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USC Gould remembers alumnus Sorrell Trope JD ’49

Monday, June 1, 2020

Trope was known fondly for his impact on family law and dedication to USC Gould

By Yulia Nakagome

Sorrell Trope (JD ’49) with his family
Sorrell Trope (’47, JD ’49), a pioneer of family law in Los Angeles as well as a generous advisor, mentor and supporter of the USC Gould School of Law, passed away on May 23.
During Trope’s extraordinary career of 70 years, he distinguished himself as a practitioner and a staunch advocate of equity. He will be remembered for his passion representing his clients, some of whom included Hollywood celebrities, along with his wholehearted dedication to USC Gould. 
Trope was an enthusiastic admirer and supporter of USC, and credited the law school for providing the foundation for his legal career.
“I feel that I would not have been what I am had I gone any place else to law school,” he noted previously. “It did well by me, and I hope I’ve done well by it.”
Trope’s many contributions to the USC community include the Trope and Trope Fellowship, which celebrated 25 years in 2020, as well as his involvement with the Hale Moot Court Honors Program and his lifetime membership on the Gould Board of Councilors. Trope and his wife Linda also demonstrated their generosity and support of Gould through annual gifts. In 2012, Trope was inducted into the USC Alumni Association’s Hall of Fame by the Half Century Trojans for his outstanding service to the university.
“Our entire Gould Trojan Family is deeply saddened by Sorrell’s passing — he was an inspiring person and a dear friend to so many. He shaped not only the legal profession, but also the lives of our students, for the better,” said Dean Andrew Guzman. “At the core of his legacy was creating valuable opportunities for others, and we will always be thankful.”
Distinguished practitioner

Trope’s career began in 1949, shortly after his graduation from Gould when he started a solo practice and built his law firm, Trope and Trope, with his brother, another USC alumnus. Trope and Trope was known as the first family law-exclusive firm in the state of California. At its peak, the firm was made up of more than 30 lawyers. Trope and Trope introduced the team concept in marriage dissolution litigation. The firm was also a part of landmark decisions that provided the framework for current California family law.
“We will all miss him,” said Dennis Wasser JD ’67, who calls Trope a friend and mentor. Wasser added, “neither family law nor the world we live in will be the same without Sorrell.”
Trope is survived by his wife Linda, as well as their children, Michael, Donna, Alison and Laura.
Decorated legacy
Trope at his USC Alumni Association Hall of Fame induction ceremony 

Trope was widely respected in law. He held an AV Preeminent Rating from Martindale-Hubbell, placing him in the top 10% of attorneys demonstrating professional excellence and ethical standards. In 1998, he received the Los Angeles County Spencer Brandeis Award for outstanding contribution to the practice of family law, and the Zephyr M. Ramsey Award from the Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law for his commitment to equal justice. Trope was the first recipient of the California State Bar Lifetime Achievement Award in Family Law in 2013. The Los Angeles County Bar Association established the Sorrell Trope Family Law Trial Institute in 2016, helping attorneys become more effective in a trial environment. These were all milestones in a career that hit the ground running from a young age.
“I went to Los Angeles High School. My graduation date in the early 40s was on June 23 — a Friday. And believe it or not, on Monday morning, I started at USC instantly,” Trope said at his induction speech into the USC Alumni Association Hall of Fame in 2012. “And you know what, I’ve never left.”
Dedicated advocate

One of Trope’s defining characteristics, both personally and professionally, was a desire to ensure that those with limited resources or knowledge of the law received quality legal representation. In pursuit of that goal, Trope established in 1995 the Trope and Trope Fellowship, giving one USC student a year the opportunity to spend their summer assisting with family law cases at the Buhai Center, named for a cherished colleague of Trope’s. The Buhai Center provides pro bono legal guidance for marriage dissolution, domestic violence cases and paternity cases for clients living in poverty. 
The Trope and Trope Fellowship serves the clients of the Buhai Center while exposing USC students to the possibility of practicing family in the future.
“The fellowship changed the course of my career,” said Suma Mathai (JD/MSW 2000). “I got to see the need for family law in the community. And getting a chance to meet Sorrell Trope was phenomenal. He has a unique perspective about civility in the profession, the need to give back to the community and making sure there’s access to the courts for everyone.”
Trope’s longtime love of USC and the Gould School was cemented after his graduation, when his efforts to find work ran up against anti-Semitism in the early 1950s in Los Angeles. In one of the last interviews Trope gave in 2020, he said USC helped him and other Jewish law school graduates become established. He never forgot it, and never stopped being grateful.
“USC was always there to help,” Trope said. “You feel it in your bones when you’re there. I feel I’m home when I’m there.”



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