putting my picture in the brochure. I was making the same speeches, but thanks to Ross’ wise counsel, what I had to say was accorded more value because the hosts were paying for it. That’s a pretty important life lesson.
For years, Ross hosted an amazing event at each ABA TechShow in Chicago called, simply, The Dinner. It was the hottest ticket in town. The Dinner was always held in a remarkable venue (museum, zoo, aquarium, yacht, penthouse…) and featured fantastic door prizes and cool freebies. One year, Ross arranged for several thought leaders to receive Macbook Pro laptops and video iPods from Apple, back when those toys were so rare, costly and coveted. That was Ross. He did nice things for other people, and he made things happen.
I will miss that one-of-a-kind voice, that moon face with those big, black horn rims and the joie de vivre and energy that was uniquely Ross Kodner. Rest in peace, old friend. You mattered to so many. You certainly mattered to me. With luck, a little of your goodness will be a part of every speech I give.
I have no information on flowers or charities (though I know Ross had been an avid supporter of the Milwaukee Jewish Day School in the past; http://www.mjds.org/).
Per Ross’ brother Daniel:
The funeral is going to be in Madison, Wisconsin on Friday morning, August 2, at 10:00AM at: Cress Funeral Home, 3610 Speedway Rd, Madison, WI 53705
The burial will be at Beit Olamim, Sunset Memory Gardens, 7302 Mineral Point Road, Madison, WI 53717 on Madison’s far west side.
Hazel Segall said:
My heart goes out to his family. (And, you are so right about sharing the podium with Ross. I remember the time we were on a panel together.)
Aaron Rittmaster said:
Thank you for putting so eloquently what so many of us are feeling Craig.
Pingback: RIP: Ross Kodner, Legal Technology Guru · Robert Ambrogi's LawSites Robert Ambrogi's LawSites
Elizabeth Gloger said:
A beautiful tribute to a wonderful, funny and generous man…his absence will be felt in this community for a long time. May his memory be a blessing and comfort to his family and friends.
Dennis Kennedy said:
You’ve captured the Ross i knew so well, with such a great balance of sadness and celebration for his life. So much of what you said resonates with me, either because I was part of the same events or had similar experiences. I always had so much fun being on panels with Ross. He worked so hard to teach his audiences about tech – to really connect with them – and, as a co-presenter, I was also smiling on stage with Ross because of his energy, enthusiasm and how much he just plain cared about what he was presenting about. He wanted lawyers to learn tech and use it to improve their practices and their lives. As you mentioned, Ross also paved the way for speakers on legal tech topics to get paid for speaking and opened the lines of communications between tech companies and the legal profession. We all really do have many stories about Ross, but what I always admired about Ross was his generosity in both small and big ways. He recognized potential in people and gave so many people opportunities. I often think that he created the whole category of “legal technologist” by the sheer force of his will and boundless energy. Ross introduced me to many people in the legal tech world, as he did for many others. I’m especially sad that our paths hadn’t crossed for the last few years. To say that he’ll be missed is a great understatement. Thanks for the good memories that your post brought back to me.
Andrea Goldman said:
Thank you for your post. I enjoyed Ross’ presentations on more than one occasion and we also shared some food experiences. Most notably, I stuck my spoon in his creme brulee in Chicago, and we had a great Indian meal with other ABA members in Cambridge, MA. I agree that he was incredibly proud of his kids. We discussed the trials and tribulations of the college application process.
Nice post. I had the pleasure of knowing Ross, and seeking him out for advice. When our firm had Worldox issues (ok, when I bitched about it on Solosez and said Wdox sucked), Ross stepped up and not only volunteered to help us out, but got Wdox to agree to pay him for 3 hours of time helping us.
Now that I think about it, he owes me an hour and a half. I recently thought we should take advantage of that. Now I wish I had. He was a friend as well as a colleague and advisor, and I know we would have had a great conversation.
I am sad.
Paul Purdue said:
Life is fragile – live it well.
Thanks, Ross, for the lessons we have all learned from you!
Rest in Peace . . . . . . .
Bob Gasparro said:
I too will miss Ross’s wit and humor and tireless contributions to all of us who knew him.
Dale Tincher said:
Craig, thank you for this very nice tribute to Ross. I, too, learned so much from Ross. He was always available and generous with advice and was a wonderful mentor when I started our business. I give him much credit for our success.
As you said, Ross had a giant heart. I was honored to help him carry out his visions when 911 and Katrina struck.
He was a giant who will be missed by many. I am deeply saddened, but cherish the opportunity to have known him.
Stephen Kravit said:
My fledgling firm was one of Ross’ first clients, and he shepherded our technology needs from the late 80s to the present. Beyond that, Ross was a great guy, terrific father, and just a brilliant, passionate speaker.
His contributions to adapting rapidly developing computer and gadget technology to small law firms are unmatched, and as a person, friend, and professional he will be sorely missed.
Bruce Dorner said:
Craig — Our dear friend is not gone. He is merely rebooting into a new OS.
Ah, Bruce, an earthly geek god going to the Geek Pantheon.
Harold Burstyn said:
When Gary Munneke died last year, I grieved for the loss at too young an age of a pioneer in law firm management. Ross was more than a decade younger, about the same age as my children, so the loss is even more severe. Both Ross and Gary were foodies, which may suggest a lesson to us survivors.
Some years ago, we visited Milwaukee when our oldest grandson (now an engineer at Boeing) was a freshman in college there. Naturally I turned to Ross for suggestions on where to eat, which I followed faithfully. May Microlaw long continue the traditions of its founder!
Dan Berlin said:
Craig, great post. Ross had been a colleague and friend for over 25 years. He will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. Rest in peace, Ross.
Bill Baker said:
Craig, thank you for the tribute to my friend Ross. He was a leader in the law technology industry as a product consultant and noted speaker. I was privledged to share the podium with him at many reseller meetings, ALA presentations, and the ABA conventions.
Besides being assoicated with him as a STI and Wordox reseller, we were business friends as well. Most people do not know that Ross was a car expert. He attended the car auction with me at Pebble Beach one year, and was able to predict the price of every car that went on the block. He had an amasing knowledge of automobiles that friend never knew. Besides cars, In fact we were discussing attending this year’s Concour de Elegance in Monterey again since I live in the area.
Ross also know all the gadgets that a road warrior should have and I often consulted with him on what he used and why. He was a good friend and I will miss our dinners at the reseller meetings.
Thanks again for the tribute to his memory. All his friends are saddened by his loss. Our hearts go out to Renee and his son and daughter.
Mark Greenwald said:
Great tribute to a wonderful friend. I will miss the hell out of him. His great humor and wit made the world glow a little brighter. He was a guy who could see over the horizon. He was a leader who led us all forward at a time when little in technology made sense. But most of all he was a mensch. His passing leaves a hole in my world.
Mark I. Unger said:
I was extremely fortunate to have had the pleasure of knowing him, dining with him, seeing him speak many times and quoting him.
His retention of everything ‘legal tech’ was unrivaled.
His willingness to help me when I knew nothing (and I don’t claim much more now compared to many) was genuine and leaves me grateful and sad at the same time.
He truly knew what was important, pursued it gracefully and passed it on.
I will miss this guy. mark
Pingback: Paying Our Respects to Ross Kodner « Fujitsu ScanSnap – Welcome to your productive, mobile, paperless, efficient life
Curtis Linder said:
Am only now (Sept.) aware of this very sad news. Ross was instrumental in coaching
our start-up legal temp staffing and placement firm ten years ago in Chicago. (NAncy and I first met Ross via Linda Sedloff Orton – one of Ross’s legion of top co-presenters.) Only Ross would be genius enough to say – “hey Curt – temp staffing with billable hours sounds a lot like how a law firm runs – why not build your company on TimeMatters?” (Can’t you just hear him say that?). He made it sound like a
question – but it was really him saying – do this and thank me later. He and Nernio tweaked TimeMatters 5.0 for our proposes and voila! – our firm will be ten
years old next month and we’re still the only temp staffing firm (legal or otherwise) running back office on TimeMatters! What a blow this is. Ross made so many great recommendation to us – Dale Tincher’s firm of course and many others – and Nancy would respond in kind with her top wines and must-eat Chicago restaurants for us and Ross. We are stunned. More so as a fellow high school class of 1979 grad – it does not take a math whiz to make the Live Every Day theme hit home. And Ross sure did. Hey Ross – Nancy and I finally got up to Road American last year too! With deepest sympathy ~ Curtis and Nancy Linder
Susan Kodner said:
I didn’t know him, we just had the same last name and saw him often in Google search results.
He sounded like a wonderful man especially due to your eloquent, touching farewell.
You both sound pretty awesome.
3 Years…Significant Still
LikeLiked by 1 person
Mark Greenwald said:
I loved that guy. We did a lot of programs together over the years. I do miss him on a lot of levels. And I stil carry my stick of tide spot remover everywhere I go as a tribute tp him. Rest in peace brother Ross.
CJ Stevens said:
I first met Ross in Indy for the first Solo Small CLE. He and Ron were presenters, and Ron was happy to see his hometown friends. I got to tag along to all the presenter social and strategic stuff pre-CLE. A better man would be hard to find.
He’s not forgotten by his friends, Andy. We still talk about your brother all the time, and we miss him. His fine family are his true and lasting legacy. Be well.