Celebrating the Life of Gail D. Serota, JD '79

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Gail Serota

Gail Serota, J.D. '79

As a dedicated Miami Law student, Gail D. Serota, JD ’79, spent many hours in the reading room on the first floor of the University of Miami Law Library. Her soon-to-be husband, Joseph H. Serota, JD ’78, also made good use of the reading room, as did two of their children later in life.

On Monday, November 29, the Serota family, friends and colleagues will join Miami Law leaders in dedicating that spacious library area as The Gail D. Serota JD ’79 Reading Room, following a generous donation from the Serota family in honor of Gail Serota, who died in 2018 while snorkeling in Biscayne Bay.

“Gail was a brilliant student, and a great lawyer, community leader, wife and mother,” said Joseph Serota, a founding member and first managing director of Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman, P.L. in Miami. “This reading room has a special meaning for her and our family.”

A deep relationship

Joe Serota met Gail Dorff when they were both undergraduates at Princeton University and started dating in their junior year. “Gail was a superstar student, who had been president of the student council and valedictorian of her high school class,” said Serota. “She graduated from Princeton magna cum laude and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, then took a year off working as a paralegal for Sullivan & Cromwell in New York City.”

Meanwhile, Joseph Serota moved to Miami to attend Miami Law. Gail would fly down on weekends as their relationship deepened. When Gail decided on a career in law, she was accepted at Stanford University. She was also waiting to hear from Harvard Law School, and Joe planned to transfer schools and join her in Boston. But Gail didn’t get into Harvard. Instead, she turned down Stanford to join Joe at Miami Law, where she received a full scholarship, the Harvey T. Reid Scholarship.

“Gail never looked back,” said Serota. “She loved Miami Law, and everything about living here. Her father, who was expecting to pay for Stanford, bought her a Toyota Celica instead.” As a student, Gail studied diligently, making copious detailed handwritten notes of each class, which soon became known as “Dorff Lines” to younger students who used them for years. She joined the law review and graduated second in her class, summa cum laude.

Gail also took up running as a law student, and competed in the Orange Bowl Marathon, finishing first in her age category. After she and Joe married in 1980, that passion for athletics and the outdoors continued, and the couple enjoyed boating, physical fitness, and following the athletic pursuits of their three sons.

Launching law careers

After earning her law degree, Gail clerked for federal appellate Judge Peter Fay, then joined Arky Freed, which later became Stearns Weaver, where she was named partner. Joe was also building his law career, and launched Weiss Serota & Helfman with two partners.

Meanwhile, the Serotas started a family with three sons, Michael, now a law professor at Arizona State University; David, an infectious disease doctor and assistant professor of medicine at the UM Miller School of Medicine; and Nathan, who joined a New York-based hedge fund after graduating from MIT’s business school.

“After our third son was born, Gail took time off from her law firm,” said Serota. “At that time, our firm had the opportunity to represent the City of Homestead in the acquisition and development of the professional racetrack in Homestead,” he said. We needed someone with experience in public-private real estate Gail was suggested as a candidate. I stayed out of the discussions with Gail, but my partners hired her and she was with us for 25 years, becoming a partner along the way.” In recognition of her legal skills and contributions to the firm, a portrait of Gail is now displayed in each of the three offices of the 87-attorney firm.

Community leadership

Gail Serota was also an active community leader, serving on the Village of Pinecrest Planning Board, and the Village Council. She was also president of the Princeton Club of South Florida and the Sisterhood at the Bet Shira Congregation. “She was immersed in our community,” Serota said.

Through the years, the Serotas stayed involved with Miami Law, attending alumni events, making regular contributions, and joining the Dean’s Circle. That connection was strengthened by having two sons – Michael and Nathan – who spent time studying in the Daner Law Library Wing.

“It is fitting to honor Gail’s life and career by dedicated this reading room in her honor,” said Serota. “It is one of the most beautiful spaces in the law school, and holds special memories for our family.”

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The dedication of The Gail D. Serota JD ’79 Reading Room will be Monday, November 29 at 6 pm. in the first floor, Reba Engler Daner Wing of the University of Miami Law

To honor Gail’s memory, please consider making a gift to The Gail D. Serota JD ’79 Fund