My Chicago Law Moment: Jeff Rappin, ’66, was Pushed to Innovate

Jeff Rappin

Jeff Rappin, ’66, had a pretty easy time of it as an undergraduate engineering major at Purdue University; he didn’t need to study terribly hard to do well.

But then he arrived at the University of Chicago Law School and, sitting in Elements of the Law one day, he looked around the room and thought, “Holy cow—these people are really smart.”

And then: “My god, what am I doing here? I can’t believe I got into this school.”

More than 50 years later, Rappin, now the chairman of Chicago-based Evergreen Real Estate Services, still remembers the feeling—and he remembers what happened next.

He buckled down, and he met the challenge before him.

“I couldn’t skate—I had to delve in and study cases and really think,” he said. “Before, when I was in undergraduate school, I learned a lot of rules, but the rules were handed to me.”

As a lawyer, and later as the chairman of a real estate investment and management firm, he knew how to solve problems, and he knew how to innovate.

“In many cases [we were] creating new ground and learning to say, ‘Hey what if we try to do this?’ … ‘How about this idea?’ … ‘How can we can adjust somehow and make [this] work?’” he said. “I learned that in law school, and I applied it to my career afterward, both as an attorney and then in the real estate business myself.”

My Chicago Law Moment is a series highlighting the Law School ideas, experiences, and approaches that have impacted our students and alumni. Video produced by Will Anderson.