Skip to main content
Jim Miller ’88

James Miller Being Honored April 18

When the ILR School’s Advisory Council met this past fall, it did so without one of its members – 2024 Groat Alumni Award winner James E. Miller ’88.

Miller missed the event because he was in a maximum-security prison in Parma, Italy, at the time.

As president and founder of the non-profit International Friends of Festival Verdi, Miller raises funds for Festival Verdi – an opera music festival that celebrates the works of Giuseppe Verdi. In addition to the annual month-long celebration, the group organizes Verdi Off, taking opera into schools, hospitals, nursing homes and prisons. That is how Miller found himself in prison with the mayor of Parma and members of the festival organization at a performance of Falstaff with a prison choir providing support for the principals.

group of people standing on the stage with a beautiful theater behind them
Miller and opera colleagues at Teatro Regio di Parma.

“I actually didn’t know that much about opera when I started International Friends of Festival Verdi,” Miller confesses with a laugh. His involvement started by helping “a friend of a friend,” who just happened to be the executive director of Teatro Regio di Parma – home of Festival Verdi. The friend was one of his fellow officers in IAG Global, an international network of attorneys, accountants and other professionals with whom Miller works on a daily basis.

“She told me she was interested in forming a charity to support their festival,” said Miller, who is IAG Global's vice-chairman. “She knew I was a lawyer and asked if I could do the paperwork to form a nonprofit in the U.S. I said, ‘Well, I've never done anything like that. But I’ll be happy to do it. We can figure it out.’ And so, at first, I thought I was just doing the paperwork, but that was a half dozen years ago, and now we are a full-fledged organization. Along the way, I have been fortunate enough to work with some of the leading Verdi experts in the world and, in the process, learn a bit more about opera.”

Miller says raising money for an opera charity is incredibly challenging – and that he has been warned of that by the 2024 Alpern Award winner and classmate Lauren Ezrol Klein ’88. Executive vice-president, general counsel and corporate secretary of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Klein will be honored alongside Miller at ILR’s annual Groat and Alpern Awards celebration on April 18 in New York City.

Jim Miller ’88
Monique Olivier and Jim Miller ’88 at Teatro Regio di Parma.

Miller says he became involved with the opera “because I wanted to prove that I could do it, but also because I found Festival Verdi so amazing – it’s very socially engaged and often very experimental. So, along those lines, we’re trying to bring opera to the streets in the United States. During our spring gala, we will have a Verdi Off performance in New York City at Verdi Square on the Upper West Side on May 30. In many ways, IFFV mostly focuses on engaging with non-traditional opera audiences and supporting Verdi Off.”

Miller spends about 10 hours a week running the non-profit, which he does on top of his full-time job as managing partner at Miller Shah Attorneys at Law, where he routinely fights for those who have been wronged by representing clients in prosecuting retirement plans, securities and employment class action cases and by litigating some of the most significant whistleblower cases in the country.

Voted the 2020 Lawyer of the Year by the Taxpayers Against Fraud Education Fund, Miller divides his time between offices in Connecticut, Napa Valley and Milan, Italy.

Miller, whose parents and grandparents were active in construction, trade and teachers’ unions, had an internship with a labor union, the Doctor’s Council in New York, during his time at ILR.

“That's when I realized that I wanted to be a lawyer because it seemed like you could do interesting, meaningful and impactful work in that role,” Miller says. “It’s also one of the reasons that I’m so committed to ILR’s Credit Internship Program.”

Since 2012, Miller has sponsored three to four ILR students each semester and over the summer to work closely with his firm’s labor and employment practices.

“In many cases, we ask them to come back as project analysts for a year or two after graduating,” Miller says. “And then, if we're happy with them and they're happy with us, we help to pay for their law school with the agreement that they'll come back to work for us as attorneys.”

The internships with his firm were just the beginning.

Jim Miller ’88
Jim Miller ’88

When Miller began interviewing students for internships at his firm, he was surprised to learn that very few were interning with labor organizations. He had participated in a number of positive internship experiences at ILR, not just with the Doctor’s Council, but also with the Social Service Employees Union and BNA, which was then known as the Bureau of National Affairs, Inc.

“In working with Brigid Beachler, I found that while internships with labor organizations were paid more often than not in the 1980s, there weren't as many of those opportunities being offered these days,” Miller said. “And so, we decided to create a scholarship that pays one student each semester for a credit internship with a union or labor organization as if they were interning for our firm because I think anybody that goes to ILR should work for a union in some capacity at some time to gain a full ILR education.”

In addition to his firm’s credit internships, Miller also endowed the Professor George Brooks Memorial Scholarship and has funded a Cornell Promise Scholarship in honor of Kate Mullany, one of the first female labor leaders, who organized the all-women Collar Laundry Union in 1864 in Troy, New York.

Anjali Miller ’21 and Christopher Miller ’19
Anjali Miller ’21 and Christopher Miller ’19

Miller’s connection to ILR isn’t just philanthropic. His children, Christopher Miller ’19 and Anjali Miller ’21, are ILRies. Christopher recently graduated from Michigan Law School and joined his father’s firm in September. Anjali works as a paralegal at another law firm and helps run International Friends of Festival Verdi until she begins graduate school in the fall.

“I had some incredible professors during my time at ILR,” Miller says. “Especially George Brooks. He was an amazing person and so inspirational, both in terms of his passion for the field and personally in the way he approached life.”

“I just think ILR is an amazing school. I learned so much during my time there, and having seen the flexibility that my kids had in terms of building out minors, I think the curriculum is even more interesting now.”