Paul W. Vapnek
Feb. 22, 1929 - Feb. 28, 2015
Died peacefully in his sleep in San Francisco. Warm, kind, brilliant, and a giant of the legal profession who continued working until the end of his life, he was devoted to his wife, Pearl Coren Vapnek, whom he married on July 11, 1954, and who had a long and distinguished career as a textbook editor. He was immensely proud of his son Jonathan, a urologist and medical school professor in New York City, and his daughter Jessica, a lawyer and international development expert in San Francisco. His grandson David, age 10, brought him tremendous happiness and pride. Paul loved and admired David's dads, Sean SeLegue and Richard Zuniga.
In addition to his brother-in-law Harry Coren, sister-in-law Judi Levine, and other relatives in California, Paul is survived by his sister Sylvia Arbesfeld and sister-in-law Susan Vapnek Pollack of Florida, and many beloved nieces and nephews including Mark and Nina Arbesfeld, Gail and Steve May, Evan, Gillian, Peter, Bari, and Brett Vapnek, Rebecca Coren, Devra and Wolfgang Moehler, Amy and Jon Seff, and their families. Paul was preceded in death by his brother David.
Paul earned a mechanical engineering degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1951, and a dozen years later, after military service during the Korean conflict and a career as an engineer, Paul earned a law degree at night from the University of San Francisco Law School. He clerked for Judge William Sweigert of the federal district court and then joined the Townsend law firm where he practiced for half a century. He was the author of numerous articles and books on ethics and intellectual property, taught at Hastings College of the Law, Boalt Hall School of Law, and USF School of Law, and mentored countless students and lawyers. His extensive volunteer work with the State Bar of California, the Bar Association of San Francisco, and the Legal Aid Society was recognized in 2013 when Paul was awarded the state bar's triennial Harry B. Sondheim Professional Responsibility Award, which highlighted Paul's immense contributions to the legal profession in California, including editing the California Compendium of Professional Responsibility, helping establish the State Bar's ethics hotline, and co-writing the Rutter Group's treatise on professional responsibility.
Paul contributed his time and energy to numerous organizations, including by serving on boards or committees of Temple Emanuel, the Legal Aid Society, the Democratic Forum, the State Bar of California, and the Bar Association of San Francisco.
Paul lived a long life that exemplified hard work, loyalty, charity, and integrity, and he will be sorely missed. His legacy lives on in his intellectual work and more importantly, in his family.
Paul would have welcomed donations to Jewish Family and Children's Services, USF School of Law, or the Legal Aid Society.
Funeral at 1:00 pm Wednesday March 4th at Temple Emanuel, Arguello and Lake Streets, with burial to follow at Home of Peace Cemetery, 1299 El Camino Real, Colma.
Published by San Francisco Chronicle from Mar. 1 to Mar. 4, 2015.