Paul L. Caron

Monday, April 29, 2024

Death Of David Herwitz (Harvard)

In Memoriam, David Herwitz (1925-2024): Scholar of Tax and Business Law:

HerwitzDavid M. Herwitz ’49, Royall Professor of Law, Emeritus, died April 8, 2024. He was 98. A scholar of tax and business law, Herwitz, who taught on the Harvard Law faculty for more than 50 years, is remembered as a beloved teacher colleague and mentor.

 “He taught oversubscribed business-related courses, using humor and anecdotes to make them accessible while emphasizing the ethical dimensions of legal practice,” said John Goldberg, interim dean and Carter Professor of General Jurisprudence at Harvard Law School. “Long before law schools embraced problem-based pedagogy, generations of students and lawyers learned from his classes how to exercise thoughtful judgment and help clients achieve their goals.”

“David Herwitz was my teacher, my colleague, and my friend,” said John Manning ’85, Harvard’s interim provost and the Morgan and Helen Chu Dean and Professor of Law. “I first got to know him when he taught me accounting in a lively, fun, and engaging way that I still remember vividly 40 years later. He was also one of the sweetest, most generous colleagues you could ever hope to know, and he loved Harvard Law School. We will really miss him.” ...

Herwitz began his undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin before transferring to MIT and receiving an S.B. in 1946. As a student at Harvard Law School, he served on the Board of Student Advisers and the Harvard Law Review. After graduating in 1949, he worked briefly on the U.S. Tax Court before entering private practice at the firm Mintz, Levin.

Herwitz was a lecturer at the Northeastern University School of Law before he joined the Harvard Law faculty as an assistant professor in 1954. He was named a professor at Harvard Law three years later, becoming the Austin Wakeman Scott Professor of Law in 1980, and the Royall Professor of Law, in 2003, before retiring in 2006.

For three years, beginning in 1961, he was a consultant to the U.S. Treasury Department working with tax expert Stanley Surrey, then assistant secretary of the Treasury. Herwitz also played an important role in developing the law school’s offerings in international taxation, including being involved in the International Tax Program, which trained tax officials from around the world. And starting in 1984, he served for many years as director of the school’s Program of Instruction for Lawyers, which brought attorneys from across the country and eventually around the globe to the school for sessions focusing on new developments in a range of fields and in the legal profession.

In 1978, Herwitz co-wrote “Accounting for Lawyers,” which focused on accounting issues that frequently arise in the practice of law. The sixth edition of the book was published only two years ago, when he was still a co-author.  He also wrote “Business Planning: Materials on the Planning of Corporate Transactions.”

Obituary, David Herwitz (December 8, 1925 – April 8, 2024):

David Richard Herwitz—prominent Harvard Law School professor, draftsman of the corporation law still used by the State of Israel, champion bridge player and devoted golf duffer even at age 95—died, Monday April 8, 2024. He was 98.

Mr. Herwitz, who taught at the law school for more than a half-century, was at once the prototypical Harvard professor and the exception to the stereotype. Steely smart, scholarly accomplished, brilliant in the classroom and empathetic in student conferences, Mr. Herwitz, whose portrait hangs in the halls of the law school, presented the opposite profile of the autocratic Charles Kingfield of the 1973 film The Paper Chase.

“David was at once one of the most beloved —and respected—professors at Harvard Law,” said Irwin Cotler, former justice minister and attorney general of Canada and a onetime visiting professor at the law school. Mark Wolf, senior judge in the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts, added: “I recall David being a kind gentleman who was not, like some of his colleagues, intimidating.”

The antidote to the image of the tyrannical, demanding Professor Kingfield, Professor Herwitz also was the master of the anecdote, marrying approachable stories to otherwise intimidating legal theories and practices. His academic specialty was business planning and taxation but his personal style was anything but all-business, his relationships with students and colleagues anything but taxing. The skills of judgment and problem-solving that he taught in class were the very attributes that he applied in person.

“He knew not only how to integrate the technical details of tax law, accounting, and corporate and securities laws but also how to be guided by integrity and wisdom,” said Martha Minow, a onetime dean of the law school who continues to teach there. “He also was personally kind and devoted to mentoring each new generation.

The longest-tenured professor at the law school, he taught large classes, almost always oversubscribed, and his students included, among scores of legal luminaries, Barack Obama and both Martin Ginsburg and Ruth Bader Ginsburg; the late Supreme Court jurist always greeted him as “my favorite professor.” Though his colleagues—famous lawyers Laurence Tribe and Alan Dershowitz, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagen, and former Harvard president Derek Bok, all close friends—were better known, none was more beloved than Mr. Herwitz.

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