Former University of Chicago Law School (UCLS) Dean Phil C. Neal, antitrust expert, litigator and law firm founder, died Sept. 27, he was 97.
Neal was a professor at the Law School for 21 years and its sixth dean. He taught subjects including Elements of the Law, Antitrust, and Constitutional Law. He hired scholars Richard Posner, now a judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals; the late Ronald Coase, the ‘91 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics; Gerhard Casper, Norval Morris, Frank Zimring, Richard Epstein, William Landes, and Geoffrey R. Stone.
Neal began his career as senior partner at Neal Gerber Eisenberg, the law firm he co-founded in ’86. Neal litigated many cases from antitrust to school desegregation, advised the corporate boards of major companies, served as chairman of the Pacific Regional Enforcement Commission of the Wage Stabilization Board, executive secretary of the Coordinating Committee for Multi-District Litigation for the United States District Courts, and chair of a White House task force on antitrust policy.
“Phil led an exceptional career of service and responsibility,” said Dean Thomas J. Miles. “He was one of our longest serving deans, he led the School during a time of extraordinary change. The School is better thanks to his leadership. Were that not enough, he was an elite practitioner, served in multiple high-level positions in the government, and founded a law firm. His career is a model for all lawyers.”
An agile thinker who could “untangle Gordian knots where others were lost,” said son, Andrew Neal. “He was intelligent, quick-witted, and didn’t suffer fools gladly. He was gracious, deliberate and thoughtful in the way he approached problems – life or legal – and would not stand pat on whatever the thinking of the day was.”
“He was brilliant at cutting the underbrush, at articulating the truth of a problem in simple, elegant prose,” said Stephen Fedo, ’81, Neal Gerber Eisenberg’s General Counsel. “His strength, as a lawyer and friend, is that he was present when he spoke to you.”
Born in Chicago, he graduated from Oak Park & River Forest High School in ‘36, received his undergraduate degree summa cum laude from Harvard in ‘40, and magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in ‘43. While there he was president of the Harvard Law Review.
Upon graduation, he served two years as law clerk to Justice Robert H. Jackson. Jackson permitted him to leave early because he had the opportunity to assist Department of State Alger Hiss as secretary general of the United Nations organizing conference.
In ‘48 he joined the staff at Stanford, there he introduced Justice Jackson to the student who became his clerk. This meeting resulted in Jackson offering a clerkship to William H. Rehnquist, one of two future Supreme Court justices whom Neal taught; the other, Sandra Day O’Connor.
Roberta Cooper Ramo cited him as playing a pivotal role as she broke barriers in the legal profession. Ramo was the first woman president of the American Bar Association and the American Law Institute – publicly recalling his support as she accepted the ABA Medal.
“When I couldn’t find anyone who would answer my letters… [Dean Neal] called me in to find out why I didn’t have a job,” she said. “When I explained, without hesitation, he called Gov. Terry Sanford. He demanded Sanford take on the job of finding me some place to work, posthaste. Out of fear of Neal, he did.”
In ‘86, Neal served in the Antitrust & Trade Regulation, Litigation, and Corporate Governance practice groups. He chaired the Litigation practice and served on the Executive Committee. Neal mentored just about everyone in the litigation group, and many leaders outside.
“He cherished his years at the School, it was always in his heart,” said son Andrew. “He was invested in the whole university, and remained so until the end of his life.”
Neal is survived by his wife, Linda Thoren Neal, ’67; three sons, Stephen (Michelle S. Rhyu), Timothy (Laurie), and Andrew (Holly A. Harrison); 13 grandchildren; and one great-grandson. He was preceded in death by son Richard, in ‘15.
A memorial is scheduled for 4 pm Monday, Dec. 5, in the Glen Lloyd Auditorium, UCLW. Gifts in lieu of flowers may be made to scholarship funds at The University of Chicago Law School or Music of the Baroque.