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.