John FeerickMichael M. Martin in The New York Law Journal, October 30, 2013
by Michael M. Martin
In serving six years as John Feerick's associate dean, I received new insights about leadership. Our usual conception of a leader is someone committed to an objective who, by force of personality or wielding carrots or sticks, gets others to share that commitment and attain that objective.
Few would describe John's personality as charismatic, yet he exercised this type of leadership quite effectively, building a national reputation for Fordham with its programs in professional responsibility and public service. John's leadership is not, however, the usual sort, which may constrain the followers to achieving only those objectives established by the leader.
John has an ability to lead people to accomplish beyond any objective he might set and even beyond anything of which they think themselves capable. The national recognition the Law School gained over his deanship did not come primarily because John set objectives for such matters as faculty hiring, scholarly productivity, or a high quality and diverse student body and then led us toward accomplishing those objectives. Rather, he made excellence the goal and left the details of excellence up to each person and group, offering them his support and encouragement.
The power of his leadership comes from his example, what he expects from himself in terms of standards, effort, and commitment, as well as from his ability to see the best that is in every person.
Some would say that his obvious faith that people will live up to their best is naïve, but for those in John's orbit it is a mighty confidence builder and motivator.
John's talent for leadership has been recognized outside the Law School, most notably by the Association for the Bar of the City of New York, which he served as president during 1992-1994. Beyond that, he has been given numerous public and professional assignments—such as arbitrator for the National Basketball Association, chair of the ABA Section on Legal Education Standards Review Committee, and chair of New York State committees on government integrity and cameras in the courts—because of his intelligence, absolute integrity, ability to keep people with seriously opposed interests working together, and (I've always thought) willingness to undertake thankless tasks that lesser mortals would not touch.
The key to John's success is that he genuinely cares about people. No matter how busy he is, John is never too busy to help anybody in the community with a personal problem. He spends hundreds of hours a year assisting students and alums with their careers. He shows up for weddings and wakes; and I once heard his assistant at the time, estimate, he annually attended at least 70 funerals. And he has done all this not for the recognition or because "it is his job" or because it will pay off in gifts to the Law School, but because he personally relates to every member of the Fordham community.
John's kind of concern has benefitted the law school and every organization with which he has been associated. It is the reason that John Feerick is universally recognized as a giant in the New York legal community.
Michael M. Martin is dean and distinguished professor at Fordham Law School.
Professor, Fordham University School of Law
LL.B., Fordham Law, 1961
Dean of Fordham Law from 1982 to 2002; founder and director of the school's Feerick Center for Social Justice
• Began his career in private practice at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.
• Served as state special deputy attorney general; chaired state Commission on Government Integrity, 1987-1990.
• Past president of Citizens Union Foundation, 1987-1998.
• Past president of New York City Bar, 1992-1994.
• Former director of American Judicature Society, 1995-1999.
• Chairman of the American Arbitration Association since 1998.
• Primarily responsible for composition of 25th Amendment to U.S. Constitution, which specifies how a president can remove himself from office temporarily or be removed by a majority of his cabinet; author of "The Twenty-Fifth Amendment: Its Complete History and Earliest Applications in 1976."
• Served as court-appointed referee in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. New York State.