Law School bids Jack Sahl adieu
Professor Jack Sahl at his September retirement party at the Akron Zoo. Photo credit: Nick Roth
A larger-than-life figure to many students, John (Jack) P. Sahl, now Joseph G. Miller emeritus professor, retired this past summer. He leaves behind a rich legacy, not only at The University of Akron, but statewide, nationally and even internationally.
Sahl joined the Akron Law faculty in 1991 with a Juris Doctor from Vermont Law School, a Master of Laws from Yale, and a one-year federal appellate court clerkship. He gained practical experience as an entertainment lawyer and eight years on faculty at the University of Bridgeport School of Law, now Quinnipiac University School of Law.
For most of his time at Bridgeport, he was an assistant dean with a range of mostly external-facing administrative responsibilities. He taught one course per semester. “I really enjoyed teaching and wanted to do it full time,” Sahl said.
His external-facing activities at Bridgeport included six years on the Connecticut Bar Association’s Professional Ethics Committee, sitting alongside senior partners from major law firms and prominent professors from Yale and the state’s other law schools.
“We liked Jack’s strengths in Professional Responsibility (PR),” recalled Akron Law Emeritus Professor William Jordan III, who participated in the decision to hire Sahl. But what they really needed him for was to teach Evidence, along with Antitrust, Sports, and Entertainment Law. Teaching PR courses would have to wait a couple of years until the incumbent expert, the late William (Bill) Becker, became an associate dean.
Elon University School of Law Professor Steven Friedland collaborated with Sahl on an Evidence Problems and Materials casebook and teacher’s manual, published in 2012 and still in wide use.
“The book was problem-oriented,” Friedland said. “Many evidence books are problem oriented now, but this was one of the first ones. And the book has now gone beyond a single subject, to show how evidence issues relate to professional responsibility. It was great to work with Jack. I’m sure I learned more from him than he did from me.”
Patricia Ochman ’17, an associate at Jones Day, was also involved with PR casebook as a research assistant while in law school.
“Professor Sahl is not only a great scholar and a great professor—I had him for two courses— but he was genuinely interested in the students,” she said. “He spent time talking with me and the other research assistant about the things we were writing. As a teacher, he was good at cold-calling and his exams were challenging, but he got us ready for the Bar Exam.”
Of course, Sahl will always be most closely associated with PR and the Joseph G. Miller and William C. Becker Center for Professional Responsibility, which he headed as director from 2015-2023, faculty director from 2008-2015, and deputy director beginning in 1998.
“It was such an honor to serve as director of the Center because I was there at the very beginning when Bill [Becker] was seeking funding to start an ethics center,” Sahl said.
Sahl and Becker became close friends and colleagues. Based in part on articles Sahl authored in the Notre Dame and Cincinnati law reviews, they started doing professional conduct CLEs every year, which evolved into a daylong program that continues today as the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) Board of Professional Conduct’s annual Miller Becker Seminar.
Sahl went on to be a frequent national and international speaker, consultant and expert witness on PR matters and other areas of the law. For 30 years, he taught six-week summer courses to international law professors, judges, lawyers and students at Yale.
Among his many national activities, Sahl chaired the Publications Board of Editors for the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility. Arthur Garwin was director of the Center at that time.
“In addition to all his work on that committee, Jack was very active on the Center’s Coordinating Council, which made policy decisions, and he was a regular speaker at our annual Client Protection Forum,” Garwin said. “He and I used to talk about these topics all the time—and of course, he was writing his books too.”
In 2019, OSBA awarded Sahl the Eugene R. Weir Award for Ethics and Professionalism, the highest ethics recognition the Bar awards, for his work to promote and uphold legal professionalism and ethics both in Ohio and on a national and international level.
Joe Caliguiri, head of the Office of Disciplinary Counsel at the Ohio Supreme Court, is one of many first-hand beneficiaries. “I met Jack shortly after I joined the office in 2002. I viewed him as just an incredible resource for all things ethics related. I would give him a call when I was really struggling with an ethical issue on a case.”
Despite Sahl’s many commitments, Akron Law was always a priority.
“Jack’s tremendous energy and gift for multitasking enriched the law school in many ways,” C. Blake McDowell, Jr. Professor of Law Bernadette Genetin said. “On the admissions committee, he advocated continuously for admitting strong students and increasing the academic credentials of the entering classes. He then held those students to high standards in the classroom.”
“Jack has been a really good friend and supporter since I came here in 1995—in terms of teaching, how to relate to my colleagues, and especially scholarship,” C. Blake McDowell, Jr. Professor of Law Willa Gibson said. “The students respect him tremendously, and you could always count on him to speak his mind on uncomfortable topics in faculty meetings.”
“Jack will really be missed,” said Christopher J. (C.J.) Peters, C. Blake McDowell, Jr. Professor of Law and former dean. “He is a good classroom teacher. He is a really good scholar. It’s definitely unusual to have well-regarded casebooks in three very different areas of law as Jack does. And he really has had a major practical impact on the world of professional responsibility.”