By Jeffrey D. Jacobs
What inspired me most about being a law student at Loyola University Chicago was the law school's outstanding and dedicated faculty, and its strong spirit of social justice and community.
I grew up on the South Side of Chicago. Following my graduation from Bradley University, my father encouraged me to apply to law school. He believed that knowledge of the law, and the ability to understand and apply the law to everyday life would be helpful to any career. I decided to attend Loyola University Chicago School of Law because it offered an outstanding law program and because it had a solid commitment to social responsibility and service to others.
Loyola's excellent, rigorous, and practical training taught me how to think like a lawyer. I gained an understanding of the fundamental values of the legal profession, as well as the substantive knowledge required for the effective and responsible practice of law. By the end of my third year, I was well-prepared and eager for real-life practical experience.
After working for almost a decade as a trial lawyer, I developed a niche in the area of sports and entertainment law, where I represented many of Chicago's athletes and television and radio personalities, including members of the Chicago Bears and legendary baseball announcer Harry Caray.
In 1984, a newcomer to Chicago - a young woman named Oprah Winfrey - hired me as her manager and attorney. Oprah moved to Chicago to host a local talk show. As manager and eventually co-founder and president of Harpo Entertainment Group, I worked for nearly 18 years to help build "Oprah" into a global entertainment and cultural brand.
My responsibilities as president of Harpo Entertainment included establishing and marketing an operational infrastructure, as well as developing and strengthening corporate relationships to extend the reach and influence of the Oprah brand. I also negotiated Harpo's business ventures and distribution contracts, and managed the design and construction of the 88,000-square-foot Harpo Studios.
The Oprah empire eventually grew to encompass multiple business units that were guided by one central purpose - to create, own, and distribute inspiring intellectual property while consistently building shareholder value. With the growth and success of Harpo Entertainment came the opportunity for me to pursue personal entrepreneurial and philanthropic interests.
In 1993, I collaborated with Loyola law school Dean Nina S. Appel and Professor Diane Geraghty to help establish and fund Loyola's Civitas ChildLaw Center. Under Geraghty's stellar leadership, the nationally recognized ChildLaw Center has prepared law students, lawyers, and other professionals to advocate for children for more than 15 years.
The name Civitas, which is Latin for "community," jumped out at me when I came across the word in a book of poetry. The center's name seemed fitting for a community of lawyers who are brought together to address many of society's most pressing concerns and issues relating to children and families.
The Civitas ChildLaw Center continues to be a source of great pride for the law school and the university, as well as one of the most respected child and family law centers in the country. In addition to classroom opportunities, the Civitas ChildLaw Clinic provides hands-on experience representing children and families while allowing students to develop courtroom advocacy skills.
Another important example of the ChildLaw Center's leadership role in the community is the work of the ChildLaw Policy Institute, which includes raising awareness and advocating for legislation and policy reform to prevent childhood lead poisoning in Illinois.
The most recent addition to the center is the Loyola University Chicago ChildLaw and Education Institute, designed to provide collaborative training, research, and outreach programs dedicated to the development of excellence and equality in our schools.
The ChildLaw Center is also committed to international efforts to protect children and to promote laws and policies. Students today have opportunities to study international children's rights in the classroom and across the globe with field studies and internships.
I'm gratified by the ways in which the Civitas ChildLaw Center has grown and expanded its mission, and continually awed and humbled by the exceptional work Loyola's dedicated law faculty, graduates, and students are doing in Chicago and around the world.
Balancing my time among four children ranging in ages from 3 to 26 and my work with Jacobs Endeavors keeps me very busy. Staying connected to the community and my law school is also a priority.
Whether it is to support a student scholarship, attend a Civitas ChildLaw Center conference, serve on a strategic planning committee, or teach a course in entertainment law, I am mindful of the extraordinary opportunities I have to give back. The law school has helped to lay the solid foundation for much that has been possible for me.
Jeffrey Jacobs earned his undergraduate degree from Bradley University in 1971, and his law degree from Loyola University Chicago School of Law in 1974.