Article as seen in Northwestern Magazine
J. Jeffrey Rice knows the law — both in the courtroom and on the gridiron. The Fort Myers, Fla.–based attorney spends his fall Sundays in stripes, upholding the rules as an NFL umpire, the most dangerous officiating position on the field. He works in the trenches, looking for false starts and illegal blocks among the giants on the offensive and defensive lines. Rice, who followed in his father’s referee footsteps, started officiating while in law school at Case Western Reserve University. He scheduled his classes during the day so he could referee at night. Rice slowly worked his way up the ranks and joined the NFL in 1995. He has officiated two Super Bowls, numerous playoff games and two Pro Bowls.
Rice, an N Club member who played varsity baseball at Northwestern, commits 30 to 50 hours per week to officiating while maintaining his full-time job as a lawyer. He specializes in commercial, construction and real estate law and also serves as the managing partner at Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice & Purtz. A seven-time “Florida Super Lawyers” honoree, Rice has reached the pinnacle of success in both professions. And while pulling double duty is not easy, Rice finds similarities in the two professions that give him an edge in both. “As an official, I have to know the rules, just like I have to know the law,” he says. “You have to be able to think on your feet. You have to be able to adjust and adapt.”