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Gail J. Koff (1945 – 2010) was not there in September 1972 when Stephen Z. Meyers and Leonard D. Jacoby, his former law school classmate at the University of California, Los Angeles, opened their first storefront office in Van Nuys. But her aspirations matched those of the founders, and six years later she became the third partner, though unidentified in the firm’s name, assigned to open the first New York office.
Recognizing that the rich can afford lawyers and that the poor have access to free assistance programs, Jacoby & Meyers focused on serving average people who could often not afford to hire a lawyer at prevailing rates.
The firm set off something of a revolution in the field by using mass-marketing techniques and charging flat fees for services. It opened walk-in neighborhood “legal clinics” staffed by general practitioners who had access to teams of specialists in areas like bankruptcy, real estate, personal injury, divorce and criminal law.
“My main interest in the law has always been the availability of local services,” Ms. Koff told The New York Times in 1979.
By then, Mr. Jacoby and Mr. Meyers had started the first television advertising campaignconducted by a law firm. The advertising had a folksy appeal, featuring “two guys named Jacoby and Meyers,” and offered free consultations. It appeared in 1977, just weeks after the United States Supreme Court ruled that law firms, like any other business, could advertise their services.
Ms. Koff later appeared on a late-night Jacoby & Meyers commercial holding a hair dryer and warning viewers about the dangers they faced from injury and fraud. In another commercial, she declared, “We take your case seriously, and the insurance companies take us very seriously.”
Gail Joanne Koff was born in Manhattan on May 15, 1945, the daughter of Murray and Sylvia Koff. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1966 and received her law degree from George Washington University in 1969.
While attending law school, Ms. Koff had worked for the Legal Services Administration in Washington, an arm of the federal Office of Economic Opportunity. After graduation, she joined the New York corporate law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, but continued to spend time on issues dealing with availability of legal services.
Ms. Koff wrote nine books offering legal guidance to laymen, including “The Jacoby & Meyers Practical Guide to Everyday Law” (1985) and the “Jacoby & Meyers Guide to Divorce” (1991).
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