By Attorney, Philip J. Kavesh
As I sat down to compose this article, I had intended to celebrate our law firm’s 39th birthday this month, taking a look back at all of the milestones and successes that we have had over the years, including the merger of my practice with that of attorney, Roger Minor. Just as I was about to start writing the article, I sadly learned of Roger’s recent passing.
My First Fond Memory of Roger
My own law practice began in 1981 and in 1987 I thought that I could help more families if I moved my main office to the booming suburban area of LA known as The South Bay. At first, I thought I was “pioneering new territory”, but it wasn’t too long before I found out that there was a “king of the hill” in the South Bay – – and his name was Roger Minor.
Roger and I soon became relentlessly locked into competition with each other. Sometimes, even crossed paths, when presenting public seminars at the same location at the same time! Our competition was friendly and cordial, but I was determined to replace Roger as the “new” king of the hill.
Roger was more than 15 years older than me, and one day I speculated whether he might be considering retirement in the near future and would be open to the idea of joining forces together. So, I scheduled a lunch meeting with him. Roger was already seated and when I went to sit down, he immediately looked up and said to me, “You know, Phil, I’m a big believer in that old adage: if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” I quickly let loose a broad smile and said, “Well, it’s funny you say that, Roger, because that’s exactly why I asked you to meet with me today!” He happily replied, “I’m a big believer in a higher providence to things and I guess this was meant to be!”
This was my first experience of Roger’s faith in a higher order and his active belief in a greater purpose to life.
Observing Roger in Action
In 1991, Roger and I did, in fact, merge our law firms and thus became Kavesh & Minor. Roger continued to work in the practice until he decided to retire in 1995.
During those 4 years, I had the wonderful and enlightening opportunity to work side-by-side with Roger. I really didn’t know much about him before we merged. I soon realized how unique he was when I attended one of his first Kavesh & Minor seminar presentations, held at the Palos Verdes Library. I have such a vivid and clear memory of this for a number of reasons.
First, I remember that Roger had no handout materials, slides or script. He didn’t even stand at a podium. I recall that all he had on stage was a whiteboard with a Magic Marker, which he used briefly throughout his talk. He spent over an hour simply strolling back and forth in front of the audience, telling engaging and compelling stories about families and their estate planning challenges. Suddenly, when he was only about halfway through his scheduled time, someone who worked at the library barged in and loudly announced that the library would be closing in 10 minutes. I thought, for sure, that the seminar would be a bust!
But, not for Roger! He immediately concluded the seminar and requested that, if people wanted to schedule a free appointment to meet with him, just to be sure to do so on their way out. To my surprise, I watched every single person in that room head to the back and book an appointment! I was shocked, because I had always thought the speaker needed to persuade the audience with lots of concrete, technical information before they would decide to do business with you. Roger had a completely different, down-to-earth approach that was remarkably effective and successful!
As the last person left, I walked up to Roger and, recalling Mark Twain’s ability to tell stories and capture an audience, said, “Roger, you are the Mark Twain of estate planning!” He half-blushed and with a slight tilt of his head and a glint in his eye, replied, “I love Mark Twain! Thank you so much for the kind comparison!”
I remember leaving the library that day thinking, if that’s how Roger was at his seminars, I couldn’t wait to see him in action during his client meetings!
Sure enough, I had the opportunity to sit in on one of his prospective client meetings the very next day. He had blocked about an hour for the meeting and I closely watched the clock and noticed that Roger had already spent 50 minutes merely chit-chatting with his clients. He’d talk about things they had in common, where their families were from, their hobbies, what the personalities of their children were like. I had never seen a client meeting with less formality and so much personal discussion about everything but the particulars of an estate plan. And, just like at the seminar, Roger then seamlessly transitioned into the final 10 minutes, wrapping up the meeting and making his estate planning recommendations, and I watched (wide-eyed and in awe) as the clients readily pulled out their checkbook and handed over a check to him!
After Roger walked out the clients, he came back to speak to me. He must have noticed my puzzled and amazed reactions to how he handled the meeting. I will never forget what he said to me, “Phil, if you give me enough time, I can find a common, deep connection with just about anybody. And once I create that human bond with them, that deep and sincere form of caring, people like me, trust me, and want to do business with me.” Roger’s approach might sound manipulative but it wasn’t; he genuinely found something of mutual interest to enjoy with seemingly everyone he met.
Before I left his office, he then pointed to the shelves behind his desk where he prominently displayed all kinds of memorabilia. In particular, I remember that he had signed footballs from both UCLA and USC. With a smile, he said, “Most people around here are either a Hatfield or a McCoy, but it doesn’t matter which, because I get along with and like them all!” Roger genuinely loved people and they returned it to him.
(By the way, I will share with you that I later learned Roger’s true allegiance was to USC, where he was a member of the “Cardinal and Gold” Club and was very proud of his role in leading team prayers in the locker room before home football games. I will also never forget when I told Roger that I decided to change our corporate colors from their original maroon and gold to dark green and gold, he immediately responded, with exaggerated indignation, “How dare you change from USC colors to Notre Dame!” I might also mention he was an avid Dodgers fan who had season tickets a few rows up from behind home plate. I now regret that, when he moved away, I let them lapse. Forgive me, Roger!)
The “Renaissance Man”
Roger’s unique ability to connect with people was not only based on his affable, one-of-a-kind, outgoing and upbeat personality, and sincere interest in and caring for others, but on the fact that he was very well-read and had a broad knowledge of many scholarly areas, hobbies and interests. He loved sports and, in particular, running (marathons!), jazz and classical music and the theatre – – and his and his wife, Barbara’s, two “Havanese” dogs! (Barbara sadly passed away before him in 2017)
I can recall our after-hours back and forth discussions on deep intellectual issues such as personal philosophies and approaches to life. One day, while Roger was arguing an impassioned point, he pointed out to me, “You know, Phil, you’re Melancholic!” I wasn’t sure how to take that because it sounded to me to be very negative.
But immediately upon observing the confused and saddened look on my face, Roger explained, “What I’m talking about is the four Greek humors. They’re personality temperaments. Melancholic people are always so serious, conscious of details and obsessed with wanting to ‘get them right’. I, on the other hand, am what’s called a Sanguine personality. That is someone who is easy-going, optimistic, and inspiring. Melancholic and Sanguine are great complements to one another and that’s why we make a perfect partnership!” That was Roger, always finding a way to leave people feeling good about themselves.
The “People Magnet”
The more I got to know Roger, I nicknamed him the “people magnet”. Perhaps the best example of this came when Roger retired in 1995. I got a call from a frantic Roger the very next day. He seemed unusually panicked and begged of me, “Phil! I need your help! I have a huge problem!”
Apparently, neither Roger nor I had realized the degree of his personal magnetism. While on the short flight to Grass Valley (where he moved to retire, up in Northern California), Roger managed to convince the two people seated on either side of him on the plane to hire him to do an estate plan! He had thought his attorney days were over, but now he needed our trust document forms and software so he could service those new clients. It wasn’t before long that, what was supposed to be his retirement actually resulted in Roger building another estate planning practice in Grass Valley!
Roger was a true man of faith. He was not someone who just professed religious principles, but rather he was someone who lived them and inspired them in others. Roger was a leading influence on the South Bay community, literally one of its “founding fathers”, having set up and participated in many local charitable and civic organizations. And it came as no surprise to me that he actively participated as a community leader after moving to Grass Valley and, in his final years, to Sahuarita, Arizona.
Roger Minor touched the lives of countless thousands of people and I have been blessed to be one of them. And our firm has been honored to continue to pass along his values and care for others for now almost 40 years.
Thank you, Roger. May you rest in peace and keep shining down upon us from above!