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Frank Rothman '51: A Legal Legend

Frank Rothman

The Frank Rothman Scholars program at USC Law provides one top incoming law student each year with a full-tuition scholarship to USC Law and a guaranteed placement with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom's Los Angeles office during the summer after their first year of law school.

It also offers much, much more.

Years after his death in 2000, Frank Rothman's name still elicits fond stories and deep respect throughout the legal profession. Known for his extraordinary skills as a negotiator, his unparalleled rapport with judges and juries, and his impeccable work ethic, Rothman was one of the nation's most influential trial lawyers and a legendary sports and entertainment attorney.

Today, his name also gives USC Law students opportunities, connections and credibility that elude many lawyers well into their careers.

"Frank Rothman was the best of the best," says USC Law School Dean Matthew L. Spitzer, "and the Rothman Scholars program is helping us attract students who match what Frank Rothman represented. In just three short years, the Rothman Scholarship has become one of the most coveted scholarships in the country - due in large part to Frank's reputation, accomplishments and legacy."

The son of an upholsterer, Frank Rothman went to law school on the G.I. Bill. His career was characterized by success in the courtroom and high-profile clients. Called a "legendary litigator" by the National Law Journal, Rothman represented Warner Bros., the Walt Disney Co., Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox, as well as the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League and the Professional Golfers Association. He was chairman and CEO of MGM/UA studios from 1982 to 1986, but his lifelong passion was the law. After leaving MGM/UA, he was an antitrust specialist and partner in the Los Angeles office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

Rothman was perhaps best known for defending the NFL in a 1986 antitrust case filed by the now-defunct United States Football League. In that case, a jury found the NFL guilty of violating one count of antitrust law - but awarded only one dollar rather than the $1 billion in damages sought by the USFL. He also handled a case that invalidated an NBA rule preventing players from entering the league before their college class graduated.

Deeply respected and admired by colleagues and friends, he also was held in the highest esteem by judges and business executives from across the country. His extraordinary skill and exemplary standards in his practice of law brought honor and distinction to the legal profession and to USC Law, where he maintained close personal friendships and advised the school's administration as a member of the Board of Councilors.

Rothman passed away in 2000 at the age of 73, but his remarkable legacy in the legal profession and at USC are perpetuated by the Frank Rothman Scholars Program. Established in 2002 by the Rothman family with support from his colleagues, friends and business associates, the scholarship recognizes and supports USC's top law students - and serves as a lasting tribute to the life, energy and talent of its namesake.

Steve Rothman, Frank's son, says the scholarship pays tribute to his father's lifelong devotion to USC Law and serves as a reminder to others of his father's remarkable legacy. "My father always asked that we do the very best we are capable of," says Steve Rothman. "That is what this scholarship is intended to reflect."

Frank Rothman's widow, U.S. District Court Judge Mariana Pfaelzer, says the scholarship honors her late husband by fulfilling his wish to give something back to the Law School in return for the benefit it afforded him.

"Despite the fact that he was widely known and very successful," Judge Pfaelzer says, "he was a dedicated, serious lawyer and he cared tremendously about his clients. The scholarship recipient is selected on merit because Frank himself exemplified merit in the profession. He was the finest lawyer I ever encountered. We honor that memory with the Rothman Scholars Program."

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