Remembering James R. Jeffery, Spengler Nathanson Attorney for over 55 Years

December 4, 2023

On November 23, 2023, attorney James R. Jeffery passed away after spending over 55 years of his life as a Spengler Nathanson attorney, colleague, and friend. Jim brought a positive spirit and sharp mind to every aspect of his practice. He served as a mentor for newer and more experienced attorneys, welcomed everyone to the practice of law, and contributed to his community. We send our best to Jim's family, and thank him for his many years of dedicated service and friendship.

When Jim celebrated his 50th anniversary with the firm, we published an article including some of his many accomplishments and his comments about the practice of law and his experiences. We share it again now in his honor.

Fifty years ago in 1965, the #1 song was a Beatles song entitled “Help!,” which included John Lennon’s lyrics of “Help, I need somebody. Help, not just anybody.” It was during this same year, on October 27, 1965 to be exact, that James R. Jeffery was sworn in before The Supreme Court of Ohio as a licensed attorney and counselor of law. Mr. Jeffery, a Sylvania resident, has been continually engaged in the active practice of law with Spengler Nathanson for the past 50 years. During his vast career, he has had innumerable occasions to answer the “Help, I need somebody” call from existing and prospective clients who all believed strongly that they needed “not just anybody.”

Mr. Jeffery is a proud alumnus of DeVilbiss High School where he was an All-Ohio football player and member of the runner-up state championship team. Because his father was the Clerk of Courts, he would often go down to the court on Saturday mornings. These visits sparked his interest in the court system. Following high school graduation, he attended The Ohio State University, receiving a bachelor’s degree in English-Speech, and he was also a member of the OSU Debate Team. Upon returning to Toledo, he initially taught English composition before deciding to attend law school at the University of Toledo in the evenings. Mr. Jeffery worked as a clerk/runner for Fuller, Henry, Hodge and Snyder while attending law school.

Mr. Jeffery will be the first to explain that upon graduation from law school, all new graduates are looking for help to understand and to succeed. “It is a definite advantage to be mentored by another lawyer when you come out of law school,” said Mr. Jeffery. “Law school just isn’t able to teach you everything you need to know, as you need to experience the actual practice of law. I am very indebted to Ben Durfee who took me under his wing, mentored me and helped to establish me as a trial attorney.”

Mr. Jeffery’s stature in Toledo’s legal community is described as a respected and highly-talented trial lawyer. The legal profession recognized his significant contributions by electing him as the Toledo Bar Association President in 1985-86 and then ten years later electing him as the Ohio State Bar Association President from 1995-96. “Working with other lawyers in a professional association is very rewarding,” remarked Mr. Jeffery. “Becoming President of not only the local association but also the state association were certainly two of the bigger highlights of my career.”

When asked about significant changes in the practice of law over his 50 year career, Mr. Jeffery commented one of the most notable was the significant increase in the number of females entering the profession. “I think the profession has benefited extremely from the influx of women in the profession,” commented Mr. Jeffery. He also explained another notable change in the profession as the increase in mediation and arbitration as alternatives to taking a litigation matter to trial. Mr. Jeffery believes strongly that mediation and arbitration are often good alternatives for clients engaged in protracted litigation. Alternative dispute resolution mechanisms provide a satisfying way to work out a dispute where the parties can control the outcome.

Throughout his career, Mr. Jeffery has been disheartened by the image of lawyers often portrayed in the media and elsewhere, as such depiction does not fairly reflect the contributions made by lawyers in their communities. “Lawyers do so much for their community through their active involvement in numerous community activities from sitting on boards and offering their knowledge as a lawyer, to giving substantial amounts of funds, volunteering and pro bono activities and other efforts to better the community in which we live,” explained Mr. Jeffery, whose community activities have included Boys and Girls Club of Toledo (President 1984-86), Sylvania Township Board of Zoning Appeals, Boy Scouts of America (Board of Trustees) and Rotary Club of Toledo.

There are very few lawyers who are continually engaged in the active practice of law for 50 years and even fewer who do so with a single law firm. Mr. Jeffery has been with Spengler Nathanson from the very beginning of his career. “I have the good fortune to practice law with wonderful people, some of whom have gone on to become distinguished judges (David Katz, James Jensen),” remarked Mr. Jeffery. “I never considered practicing law anywhere else or performing any other job in the legal field. To me, there’s nothing better than working as a trial lawyer.”

In 2004, Mr. Jeffery received the Distinguished Toledo Lawyer award from the UT Alumni Law Association. When asked if after 50 years he is considering hanging up the legal pad, Mr. Jeffery responded simply, “I still enjoy the practice of law. I still enjoy practicing law with those in my firm. So, I see no reason to stop doing something I love doing.”

Mr. Jeffery's family has suggested that any donations in his honor be made to The Toledo Bar Association Foundation, 311 N. Superior Street, Toledo, Ohio 43604 or Hospice of NW Ohio, Sylvania Ebeid Center, 30000 E. River Road, Perrysburg, Ohio 43551; or a charity of the donor's choice.

We would like to thank Jim Jeffery for over 55 wonderful years of practice with Spengler Nathanson.