January/February 2014, Vol. 56, No. 1
Annual Meeting 2014 PREVIEW
Attorney’s commitment to civics education all in the family
By Brandon Vogel
Growing up in a family of lawyers, Jeremy A. Cohen had an early commitment to civics.
He has volunteered with Legal Outreach, Inc. since he was a first-year student at Columbia Law School. The nonprofit organization helps New York City high school students develop legal skills, including persuasive writing, critical thinking and public speaking.
During his 16 years of volunteering at the organization, he has served as a mock trial coach, fundraiser and a member of the advisory board.
In recognition of his dedication to high school students and Legal Outreach, the Committee on Law, Youth and Citizenship will honor Cohen with the Distinguished Attorney Award at a breakfast on January 29.
Commitment to children
Cohen is an associate at Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP. He concentrates his practice on commercial litigation, real estate litigation and false advertising cases. He lives in Rye Brook with his wife, Jana, and their daughters.
When he began volunteering at Legal Outreach, Cohen wasn’t sure what to expect. Two of the mock trial teams he coached came from the lowest-performing school in Harlem’s Community School District Five. Only one of his teams won the local tournament, but the other two gained confidence in their abilities and took great pride in their work.
“The kids blew me away with their commitment. It made me want to do more with the program,” said Cohen. “For the kids I try to reach, the law may come with negative connotations. That shouldn’t be the case. Law-related education projects provide a positive view of the legal system and a path forward for our students that may include careers in law.”
After graduating from law school and joining Kramer Levin, he continued to volunteer at Legal Outreach and was a mentor and coach for the Constitutional Law Debate Program. He spent many hours helping students acquire the skills needed to analyze cases, develop arguments and make presentations. His teams did well. Two of his former students are now attorneys.
According to James O’Neal, the executive director of Legal Outreach, Cohen is known for asking tough questions as a debate judge and for his high standards.
Cohen has involved his firm in Legal Outreach’s efforts. In 2005, he persuaded Kramer Levin to become a sponsor of the Legal Outreach internships. He has organized and supervised the internship program for Legal Outreach every year since. Currently, 45 law firms, agencies, and others sponsor internships. Interns spend a week acting as associates, learning about practice areas and delivering oral arguments to partner “judges.”
Kramer Levin was the first major law firm to support Legal Outreach’s College-to-Law School Pipeline. Cohen also funds annual college scholarships for deserving graduates each year.
“Jeremy Cohen stands out as the most committed volunteer with whom I have worked, devoted to the cause of helping young people become effective citizens and, even more importantly, strong advocates for their rights within society,” wrote O’Neal in his nomination letter. “I can truly say that he has made more of an impact on their lives than any single individual who is not employed by Legal Outreach.”
Cohen said he is humbled by the award. “It validates that work I’ve done and the work of Legal Outreach.”
Vogel is NYSBA’s media writer.