Obituary: Seymour A. Sikov / Adept attorney dedicated to improving profession

Nov. 24, 1924 - Jan. 16, 2013

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For 60 years, attorney Seymour A. Sikov represented clients who had been injured on the job or by a doctor's error. He worked 13-hour days and also trained three dozen of the city's most successful lawyers, including four sitting judges. Tall, indefatigable and usually dressed in a coat and tie, he strove constantly to improve his profession.

"Seymour was a person who wanted to get the best out of every day that he could. He rushed down to the office to get there at 7 a.m. because he loved it. He would start dictating by 7:30, but he might be chewing on a bagel while he was doing it. He did not waste time," said John F. Becker, a Green Tree attorney who worked with his colleague for 30 years.

Mr. Sikov, 88, died after a brief illness Wednesday at his Oakland home. He argued his last case in December in Allegheny County Orphans' Court.

As the lead partner in his Downtown firm, Mr. Sikov read every piece of mail.

"He would give you notes on the mail on what he thought you should do with that particular piece of correspondence," Mr. Becker said. Written on paper from a closed file, the notes often read, "see me on this."

Attorney Carol Sikov Gross of Squirrel Hill began working with her father in 1985.

"He taught you. He didn't just stick you out there on your own. He helped you to learn how to deal with clients, how to take a deposition, how to have a system in your office. We inventoried each file at least once a year to make sure no files fell through the cracks," Ms. Gross said.

He also was a warm, loving father.

"He would always come home for dinner even though most nights he went back to the office. He led by example. You work hard but you take time for people that you love," Ms. Gross said.

From 1978 through 1983, current state Superior Court Judge Christine L. Donohue worked as Mr. Sikov's law clerk.

"I was afraid of him initially because he could be very domineering and gruff. But he was the most generous and kind and wise lawyer that I could have ever hoped to guide me as a young lawyer," Judge Donohue said.

Three other Sikov and Love graduates are Senior U.S. District Court Judge Alan Bloch, retired Commonwealth Court Judge James Flaherty and Senior Allegheny County Orphans' Court Judge Frank Lucchino.

Every Monday afternoon, Mr. Sikov and firm lawyers discussed all of their cases.

"Even when I was a law clerk, I was invited to those meetings. We talked about the facts of the case and what the legal problems were," Judge Donohue said.

In 1962, Mr. Sikov helped organize the Bench Bar Conference, an annual gathering designed to foster legal training and better communication between judges and lawyers.

At that event, Mr. Becker said, "You could stay up until 3 a.m. but Seymour would be pounding on your door at 8:45 in the morning to make sure you went to the lecture on civil procedure at 9 a.m."

Mr. Sikov's emphasis on learning paid off for the more than 50 clerks who worked at his firm while earning their law degrees.

"None of his law clerks ever failed to pass the bar on the first try," Mr. Becker said. "He was a wonderful mentor to many people."

On Saturdays from 9 a.m. until noon, Mr. Sikov met with clients. Afterward, he often played 18 holes of golf at Green Oaks Country Club in Verona.

"He wanted the exercise. He walked 18 holes. He did not ride a cart," Mr. Becker said.

At age 16, Mr. Sikov graduated from Allderdice High School and entered the University of Pittsburgh.

A member of the Reserve Officer Training Corps, he served as an infantry officer with the Third Army in Europe during World War II. Back at Pitt, he completed a bachelor's degree in 1947 and a law degree in 1950.

When America entered the Korean War in June 1950, he was recalled to active duty in the anti-aircraft division. After his admission to the bar in December 1950, the military transferred him to its Judge Advocate General's Corps, in which he served through 1952.

Initially, he practiced with his father, the late Meyer Sikov. His later partner, Murray Love, died in 1978 but the firm's name remained Sikov and Love.

"It was a nice place to practice law. We had picnics in the summer time. All the families would come and the kids would play softball and volleyball in South Park," Mr. Becker said, adding that the office atmosphere was supportive.

"If you were in trial, Seymour would say, 'Don't worry about anything else. Just try your case,' " Mr. Becker said.

To reduce a backlog of Common Pleas court cases in 1989, Mr. Sikov organized a special master program. Attorneys from the prestigious Academy of Trial Lawyers of Allegheny County were drafted to hear cases, with or without juries.

"He did that gratis for 10 years," Mr. Becker said. "Juggling lawyers and litigants is not an easy thing to do."

In 2005, Mr. Sikov began practicing elder law with his daughter.

"He felt you were never too old to learn something new. It gave us more time to spend together," Ms. Gross said.

Besides his daughter, Mr. Sikov is survived by his wife, Rhoda of Oakland; two sons, Paul of Squirrel Hill and Bill of Providence, R.I.; and six grandchildren. Interment was Friday in Beth Shalom Cemetery.

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Marylynne Pitz: mpitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1648.


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