Law office towers above the rest
BY DAVE HOEKSTRA STAFF REPORTER
Many people are nervous about seeing an attorney.
But Sherwin H. Leff has a few clients who won't set foot near his office. The business law firm of Leff, Cohen & Winkler, Ltd. is on the 97th floor of Sears Tower, 233 S. Wacker--a bit too high for those who are afraid of heights.
"I meet them on the second-floor deli," Leff says during a down-to-earth conversation in one of the world's tallest office buildings.
"Working up here is like being around movable art," says Leff. "Every day is different. On a good day you can see Baha'i Temple [in Wilmette]. You see a storm coming in from the west, yet it might be sunny over the lake."
Leff swirls around in the chair behind his desk. A black Celestron telescope is perched near the picture window facing north. Another picture window faces west. Leroy Nieman's "The Leopard" hangs on the east wall.
Leff, 59, lives with his wife Jill in Northbrook. The Chicago native doesn't need to rely on traffic reports for his trip home. He'll use the telescope or a pair of binoculars to check out traffic.
"Once in a while, when I see a disaster, I'll go down the Eisenhower and take the Tri-State up," he says.
Leff enjoys traveling. He's been to Europe several times and he has a vacation home in Palm Desert, Calif. But the views from the Eiffel Tower and the Golden Gate Bridge don't impress him. "I like a nice view," says Leff, who is 5 feet 4 inches tall. "But here it's like second nature."
Leff was the first tenant in Sears Tower, moving onto the 45th floor when the skyscraper opened in 1974. The firm moved to the 86th floor in 1979 and to the 99th floor in 1986. When the firm was downsized in 1995, they moved down to the 97th floor.
"For some reason, it sways more here than on the 99th," Leff says.
Leff's firm is the second-highest office in the world. There's just one commercial tenant above Leff, and that's the 98th-floor law firm of Gronek & Armstrong--which is moving out of the skyscraper.
Before coming to Sears Tower, Leff's firm was at 100 N. La Salle. "This was virgin area in 1974," he says. "We liked the idea of going new. We looked on La Salle Street, but it was too noisy. This was impressive. They took us up almost all the way to the top. There were no windows and it was windy."
Leff takes a speedy four-minute elevator ride to work. "They used to be the fastest elevators in the world," he says. "If you're a litigator and go to court all the time, that's a pain. But we're kind of office attorneys, so it works."
The twin Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, reign as the world's tallest buildings at 1,483 feet, a total that includes the spires. The towers knocked off Sears Tower, whose antennas were not included in the count. Sears has the highest occupied floor.
Anyone can share Leff's view by checking out the newly renovated Sears Tower Skydeck on the 103rd floor. The highlight of the $4 million renovation is 375 linear feet of murals and interactive special effects.
There have been a couple occasions when Leff wanted to leave the building. "See that door behind you?" he asks, referring to a 9-foot wooden door. "On a bad [windy] day, that door will open and close. And water in the toilet bowl swishes. I've walked out of here twice. We hop in the elevators and head down."
But fast escapes don't really matter to Leff. Things are always looking up.
©Copyright 2000, Chicago Sun-Times