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The Wisdom of a Yogi

To Russell Frackman, Berra’s words have meaning in life and law

Published in 2021 Southern California Super Lawyers magazine

Not everyone goes for that pithy Clarence Darrow or RBG quote in their law firm bio. Take Russell J. Frackman, IP litigator at Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp. He opted for a bon mot from that great American philosopher Lawrence Peter Berra. “Yogi” for short.

A three-time MVP catcher for the New York Yankees in the 1950s, Berra was just as famous for his bits of epigrammatic wisdom. Of a popular St. Louis restaurant, for example, he said, “Nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded.” His most famous saying is probably “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over,” but Frackman, who grew up in Brooklyn but inexplicably became a Yankees fan, chose a lesser-known Yogism for his bio: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you won’t know when you get there.”

“It struck me as very appropriate to my career,” Frackman says via email. “I came across it several years go, just before I received an award from the Grammy Foundation. I decided to start my acceptance speech with the quote because I never set out to be an intellectual property or entertainment litigator, and in fact never had a copyright course in law school. When I graduated law school, I literally did not know where I was going either geographically (a Brooklyn boy in LA) or professionally (I started at the law firm as a probate lawyer).”

Once he landed in IP and entertainment litigation, however, it felt like he’d found a home. “I knew it was what my career would be,” he says.

Frackman is such a Yankees fan that he and a client wound up going to the team’s fantasy camp two decades ago, where he got to play alongside and against some of his boyhood idols, including Phil Rizzuto, Hank Bauer and Bobby Richardson.

“I grew up during the period when it seemed the Yankees played the Dodgers in the World Series almost every year—until the Dodgers moved to LA. To this day, I distinctly remember watching the last game of the 1955 World Series when the [Brooklyn] Dodgers beat the Yankees for the only time. I was as disappointed as a 9-year-old Yankee fan—surrounded by a borough of Dodger fans—could be.

“However, as a Yankee fan, I learned two equally important lessons that apply to baseball players and to trial lawyers: you can’t win ‘em all. And, as the Dodgers proved in 1955 and again last fall, sometimes you just have to wait ‘til next year.”

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