Vol. 40 No. 4
ByLori G. Cohen
Lori G. Cohen is a shareholder with Greenberg Traurig LLP, where she is chair of the national Pharmaceutical, Medical Device & Health Care Litigation Group and co-chair of the Atlanta Litigation Practice. She is national counsel for several pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers. Cohen has tried 55 cases, all to defense verdicts.
“You owe it to yourself, your clients, your family, and your life to guide your own path,” says Lori G. Cohen of Greenberg Traurig LLP.
One overarching theme that I think is important is that your law career is what you want to make of it.
You need to exercise control over what you want, whether that’s in public service, in-house at a company, at a law firm, or in any other setting. Too often, as law students or young lawyers, we start on a certain path and then feel bound to it, as if we have no control. You owe it to yourself, your clients, your family, and your life and well-being to guide your own path.
When I was a young associate, I started out in commercial litigation, where I was assigned to two partners and worked on certain types of law. I knew I wanted to try cases; I wanted to be in court, talking to juries as often as possible. So I looked around the firm to find out who I wanted to emulate—who would get me into trial the fastest and most often.
I found two lawyers who tried many cases. They were in medical litigation. I approached them and told them I’d work extra nights and weekends. I wasn’t abandoning my existing assignments, so they really couldn’t say no. I just kept coming to them, kept saying, “Put me in, Coach.”
You’ve got to get in the boat and steer in your own direction. One way you can do that is to develop really good mentor relationships, in both directions. It’s easy to say that it’s the firm’s job or the more senior lawyers’ job to bring that to you, but you need to create it.
Look around. Pay attention. Watch how someone spends his or her day and night—day in and day out. You can’t get this information from someone’s bio or résumé.
I know not everyone wants my lifestyle. I know all the security people for the Delta terminal at Atlanta Hartsfield—I’m on hugging basis with them. I’m always traveling; I’m always working on hundreds of cases at once. I really like the variety and knowing each day will be exciting and present different challenges to me and give me opportunities to help clients and mentees.
Figure out early what suits your personality and what will allow you to be the best lawyer you can be. What is the type of practice that, over time, will help you stay excited, stay enthusiastic? It is this enthusiasm that will inspire you to work tirelessly for your clients and for finding solutions and resolutions. Get on that path by building strong relationships—with mentors, colleagues (in and out of your own firm), judges, court personnel, and clients.