Bruce M. Kohen, Class of 1979
Nationally recognized trial lawyer dedicated to preserving laws that protect consumers and victims
Now retired, Bruce Kohen is nationally renowned for record jury verdicts and settlements throughout his more than 32-year legal career. A longtime partner in the law firm Anesi Ozmon Rodin Novak & Kohen, Ltd., he focused his practice in the fields of personal injury, products liability, medical malpractice, wrongful death and construction-related injuries. He developed a track record of multimillion dollar verdicts and settlements, including the highest settlement in Illinois history for a personal injury case under the Structural Work Act and the largest jury verdicts in the state for medical malpractice in the death of a child and another for psychological malpractice.
A leader in the fight to preserve laws that protect consumers and victims, Kohen is a former president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association and chaired the Legislative Committee of the ITLA for ten years. He was also one of the lead attorneys in the litigation that successfully challenged the constitutionality of the Illinois Tort Reform Act. He is the author of a wide array of articles and publications in the area of tort litigation and in 1998, he was a finalist for the Trial Lawyers for Public Justice prestigious Trial Lawyer of the Year award. Kohen is a member of the Chicago-Kent Alumni Board of Directors and a new, state of the art courtroom was named in his honor at the law school earlier this year.
Describe your career path. What steps did you take to get where you are currently?
I was very dedicated about trying to be a trial lawyer and, back in the day, before the advent of the internet, I did research on trying to find the very best civil trial law firms in the city. And I narrowed down the list to four or five firms and made as many contacts as I could and was lucky enough to interview and get a law clerking job with one of those firms. It turned out it was the firm I was at my whole career, the firm that ultimately I became a name partner of. I might add that certainly one of the professors here was instrumental in helping me get that job – Warren Wolfson
What has been your greatest professional achievement?
I’ve been fortunate enough in my career to have many satisfying accomplishments, so it’s very hard to just pick one or two. I can certainly tell you that one of the most satisfying things is just as a trial lawyer having the opportunity to be in an incredibly challenging and exciting field that helps people. And so, case after case after case, I was faced with helping people who were at one of the lowest points in their life and knowing that in some small way I helped them put their life back together in the work that I did, that is one of the most satisfying things for me. I’ve also had the opportunity throughout my career to work not only one-on-one in helping people but to help people in a much broader way through my work with fighting for laws that help victims and consumers, trying to prevent legislation that’s intended to shut access to the courthouse or to unlevel the playing field. Certainly one of the most satisfying things was having the opportunity to lead the effort that successfully challenged and held unconstitutional the medical malpractice caps bill and the Illinois Tort Reform Act. Those types of things were wonderful opportunities that I will always cherish.
How did Chicago-Kent prepare you for your present success?
I thank Chicago-Kent for the wonderful opportunity that it gave me. I think that the blend of both the theoretical and the practical aspects of law that I learned here was very, very important for me. I learned the case law but I also had a great deal of practical education here and I had a tremendous amount of encouragement with the field that I wanted to go into and it made me feel excited about practicing law. And so it gave me a very good start in my field.
What advice would you give to a young lawyer just starting out?
How would you persuade a potential student to attend Chicago-Kent?
First and foremost I would tell them that Chicago-Kent students are highly valued by the legal community here. It has a terrific reputation, especially for students to be so well prepared in the areas of research and writing and advocacy. And all of those things are very important no matter what field of law you go into. So besides receiving a wonderful education with professors and an administration that really cares about the students, I know for a fact that the legal community thinks so highly of Kent students and that gives you a good head start.