Jay M. Jaffe: Visionary. Pioneer. Leader. Friend.
This is a hard post to write, one that I’m not sure I’m prepared to write. Not only did the legal marketing world lose one of its brightest lights with the passing of Jay M. Jaffe this week, but we have all lost a leader, mentor and friend.
As I speak to my Jaffe PR colleagues about this tragic loss, the two main emotions coming up are sadness and shock. The sadness is easy to understand. The shock is only understandable if you truly knew Jay.
We all believed him to be indestructible. The one constant in our work lives was that Jay would endure. He was a persistent presence in this company. Jay took a particular interest in planning the company’s future, with the backing of a talented executive board. He was integral to the process. It was – and is – his legacy, after all, and a fine legacy at that.
In 1977, when the Supreme Court’s Bates decision blew the doors off the staid and stodgy traditions of how law firms could market themselves, Jay saw an opportunity. In fact, he saw an entire new industry. He envisioned a PR agency devoted exclusively to the needs of business law firms, and set about making it a reality.
It took nearly 10 years for Jay to create demand in the legal industry. He always joked that the idea was initially received “with a giant thud.” But Jay persevered. He’s not known as the “Father of Legal Marketing” for nothing. His development of the first successful, traditional advertising campaign for a commercial law firm was recognized for its industry-changing impact in the 25th anniversary issue of the influential legal magazine The American Lawyer. And his impact as a trendsetter in the field has been recognized again and again. In 2010, Jay was inducted into the PR News “PR People Hall of Fame.”
Today, more than 30 years later, Jaffe PR is the benchmark agency for legal marketing. We count as clients some of the world’s largest law firms, as well as prominent mid-sized firms and well-respected niche boutiques throughout the country, along with legal associations as well.
Jay made his dreams of a legal marketing agency a reality – and then some. He took an idea based on what he foresaw as the implications of a Supreme Court decision, and ran with it. Along the way, he gathered talented professionals who learned from him, and put that knowledge to work in building a whole new way of thinking about marketing law firms. He was disruptive change personified.
In short, he was our industry’s Steve Jobs.
Though Jay has passed on, his company remains. It is an enduring legacy and testament to a life spent in pursuit of a singular purpose: Be a leader in all that you do.
We are all honoring Jay privately in our own ways, and our hearts go out to his daughter Sara and sister Judi. You are in our thoughts.
But, outwardly, we are doing what Jay would want: We’re carrying on. There’s a company to run and there are clients to serve. This is how he’d want it – for us to take good care of Jaffe PR and his legacy.
And we do it with deep gratitude for all that he gave and meant to us.