Family Tradition: Moritz is home for the Lewis’
By: James Grega, Jr.
For three generations, The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law has been a staple for the Lewis family.
William “Salty” Lewis (’37) started what has become a family tradition of graduating from Moritz. His son Jeffrey M. Lewis graduated in 1981, and Jeffrey’s youngest of four children, Haley (’16) and Evan (2L) followed in those same footsteps.
While each of their paths to Moritz are different, one constant remains: “There is something about this university that is engrained in our blood,” Evan said.
It’s been almost 21 years since the first member of the Lewis family to graduate from Moritz passed away, but his impact is still felt beyond the Lewis household.
Once a familiar figure in the Ohio Statehouse, the eldest Lewis was credited by former Ohio Governor John Kasich for helping him land his first job.
“Nobody was hiring me. I’d never dreamt I could get a job, but I went over [to the Ohio Statehouse],” Kasich said in his 2018 State of the State Address. “Salty had a big smile. He said, ‘Kid, I’ll hire you here, and you’ll write resolutions about my Aunt Gertrude or whoever else comes in the door.’”
Kasich was hired a week later as an intern for the Ohio Senate Republicans, a position referred to him by Lewis.
Lewis’ legal career spanned 61 years before his passing in June 1998. Throughout his illustrious career he practiced law with three Columbus firms between political appointments, which included a job as a trial lawyer in the antitrust division of the Department of Justice and working for Attorney General Tom Clark. He also served as a naval officer during World War II before becoming a lead attorney with the U.S. Justice Department in its breakup of the motion-picture monopoly in the late 1940’s after major studios worked together to corner the movie market.
In 1956, he was appointed director of the Legislative Reference Bureau, which was later named the Legislative Service Commission. He remained director for almost 20 years, and routinely hired honor students from Ohio State and Capital University Law School to work for him.
“I knew I wanted to be a lawyer from the time I was probably five or six years old,” his son Jeffrey, who currently owns his own law firm, said. “As a trial lawyer, you have to be persuasive and well-liked. You have to have wisdom about people, and my dad was the wisest people-person that I ever knew in my life. He imparted a lot of that to me, and it has helped me be very successful.”
Jeffrey M. Lewis (’81)
Jeffrey Lewis credits his father’s influence and passion for justice for his initial interest in the law. He now owns his own law firm and has more than three decades of legal experience.
“I knew in my heart-of-hearts I wanted to practice in Columbus and probably with my dad, which is where I started out,” Jeffrey, who started out working at his father’s law firm, said. “For me, it was important to know where I was going. Coming up with my dad, I became part of a community.
Since his early positions, Jeffrey spent 14 years as a partner at Crabbe, Brown & James and was the vice president of Swedlow, Butler & Lewis LPA from 1994 until 2006 before starting his own firm, which he still operates to this day.
Lewis was named one of Ohio’s top lawyers in 2017 by CEO Magazine. He focuses mainly on corporate litigation, specifically civil rights work, representing developers against cities that are attempting to regulate zoning or land use.
While he has closely followed the ongoing construction surrounding Ohio State’s campus, he is proud to see the many improvements Moritz has made since he graduated in 1981, both in the academic and physical sense.
“[Drinko Hall] is amazing over there now,” Jeffrey said. “It has certainly evolved. I think that not only makes it a more comfortable place to practice law, but I think it also helps draw more students as well.”
Jeffrey also mentioned Ohio State’s faculty as one of the reasons Moritz has become so attractive to prospective students, a factor that played an integral role in getting his daughter interested in the college.
Haley Lewis (’16)
Haley Lewis took a very similar path to Ohio State from that of her father. She attended Miami (Ohio) University for undergrad, but when it came time to apply for law school, she only needed to submit one application because of a conversation she had with a certain faculty member.
“One of my bridesmaids, her dad is Dean [Alan] Michaels. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I took a year off after college and went and talked to him, and he was the one that really sold Moritz to me,” she said. “[He told me that you] can basically do anything you want with a law degree. Ohio State is one of the top schools in the country and it is public and in-state.”
Like her father, Haley also focuses in corporate litigation. She is an associate attorney at Zeiger, Tigges & Little LLP in Columbus and is in her third year of practice. Ever since she graduated three years ago, she has been impressed with the way Moritz has evolved after helping her pave the way for a successful start in the profession.
In addition to the friendly atmosphere at Moritz, Haley added that the college’s willingness to be progressive in its curriculum has always stood out to her. The college’s new LP3 program, which allows 1L’s to select a portion of their initial coursework, is just one of the examples.
“One thing I really like about Moritz is when they see something that works, they are not afraid to change. “Even in the time since I have been there, they have changed the curriculum for first-years because they saw a way that was better to prepare them, and I really thought that was great.”
Evan Lewis (2L)
Unlike his father and sister, Evan never left Columbus for school.
He graduated from Ohio State in 2017 and after a year off, enrolled at Moritz. His first year of law school coincided with the launch of the college’s new LP3 curriculum, an opportunity he is grateful for.
“It takes the burden of constitutional law off of the first-years who are just trying to get used to [law school],” he said. “I am incredibly happy about the LP3 courses.”
“The assignments were no added stress, which was the goal of the LP3 courses, and allowed us to think critically,” Evan said. “We did hands on exercises [in Professor Jordan’s class] and went down to witness how the system works first hand at the courthouse.”
He is also learning from professors like Sarah Cole, director of the Program on Dispute Resolution, which was ranked No. 1 in the country by U.S. News and World Report.
After graduating three years ago, Haley said arbitration is becoming more relevant, which makes Cole’s leadership and teaching at Moritz so vital.
“I’ve spent the last two years dealing with arbitration matters and figuring out what roles apply in arbitration and what roles don’t and how arbitrators deal with evidence roles and appeals,” Haley said. “I have spent more time working with arbitration than I have on cases in a public place. That’s the way the world is going.”
“To embrace ADR in the way Professor Sarah Cole has, it’s a great instance of [Moritz] moving forward,” Evan added.
Evan’s career in law is just beginning and while a future in politics interests him, he also knows a family venture could be in the works somewhere down the line.
“Hopefully, we will both join with dad one day and be Lewis, Lewis and Lewis,” Evan said.