In a family marked by close and warm relationships, it seems fitting that Bob Gerstein, ’59, and his son Mark, ’84, will both be attending milestone Law School reunions next year. Not just attending—each will serve on his class’s reunion committee, and each is determined to draw as many classmates as possible to the festivities.
“I’m already working hard on my classmate friends who live in New York,” Mark reports. “There are so many great friendships we all formed in law school.” Bob observes, “Folks from out of town who haven’t been back in a while will be amazed at how vibrant Chicago is these days. They might even agree with me that this is the best city in the country.”
Father and son have both contributed a great deal to Chicago’s architectural, economic, and social vitality. Bob has worked his whole career in real estate development law, having joined the firm Holleb & Coff right out of law school and remained there until it closed its doors forty-two years later; he’s now a senior partner at Holland & Knight. He worked with many of the city’s top developers, architects, and contractors on projects that include the Illinois Center, the Hyde Park–Kenwood Urban Renewal Area, Block 37, and the renovation of the Chicago, Oriental, and Palace Theaters. Mark is global cochair of the Mergers and Acquisitions Group at Latham & Watkins. He is credited with the major leadership role in dramatically raising the firm’s mergers and acquisitions profile so it has reached top-five status in all major mergers and acquisitions categories. As a feature article in M&A Journal puts it, “Things began to change when Mark Gerstein . . . joined Latham & Watkins in the late nineties in Chicago as a young lateral partner from Katten Muchin.”
It is just scratching the surface of Mark’s professional accomplishments to mention that his transactions have included Koch Industries’ $22 billion acquisition of Georgia-Pacific, which was at the time the second-largest going-private in US history, and representation of the special committee of the board of directors of the Chicago Board of Trade in connection with its $12 billion merger with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
It would also be just scratching the surface of the two men’s contributions to list only their impressive private-sector accomplishments. “A lot of what my father shared with us as I was growing up was the work he was doing for the public good, and that has definitely inspired me to try to follow his path,” Mark says. Bob was a founding board member of the Home Investment Fund, which helped minority families finance homes in the Chicago suburbs, and he was a board member of the Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities, which increased integration and housing opportunities in the Chicago area. As a member and chairman of the Highland Park Housing Commission, he was instrumental in the development of three low- and moderate-income housing developments in Highland Park. He currently serves on the board of the Legal Aid Society.
Mark’s civic works include serving on the boards of Youth Guidance and the J. Kyle Braid Leadership Foundation. Youth Guidance creates and implements school-based programs for at-risk children; the Braid Foundation provides community-leadership training and peer counseling to hundreds of student-athlete leaders. Mark also leads a supportive partnership with the National Teachers Academy, a Chicago public school aimed at excellence and equity in instruction for young children, and he represents the international microfinance organization Unitus on a pro bono basis.
Mark’s respect for the Law School is reflected in the most practical way: “We work really hard to get Chicago graduates into our practice and into the firm in general,” he says. “As new associates, they are among the best prepared of any law school’s students, and it just gets better from there. The Law School was a great place to learn when I went there, and it seems to me that it has somehow become even better since then.” Bob’s perspective is just as pragmatic, but phrased differently. He says, “I learned something at Chicago that I believe Mark also learned, and that might be one of life’s most important lessons—never give up. You can solve a problem, reach an agreement, and overcome practically any obstacle if you use the skills you learned from the great faculty and you persevere. There is a confident mental toughness and determination that you see in Chicago grads that you don’t find in many other places.”