I’ve Always been proud of my father, Ron Rossi, and after you read the Silicon Valley Business Journal’s recent interview with him, I think you’ll understand why.
By Nathan Donato-Weinstein
“When it comes to Silicon Valley real estate, few are as steeped as Ron Rossi, a shareholder with the San Jose law firm Rossi, Hamerslough, Reischl & Chuck. For the last 40 years, he’s represented some of the region’s most prominent developers and property owners in everything from leasing to litigation. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Tell me about how you put yourself through UC Hastings.
I sold real estate. But one summer, real estate was slow, so I sold Encyclopedia Britannica. It was the best job ever. I learned more about selling and negotiating by selling encyclopedias. These guys were pros. They were so much fun. And they had so many techniques.
Which was the best?
As soon as you hear the husband or wife ask the other, “What do you think?” you say, “Well, we’ve made you the best offer we can,” and you start slowly picking up your stuff. The person who talks first, loses. I thought that was baloney, and then one night I tried it, and dang it if it didn’t work. And I’ve used it since in law.
Tell me about your first trial.
It was over scrap iron. This guy would buy scrap iron from FMC (the chemical company) in San Jose and then sell it to junkyards. And it had to do with the truckers cheating him on the weights. “I gave you 8,000 pounds and you only accounted for 4,000 pounds.” It was Judge Eugene Premo, who was a municipal court judge at the time and is now on the Sixth District Court of Appeal. I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. But we won. It was scary but fun.
Weirdest case you ever took?
This CEO sued another CEO, because he said he used to walk his dog through his backyard in the Palo Alto hills. And when the second CEO bought his house, he put $1 million into landscaping. But this guy wanted access through my guy’s backyard because he used to walk his dog through it. He said he had a prescriptive easement and he wanted a jury. We actually had a jury trial and the jurors were like, are you kidding me? This guy wants to walk over the other guy’s property because he used to do it? And he didn’t even have a dog anymore.
Your son, Dean, also an attorney at your firm, is married to Lew Wolff’s daughter, Kari. What’s Lew like?
If I send multiple emails out to like, 10 people – which I do a lot of – without a doubt, every time, Lew’s always the first one back, and usually within a couple minutes. He’s amazing. And he’s that way with everyone. He’s an amazing communicator. I tell my lawyers, look how fast he responds: Respond to every client that way.
Are you required to be an As fan?
I wouldn’t say required, but it’s certainly encouraged.
Recently you took up boxing.
I used to box a little bit in high school. I always loved it. And someone told me there’s this great place, Condition and Competition. It’s a boxing gym with all young guys – some amateurs, pros. And here’s this old guy coming in. It’s a great workout and I love it. Last night it was some move that May weather makes. Obviously, I’m doing it in slow motion. I’m a pretty aggressive lawyer, and boxing is kind of an aggressive sport.
You’re 71 now. Do you think you’ll ever slow down?
I’m convinced that the more experiences you have in life – good or bad – it’s still positive, you still learn something from it. I can’t imagine sitting on the beach. And I don’t want to play golf.”
P.S. from Dean: the Business Journal’s online version included two questions that had to be omitted from the print version due to limited space. These were actually the questions my dad enjoyed answering most.
“Proudest professional moment?
We had one family from Mexico and I got them out of this house deal. They were in way over their heads, could have never afforded it. I told them it was pro bono, but when the settlement came they wouldn’t sign the papers. The interpreter said, ‘It’s because you’re doing this for nothing, and no one in this fancy law firm would be doing this for free. You must be working for the lender.’ So we explained to them – no. Then they started crying. It was pretty special.
You got a master’s degree in history from San Jose State in 2007. Why’d you go back to school?
I was representing the president of San Jose State at the time, Robert Caret. We were at lunch one day and said, I’ve always wanted to get a degree in history. He said why don’t you go back to school? I said it’s a big hassle. He said I’ll walk the application through. I said what the heck. That was fun – what are your parents’ income? Last undergrad class? Caret kind of dared me. He said, you better get good grades, I’m going to watch. And I got in.”