It is with great pleasure that we congratulate Leonard Abrams of Chicago, Illinois, for receiving the 2017 Robert E. Caine Leadership Award from the CLLA (Commercial Law League of America). The award will be presented at the Eastern Region Conference in Atlantic City on September 14th, 2017. His firm, Abrams & Abrams, P.C., has been a member of The National List of Attorneys for more than 25 years.
The Robert E. Caine Leadership Award is presented to recognize CLLA members who have the outstanding leadership characteristics exhibited by Bob Caine of Van Nuys, California, who passed away in 2006. Bob was a member in high standing for 35 years of both the Commercial Law League of America and the Commercial Collection Agency Association.
Leonard has been a member of the CLLA over 50 years! His contributions are many – Board of Governors; Arrangements Chair of the Chicago Conference for many, many years; Secretary of the Board of Directors of the Fund for Public Education; the first Chairman of the League’s Creditor’s Rights Section; and Chair of the Midwestern Region in the 1970’s. He has mentored every new Chairman of the region since that date.
Leonard will be the only member to have received both of CLLA’s highest awards; the President’s Cup in 1992, and now the Robert E. Caine Leadership Award. The criteria for selection of these two awards is distinct and different, which emphasizes the extraordinary extent of Leonard’s contributions to the CLLA, and the impact he has had on all of its members.
Leonard attended DePaul Law School in Chicago. His first law job was a trial lawyer for a PI firm. In 1959 he began working with a group of three friends who were bankruptcy specialists. He was their commercial collection litigator. In all, he has spent 58 years working in the collection industry. Although his firm sometimes represents other people, 99 percent of their work is dedicated to collections.
When he was asked to tell us something interesting or unusual that debt collection work has taught him, he replied, “The one thing it has taught me is that it’s possible for good, hardworking people to owe money they just can’t pay. Many times they start out as opponents and end up as friends. I’ve also learned that you can’t get blood out of a stone. You have to stop trying when you’re wasting your time.”
He shared an example of trying to collect on a judgment against a guarantor of a business. He first served the guarantor with a citation to discover assets, but he did not show up in court. Then he got a rule to show cause why the guarantor should be held in contempt for not appearing. He still didn’t appear. Then he got a body attachment for his arrest for contempt of court. But he said that in reality, the sheriff will only stop someone for a violation such as speeding, and then run a search for outstanding warrants before he’ll bring in someone like that. Before this could happen, the man declared personal bankruptcy, and he had to close the file. It wasn’t until then that he gave up!
When asked what he most enjoys about his job, he said without hesitation, “I enjoy satisfying a judgment, because I collected the money. I enjoy going to the bank to put the money in for the client. It means I’ve been successful.”
Leonard does 99 percent of his own typing with two fingers. In an interesting exchange about how much technology has changed over the years, he told us about how his mother worked as a typist who filled in the salutation on a form letter and the address on the envelope for a penny each. She had to work fast and hard to make any money! The first copy machine he remembers would take a photo that came out of the machine with a negative and a positive. The copy had to be hung on a line to dry.
Leonard has mostly been involved in commercial collections. He is very proud of his Founders Cup award and the “big plaque” that came with it. He noted that it is only given out once a year at the most, and some years not at all. Leonard served as the Arrangements Chair of the Chicago Conference (now called the Midwest Conference) for 48 years. He arranged everything: the menus (food, drink), parties, room arrangements right down to the individual, and made sure the hotel was on the job. He loved Bob Caine, because he was a “song and dance man.” He would write songs and perform at the conferences.
Leonard lives in Highland Park, north of Chicago, just a five minute walk from Lake Michigan. Lake County is on the border of Chicago’s Cook County. On the weekends, he and his wife used to walk to a little park high up on a bluff overlooking the lake. They still walk in the nearby Botanical Gardens. On Tuesday nights they have music there. They also frequently go to Ravinia Park where they can put their fold-up chairs on the grass and for only $10 listen to music like the Chicago Symphony and Tony Bennett, while they eat a sandwich and drink a bottle of wine. Leonard is a music lover who has played the clarinet, saxophone and oboe.
Leonard and his wife, Phyllis, were married in 1958 on a Saturday when the chicken dinner would be cheaper. They have two children, a son and a daughter, and five grandchildren, four girls and one boy. The first two are twin girls. He is proud to have his son Mark working with him. For that to happen he had to talk Mark’s wife Alexia into moving from sunny Southern California to the cold winters in Chicago. For many years his daughter, Ellen, was the manager of PR and Advertising at the same Westin Hotel where Leonard arranged the CLLA Conferences. She now works in marketing and branding. He is very proud of both of his children.
Leonard concluded our interview by saying, “Getting old is a pleasure that some people will never know.” We at The National List are very happy to have the pleasure of knowing this extraordinary man!
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