A first meeting with Herb Jorgensen, the lawyer, usually meant an encounter with a gruff bulldog whose client was clearly in the right. This was the tough demeanor of a man who was born in a log cabin in Electric, Montana, grew up in the Midwest and who managed a paint store while putting himself through law school at American University in Washington, D.C. When Herb first started practicing law in suburban Maryland in 1959, he learned quickly that legal skills were only a part of the essence of a great lawyer. Eventually, however, even his toughest opponents discovered the humorous and fun-loving soul of this fine gentleman.
In his early legal career, Herb partnered with Joe Kyle and Ralph Shure, eventually joining with Jack Heise and Dick Stefanelli to form the firm of Heise Jorgensen & Stefanelli P.A. which continues today with Herb's son-in-law, Stephen B. Jackson, as a partner. With a law practice having an emphasis on real estate, Herb also formed Fenton Title Company in 1983 as an adjunct to the law firm.
Herb's clients were many, but one of his most important clients was Citizens Savings Bank, headquartered in the same building as the law firm in Silver Spring. He was general counsel for Citizens during the trying early 1990's when the national savings and loan crisis struck and caused many to fail. Herb's guidance of Citizens out of that crisis resulted in his appointment as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Bank in April 1994, leading to its eventual merger with Provident Bank of Maryland in 1997. Herb continued to serve as a member of the Board of Directors of Provident Bank for years thereafter.
Herb's resume included a number of significant bar and civic achievements, including serving as Chair of the MSBA Real Property Section, President of the American College of Mortgage Attorneys, Chairman of the Board of Bullis School, Director of The Security Title Guarantee Corporation of Baltimore and serving in many capacities with Christ Episcopal Church and School in Rockville.
Those of us who started our law careers at Heise Jorgensen & Stefanelli P.A., some of whom have gone on to other firms with great success, owe a great deal to Herb Jorgensen for sharing of his knowledge about the practice of law. He was the ultimate mentor. While Herb was always opinionated about almost any subject, probably his most important attribute was his ability to listen carefully to the opinions of others, including the junior lawyers in his firm. More often than not, we were able to influence decisions and strategy in cases because, despite of (or perhaps because of) his great intellect, Herb was always able to sort through the mélange of information presented to him and produce a winning strategy.
Most of all, we remember how much Herb enjoyed having a good time, whether it be just going out from the office for lunch with fellow lawyers and businessmen, taking in an opera, inviting a crowd for a Las Vegas trip or having guests at his condo in Ocean City for crabs. While the Montgomery County legal community has lost a true pioneer, we at Heise Jorgensen and Stefanelli P.A. will sorely miss both the legal expertise and the booming laugh of the great Herb Jorgensen.
Louis S. Pettey