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Almost everyone believes in the law. But when a jury summons shows up in the mail, excuses often take precedence over beliefs.
Not so for Steve Cohen. “I’m the only *** you’ll ever meet who never tried to get out of jury duty,” he said. “I actually served on four juries through verdict.”
After the last trial, he struck up a conversation at a party about his experience serving as a juror on a big trial.
“I was telling this woman about an article I wrote for City Journal about the trial. She asked me if I was a lawyer and I said no, but if I didn’t have to take the LSAT, I’d go to law school now.
“‘Fine, you’re accepted,’ she said.”
What Cohen didn’t realize until that moment was that he had been talking to a dean at New York Law School.
“‘School starts on August 15,’ she said. ‘Write a check for the tuition and show up.’
“She literally just called my bluff in front of all these people at this party. And at that moment I decided to do it.”
Thus started a new phase of life for Steve Cohen, author, publisher, business executive and soon-to-be night student at New York Law School.
“I was sworn in as New York’s oldest new lawyer back in 2013.”
After law school, Cohen went to work for KDLM in New York, one of the top litigation firms in the state, then struck out to start his own firm in partnership with Adam Pollock, whom he had met in a False Claims Act case.
“When we started this firm three years ago, Adam Pollock and I had a real vision of what we wanted to do and what we didn’t want to do,” Cohen said. “We wanted to focus on three things: False Claims Act (whistleblower cases), public impact litigation and class actions.
“That said, a new law firm is a startup, which means it’s nice to pay people and keep the lights on. So we have from the very beginning taken on plaintiffs’ work in litigation and other types of plaintiffs’ work which can actually pay some bills.”
Bill-paying notwithstanding, Pollock Cohen LLP does more than their share helping those most in need of equitable legal representation.
“If we think we can do good, we think we can do well.”
According to Cohen, the firm takes special delight in representing underdogs.
“We do a lot of health-oriented public litigation,” Cohen says. “We represent the American Medical Association and the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council in litigation against Big Tobacco.
“We’re very involved in trying to regulate menthol cigarettes. We’re trying to have an impact on health, for good. And it’s really exciting to do this kind of work.
“We know what we’re good at and we really bring added value to these types of cases.”
But health cases aren’t Cohen’s only focus in representing the underdog.
He also volunteers a lot of his time with the American Bar Association representing military members in civil cases, and for good reason. One of his own sons is a Marine.
“These kids, I call them kids because most of them are young, many of them have legal problems, civil cases they need help with.”
“The adventure of learning is what motivates me, and what motivates the firm as well.”
For a successful businessman to attend law school at night, especially at the age of 58, it’s a given that he takes joy out of learning.
“There were different stakes for me than for everyone else in the class,” Cohen said. “I had a career. I didn’t even know if I was going to take the bar exam, but I absolutely loved law school.
“It was one of the great experiences of my life. And I’ll say it made me 20 years younger.”
“The ability to find what I’m looking for easily, with as little fuss possible, really made me aware of Lexis’ strengths.”
Like a lot of attorneys, Cohen developed his software preferences in law school, where students have access to the best of several companies.
“You get exposed to both Lexis® and Westlaw® and new emerging services as a law student.
“Having been a marketing guy and having run a couple of businesses, I know what it’s like to try to serve customers.
“You have to look past the norm and look at who can serve our clients’ needs best.
“We subscribe to Lexis® search and it helps enormously.”