Today we lost Craig Yankwitt. Probably one of the most warm, kind, inspiring and loyal friends I’ve ever had.
He was a tremendous lawyer—combining compassion and advocacy in a manner that set him far apart from and above his litigation colleagues.
He was one of those rare guys who was dialed into you when you were in front of him. Never checking his phone. Never looking around. Never distracted. He was all about the person sitting right in front of him. He listened and processed and cared. Such an amazing quality of his that added to his charisma. This was probably what made him so successful in his law practice, as well as in his trials and negotiations.
He was a magnetic personality. And for those of his friends who knew him both before and after this cruel disease sidelined him, it was so inspiring to see how he battled. Always in front of it…always advocating and learning and never giving up. He always seemed a step ahead; in the know of the latest research and would make sure he was on the front lines fighting this awful disease. He never gave up. As he fought, he worked out mentally (he loved talking about the law and new cutting edge defense strategies). He stayed sharp. And he worked out physically—getting himself to the gym and working out hard in spite of everything. He never complained. He battled and battled and never complained.
Professionally, I worked with Craig on several cases over the past decade…both against him and alongside him. I met him during a particularly challenging case which could have become ugly quickly. My client severely injured his client. Craig pulled me aside, and immediately began brainstorming with me to figure out how we could resolve the case in a way that would benefit both our clients, as well as save them from the time, heartache and financial drain of a lengthy litigation. No posturing. No threats. Just pragmatic, practical straight talk. Two months later, it was resolved to both clients’ satisfactions. We all looked good, and I made a great friend.
Craig was one of the few lawyers of my generation who loved this profession and didn’t begrudge it for the long hours and (oftentimes) little reward. He relished the opportunities to help people when they needed it most. It was truly a perfect calling for him. He had the unique smarts and sensitivity to prevail in personal injury law—being able litigate very technical legal and medical issues, yet at the same time having the ability to patiently counsel clients through the emotional turbulence of a lengthy litigation during a trying time in their life.
Most important to Craig was that he was almost always fighting for an under-dog of some kind—a victim of a crime or neglect, or someone who was somehow wronged.
Craig was always all-in, no matter how long the litigation or struggle might take and regardless of any cost-benefit analysis. If Craig was your lawyer—or your adversary—or your friend, for that matter—you knew he was all-in.
Craig, I’ll miss you and I know that the people you have touched in my family and in my office will miss you too.