George Zelcs, Class of 1979
Leading consumer rights and class action litigator known for his work on the light cigarette cases
A member in the law firm Korein Tillery, George Zelcs focuses his practice in the areas of complex commercial litigation, including consumer fraud, securities, pharmaceutical and antirtrust litigation in state and federal courts. He has frequently served as lead counsel with responsibility for the coordination of the litigation activities of lawyers from multiple law firms representing common interests in numerous complex multi-party litigations. He has also obtained numerous settlements or judgments ranging from $15 million to in excess of $10 billion for his clients in various state and federal jurisdictions. Additionally, Zelcs has testified, at the invitation of the New York State Assembly and its Standing Committee on Insurance, regarding financial guaranty insurance and representations and warranties made by mortgage originators in secured debt transactions.
Prior to joining Korein Tillery, Zelcs was a partner at Clausen Miller in Chicago. He was first selected as a Leading Illinois Attorney in 1993 and was a finalist for the Trial Lawyers for Public Justice Trial Lawyer of the Year Award in 2003 for his work on the Price, et al. vs. Philip Morris USA class action case. He serves on the Leadership Circle of the Prescription Access Litigation Project, which is a coalition of more than 125 non-profit organizations in 35 states that engages in litigation regarding fair pricing for prescription drugs. Zelcs also serves on the Chicago-Kent Board of Overseers and as a member of the Advisory Board for the Chicago-Kent Institute on the Supreme Court of the United States.
What were you like as a law student?
I was very busy- I was always working part time. By the time I became a 2 and 3L, I was working 40 hours a week and going to law school during the day. I was always challenged for time. It wasn’t easy for me to keep up with everything. That’s probably when I learned to manage my time very well and get used to the idea of doing a lot of things at the same time.
What advice would you give to young attorneys just starting out today?
Make sure you figure out what it is that you want to do. I frequently meet with people just out of law school, and sometimes I challenge them on, “Is the law really what you want to do?” the point being no matter how brilliant you are, and no matter how bright people are, they still have to spend a lot of time to become the best at what you do.
How would you persuade a potential student to attend Chicago-Kent?
Kent’s in a major metropolitan area with a thriving legal culture. You wouldn’t have those in many other cities. Kent also has a reputation for teaching skills that lawyers can use to practice. I think that’s an advantage. I’ve always liked the faculty that was here as well.
Who is your favorite Supreme Court Justice?
Robert Jackson. He was on the court for over ten years, and before that he was the Chief Prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials. If I remember, he was the last person who sat on the court without graduating from law school. To him, the law was like a religion. You were devoted to it; you did the best that you could whether you won or lost. In many ways, that’s not what you see now. I think that sort of person is the type of lawyer you would want on the Supreme Court.