How Suffolk University is responding
to the coronavirus outbreak
Story by Beth Brosnan
Photograph by Michael Paulson
Even as a boy, it was clear that Warren Levenbaum, JD ’72, was going places.
At age 11, Levenbaum went door-to-door in his Dorchester neighborhood, selling cushioned toilet seats he’d bought in bulk, and turned a tidy profit.
By age 16, he was driving through the streets of Boston, selling ice cream from the truck he’d bought and paid for by himself.
From age 18 to 26, he rose early every day to catch first the bus, then the trolley and train to attend Boston University and then (after a year of military service) Suffolk University Law School—while working multiple jobs to pay his way through both.
At age 27, law degree in hand, he drove cross country to begin a new life in Phoenix, Arizona.
By age 30, he had opened his own law firm there. Ten years later, that one-man practice had grown to 25. Today, the firm employs 60 people.
“Driven—that’s the word I use to describe Warren. There is something in him that never stops,” says his wife, Judy Levenbaum, who shares her husband’s entrepreneurial spark.
Now, the Levenbaums are helping similarly driven Suffolk law students go places of their own. They have pledged $1 million to endow the Law School’s Accelerator-to- Practice Program, which prepares law students to run their own firms—while also increasing access to justice for underserved clients.
“The education I received at Suffolk has been an integral part of my journey,” says Warren. “Judy and I are thrilled to support a program that teaches law students what they would otherwise have to learn by trial and error. Not only do they receive a strong legal foundation, but they get a really good head start on the business side of practicing law.”
Founded in 2014, the Acceleratorto-Practice Program provides law students with specialized instruction in the management, marketing, and technology skills necessary to run the kind of costefficient law practices that serve average-income clients who may not otherwise be able to afford to hire an attorney. According to the American Bar Association, eight out of 10 people of modest means lack legal representation in civil cases that can impact the rest of their lives.
“More than 40 percent of lawyers work in solo practices or small firms at some point in their careers,” says Andrew Perlman, dean of Suffolk Law School. “Warren and Judy are helping to prepare our graduates to join or start those kinds of practices. This kind of training is rare in law schools, but it is increasingly essential in a rapidly changing legal industry.”
Suffolk University President Marisa Kelly says the Levenbaums embody the program’s entrepreneurial philosophy.
“Warren and Judy both know exactly what it takes to build a successful business,” says Kelly. “They are also extraordinarily warm and generous people. We are profoundly grateful that they are creating opportunities for a new generation of Suffolk Law students.”
If the Levenbaums are born entrepreneurs, perhaps that’s because they had to be.
Both grew up in modest circumstances. Warren’s dad—a telephone lineman who left school after sixth grade—was a tough man and a distant father. “My siblings and I knew from an early age that we had to fend for ourselves,” says Warren, who began working at age 10 and never looked back.
A strong student as well as a hard worker, he earned a place at Boston Latin School, then at BU, where he studied economics. Following a year of training with an Army reserve unit, he enrolled at Suffolk Law because it offered “the kind of education you would get at an Ivy League school, but for an affordable price.”
Judy grew up in the Denver projects, one of three kids raised by a single mother, a waitress who couldn’t afford to send Judy to college but who instilled in her a belief that “we all bring something to the table.”
She went to work straight out of high school, and eventually opened a successful high-end designer clothing store in Colorado—even though her attorney told her that all odds were against her.
“For me, those were the magic words,” says Judy, who raised $1 million in six months to launch her business. “The odds have been against me all my life, and I’ve done very well that way. You have to dream big to make big things happen.”
You have to dream big to make big things happen.”
Warren Levenbaum also knows how to dream big. He just does it in a very methodical way.
After law school, he was determined to see the world—so naturally, he began his journey at the Boston Public Library, researching the best place to build his legal career. “I looked at Florida, California, and Arizona, researching socioeconomic conditions and a checklist of other factors,” he says. Phoenix came out on top.
Initially, he worked as a prosecutor for several years in the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, learning the ins and out of the Arizona legal system and getting to know local attorneys and judges. But like his future wife, he knew he wanted to run his own shop. “Working for a firm didn’t fit into my background or persona. I was used to making my own way without depending on anyone else, and I figured I had what it took to be successful,” he says. He founded his own law firm in 1977.
The Boston boy who was always on the go found his biggest success while riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, a hobby he took up to unwind on weekends. (“A lot of lawyers play golf,” he observes. “I can’t stay put long enough for that.”) On his long rides through the Arizona desert he often encountered other motorcyclists, who would all greet him with the same low, left-handed wave.
“I thought, where else does that happen, that complete strangers wave at you? Certainly not on the MTA,” he says with a laugh. “There was this immediate camaraderie, and it made me realize there was an entire subculture here,” as well as a potential market for legal services.
In 2001, Warren founded the American Association of Motorcycle Injury Lawyers, better known as Law Tigers. Since then, he has built Law Tigers into a nationally recognized brand that provides expert legal services to injured motorcyclists across the country, with Law Tigers franchises in 35 states. And in 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, he launched a new nationwide venture, Law Leaders, which provides a broad array of services to personal injury lawyers.
The Levenbaums say they hope their support for the Accelerator-to-Practice Program will enable Suffolk law students to take their own best ideas and run with them. “You’re never supposed to forget your roots, and I haven’t,” says Warren, who still reads The Boston Globe every Sunday. “Boston is part of me. I cherish my memories of growing up there, and of Suffolk.”
Adds Judy, “The students we’ve met were so well prepared, and so confident that they have something to contribute. We are proud to support them in their journey.”