Although a Neutral, He’s Partial to ILR
On his desk, attorney Ed Baum ’81 keeps a bobblehead of Professor Harry Katz, director of the Scheinman Institute and a former ILR School dean. It’s a nod to a man he admires and the university that has played an outsized role in his family’s life.
“Every opportunity I’ve had professionally — and many in other arenas — can be traced back to the ILR School,” said Baum, a partner in the litigation department at Perkins Coie LLP.
He credits “the training I received, the people I met, the perspective on how to make things happen.” Years later, through fellow ILRie Ryan Melkonian ’92, he even met Mets Hall of Famer Mookie Wilson, “the person responsible for the most extraordinary moment I ever witnessed.”
Though less dramatic than Wilson’s legendary at-bat in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, a moment just as memorable will come April 20, when Baum receives ILR’s Jerome Alpern Award.
Baum, an advocate of alternative dispute resolution, has been committed to training neutrals since his student days. Back then, he said, most ILRies were either pro-union or pro-management. Finding himself “decidedly in the middle as a neutral” after an internship with the National Labor Relations Board, he co-founded SANE (the Society for the Advancement of Neutrals Education), the first ILR student organization to advance the interests of potential neutrals.
After graduating with honors as one of the first ILR students to do so and earning a law degree at Columbia, Baum clerked for U.S. District Judge I. Leo Glasser, husband of the late Grace Gribetz Glasser ’50. He went on to become a litigation associate at one law firm and a partner at four more, including Proskauer Rose. In 2018, he joined Perkins Coie, where most of his work involves litigation and related counseling concerning major corporate transactions.
When the pandemic struck, Baum “was fortunate to be able to get out in front within a month or two.” In April 2020, he and longtime law partner Alan Howard released “Mediating During the Pandemic,” a podcast series on virtual mediation.
“Over the past three years, I’ve gained a whole new skill set, learning to mediate, arbitrate and practice remotely,” he said. “It’s been a period of great reinvention.”
In 34 years of practice, Howard said, “I have not worked with anyone whose skills as an attorney surpass Ed’s or whose loyalty as a colleague matches his. I have observed firsthand Ed’s representation of clients, management of an office, collaboration with co-counsel and mentoring of junior attorneys. The common denominator in all of these roles is his tireless advocacy for others while maintaining a high standard of excellence and integrity.”
Baum’s support of the school takes many forms. He and his wife, Holly Wallace, sponsor an ILR partnership with the New York Advisory Board of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), a nonprofit that brings the power of entrepreneurship to youth in low-income communities. In 2014, they established the Cornell ILR Baum and Wallace Family Scholarship to support network graduates who attend Cornell.
The scholarship pays tribute to their family’s long Cornell tradition. Baum’s brother, Howard Baum CALS ’79; sister, Ellen B. Rabinowitz CHE ’85; and sister-in-law, Ellen Z. Baum A&S ’80, graduated from Cornell, as did his daughter, Claire Wallace Baum ’16, and nephew, Eric Baum A&S ’15. Additionally, two of Wallace’s ancestors were Cornell alumni: Samuel Colver Gist Sr. (Class of 1876) and his son, Samuel Colver Gist Jr. (Class of 1920).
Along with endowing the scholarship, Baum and Wallace charter a bus and accompany up to 40 NFTE students each summer on a field trip to campus. “For most of these students, it’s their first time on a real college campus, and they’re just wowed by the experience,” Baum said. (In 2020 and 2021, a series of short informational programs was offered remotely; in 2022, the in-person visits resumed, “to their usual rave reviews.”)
In other service to the university, Baum is a member of the Cornell President’s Circle Committee and the Metro New York Tower Club Committee. For the ILR School, he serves on the Dean’s Advisory Council and the Scheinman Institute’s Advisory Board.
“The Scheinman Institute is near and dear to my professional heart,” said Baum, who has mentored Scheinman Fellows and guest lectured in classes. In July, he taped a video for the institute on remote mediations.
Independent of ILR, Baum and law partner Howard are developing a program with dispute resolution firm SSAM to promote the use of commercial litigators — rather than retired judges — as mediators for commercial disputes. “Litigators who spend much of their time working with general counsels and c-suites in evaluating, litigating and settling corporate claims are uniquely well-equipped to step in, as neutrals, to help commercial parties resolve disputes,” he said.
Baum also is a leader in Judaism’s Reconstructionist movement, serving on the board of governors and executive committee of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and the movement’s umbrella organization, Reconstructing Judaism, and chairing the movement’s congress, known as the Plenum. “That’s completely different from my day job, though I do use many of the same skills to resolve conflicts that arise,” he said. Additionally, he is a board member, executive committee member and past president of the West End Synagogue in New York.
“People tell me I smile very broadly when I talk about certain things – like family, skiing or fishing,” he said. “They say I do the same thing when I talk about Cornell.
"It’s hard to imagine a single institution that could have such a profound, life-changing impact on an entire family.”