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Gerald Shargel ’69, Top Criminal Defense Attorney and Law School’s Practitioner-in-Residence, Dies at 77

07/18/2022

Gerald “Jerry” Shargel ’69, a renowned criminal defense attorney and graduate of Brooklyn Law School who took on some of New York’s most high-profile cases, died on July 16, 2022. He was 77.

From 2003, Shargel was Practitioner-In-Residence at the Law School, where he taught evidence, criminal procedure, and trial advocacy, and served as a mentor to his students. He gave back to the Law School in other important ways as well, including establishing the Gerald R. Shargel ’69 Scholarship to benefit students of criminal law.

During his more than 40 years leading his own firm, and as a partner at Winston & Strawn from 2013 until his retirement in 2018, Shargel distinguished himself as an exceptionally skilled, rigorous, and charismatic attorney who deftly handled a raft of criminal cases that generated a great deal of media attention.

“I’m involved in the defense of collars of every color: white-collar, gray-collar, blue-collar,” Shargel once told a reporter. “I represent doctors, lawyers, politicians, state senators, congressmen.”

He was also a notable contributor to numerous books and law journals and provided insightful commentary on legal issues for outlets including the Daily Beast and CNN. His law school peers remember his knack for working with clients.

“Jerry has an instinctive grasp of the law,” friend and fellow alumnus Geraldo Rivera ’69 once said. “He knows what the law is. He has an ability to relate to the client and make a legal rather than moral judgment about it.”

Recognized for his intense preparation, studied tactics, and dramatic presence in the courtroom, Shargel received the Thurgood Marshall Award for Outstanding Criminal Law Practitioner from the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in 2006, and was described in a New Yorker profile as "one of the most brilliant criminal defense attorneys in America… quite possibly the finest of his generation.”

He also received the 2015 Norman S. Ostrow Award from the New York Council of Defense Lawyers.

"Jerry Shargel is one of the finest trial lawyers of our time," said Michael Elkin '84, managing partner of Winston & Strawn’s New York office, when Shargel joined the firm. "He is an iconic figure, revered by clients and admired equally by judges and federal prosecutors.”

Born on October 5, 1944, in New Brunswick, N.J., Shargel earned his B.A. from Rutgers University in 1966, before entering Brooklyn Law School, from which he graduated in 1969. During law school, he interned with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York, which he described as a great opportunity to see “the best of the best” prosecuting and defense attorneys of the day at work. One of those legendary lawyers was criminal defense attorney James LaRossa, who would later become Shargel’s boss and then his law partner.

Shargel is survived by his wife, Terry; his two children, who followed in his footsteps to become attorneys themselves—David Shargel, who also took his dad’s path to Brooklyn Law, graduating in 2005, is currently a partner at Bracewell, and Johanna Shargel is an attorney for a public interest law group in California; and many grandchildren.

When once asked in an interview for Chambers-Associate what achievement he was most proud of, Shargel cited his teaching role at Brooklyn Law: “Over the years I have had literally hundreds of students in my classes, many of whom now have successful legal careers. I love reading about and hearing about former students and my pride is palpable when a former student comes up to me and tells me how much she or he enjoyed my classes.”

“I write, I teach, and I litigate,” he said. “What could be better than that?”

 His family has directed memorial contributions to the Gerald Shargel ’69 Scholarship at Brooklyn Law School. To make your gift online, go to: www.brooklaw.edu/give. For additional inquires, email Patty Allen at patty.allen@brooklaw.edu.