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Louis M. Brown, Father of Preventive Law, Dies

by James Lytle

Louis M. Brown, distinguished emeritus professor of law who taught at USC for nearly 40 years, died of heart failure on Sept. 19. The Beverly Hills resident was 87.

“Louis Brown was one of the most creative, innovative and productive lawyers and teachers I have ever known,” said Dorothy W. Nelson, judge of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal and former dean of the Law School. “He was a futurist, always looking to improve things.”

A practicing attorney whose career spanned six decades, Brown was most widely known as the inventor and advocate of “preventive law.” He was deeply concerned with such issues as client counseling, legal access and conflict prevention.

Preventive law, Brown once explained, is “the part of legal practice that attempts to anticipate and prevent future disappointment or controversy, and to provide methods so that people can take advantage of legal opportunities they might otherwise miss.”

Preventive law is analogous to preventive medicine, he said. “The time to see an attorney is when you’re legally healthy – certainly before the advent of litigation and prior to the time legal trouble occurs.”

“Professor Brown made exceptional contributions toward improving legal education, enhancing the legal profession and educating the community,” said Scott H. Bice, dean of the Law School. “His concern for the betterment of society was evidenced by his strong dedication to popularizing preventive-law concepts and making them available not only to institutions and wealthy clients but to ordinary clients as well.”

Brown was a prolific author on legal topics. His bibliography ran to 34 pages, including more than 170 journal articles, 10 books, reviews, book chapters and other works. During the 1990s, Brown co-authored the “Legal View” column in the Los Angeles Times. His books included Preventive Law (Prentice-Hall, 1950) and How to Negotiate a Successful Contract (Prentice-Hall, 1955).

He was co-author (with Edward A. Dauer) of Planning by Lawyers: Materials on a Nonadversarial Legal Process (Foundation Press, 1978), a text focusing on client counseling, negotiating and other noncourtroom aspects of lawyering. Brown said at the time he hoped the book would help ease the discontinuity between legal training and practice. “I wanted to confront the legal-teaching profession with the need to think about lawyer-client contact,” he explained. “The majority of important legal decisions affecting individuals occur in the lawyer’s office, not the courtroom. There are more decisions directly affecting human conduct in law offices than in all the trial courts in the land.”

David F. Cavers, emeritus professor of law at the Harvard Law School, described Brown as “one of the … seminal influences in legal education and a force for innovation and development in the role of the legal profession in our society.”

At USC, Brown’s innovations and contributions to the study of law included:

* Development of the concept of “preventive law” as taught in such courses as “Planning by Lawyers,” “Jurisprudence of the Lawyering Process,” “Techniques of Preventive Law” and “Professional Responsibility and Taxation.”

* Development of a seminar in “Preventive Law,” offering a survey of the field, including public preventive law, lawyering techniques and preventive law for the individual legal entity.

* Creation of the Client Counseling Competition, first at the Law School (1969-1973) and then with the American Bar Association (starting in 1974), the first national interscholastic competition in which law schools participated to strengthen the consultation skills of prospective lawyers. In the annual competition, teams of law students vie with one another in demonstrating effective law-office techniques with “clients.”

* Origination of teaching and examination methods, such as the use of lawyer-client dialogues derived from actual consultation and, hypothetically, from appellate decisions, as well as the use of legal “autopsies” to analyze decided controversies.

* Development of a course titled “The Role of the Legal Assistant,” which was the springboard for the Law School’s Paralegal Program – the first paralegal training program at a major law school. Brown both recognized and endorsed the use of paralegals and other innovations in legal service delivery and law-office management.

* Creation of the “law office” classroom, first at USC, then at dozens of law schools across the nation, including Harvard and Notre Dame. The law-office classroom provides a setting in which students can learn about preventive practice and other noncourtroom lawyering.

Brown, the son of a Los Angeles attorney, was born in Los Angeles on Sept. 5, 1909. He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy cum laude from USC in 1930, then attended the Harvard Law School, where he earned his J.D. degree in 1933. That same year, he was admitted to the California bar. He was admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1944.

Brown first practiced law with his father’s law firm, Emil Brown & Co., from 1933 to 1935; then as counsel RCF in Washington, D.C., from 1936 to 1941; as partner in the Los Angeles firm of Pacht, Warne, Ross & Bernhard from 1942 to 1944; as partner in the Los Angeles firm of Irell & Manella from 1944 to 1969; and as counsel to the latter firm from 1969 to 1972.

He first lectured at USC in 1944, also teaching courses at UCLA and the Southwestern University Law School. He continued to practice law until 1972, when he received a full-time teaching appointment at the Law School. For many years, Brown served as editor of the Law School’s Preventive Law Newsletter. He retired in 1980.

He was a fellow of the American Bar Foundation and chaired the ABA’s committee on military legal services, which developed the largest legal services plan in the United States. He was a member of the Los Angeles County Bar Association and, during the 1970s, chaired its prepaid legal services committee. In 1961, he served as president of the Beverly Hills Bar Association.

Brown also belonged to the San Francisco Bar Association, the State Bar of California, the American Judicature Society and B’nai B’rith. For many years, he chaired the board of trustees of the National Center for Preventive Law at the University of Denver College of Law.

The International Bar Associ-ation established the Louis M. Brown International Client Counseling Award, honoring Brown for his founding of the Client Counseling Competition. The ABA established the Louis M. Brown Legal Access Award, recognizing Brown’s advocacy for affordable legal services. Manhattan College honored Brown with an honorary LL.D. degree in 1977 and, for his conflict-resolution work, with the Pacem in Terris medal in 1991. Recognizing his contributions to legal education and the legal profession, USC raised Brown to the rank of distinguished emeritus professor in 1995.

In 1980, Brown returned to private practice, serving as senior adviser to the Los Angeles firm of Sanders, Barnet, Goldman, Simons & Mosk.

“Louis Brown was the kind of lawyer that makes you proud to be a lawyer,” said Edward Sanders, who originally practiced with Brown at Irell & Manella. “He fulfilled the definition of a family and business counselor. He advised people in personal and business affairs so they wouldn’t have troubles in the future. He wasn’t just someone we practiced with. He influenced us as lawyers and people. He was our teacher, our friend, and a wise counselor.”

Survivors include Brown’s wife, Hermione; the couple’s three sons, Harold, Marshall and Lawrence; Brown’s sister Ruth and brother Harry; and nine grandchildren.

The family asks that donations be made in Brown’s memory to the National Center for Preventive Law, 1900 Olive St., Denver, CO 80220.

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