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Michael Cohen Is Magnificent!

Vivia Chen

April 10, 2018

170919071925-michael-cohen-super-teaseI know it's popular to dump on Michael Cohen at this moment (I've done it), but I think we should pause for a minute and show some restraint. Maybe respect.

Sure, his legal career is flushing down the toilet (Squire Patton Boggs just severed its "strategic alliance" arrangement with Cohen after the F.B.I. raided his home, office and hotel room) and his legal troubles are mounting (he's facing possible charges of illegal contribution to the Trump’s campaign, tax and bank fraud violations and God-knows what else), but, hey, who says that precludes him from being an inspirational role model?

First of all, how awesome is his dedication to the client? Every lawyer brags about understanding the client's needs and providing excellent service, but how many go the distance like Cohen has? 

I mean, this guy is willing to lose his home for a billionaire. Not only did Cohen set up an off-shore business entity to pay adult film star Stormy Daniels $130,000 to keep her silent about her alleged affair with Donald Trump, but he took out a mortgage, he claims, on his own house to make the payment. (Query: How does Mrs. Cohen feels about this arrangement?)

Plus, he did it discreetly and quietly—without asking for credit or bothering the Big Guy himself. (Trump recently told reporters on Air Force One that he knows nothing about the arrangement to pay Daniels.) Talk about anticipating the client's needs!

Cohen famously said he would take a bullet for his guy—and the entire Trump clan too–and now he gets to keep his promise (metaphorically speaking, so far). I don't recall Tom Hagen of The Godfather being that dedicated.

Also inspiring is the trajectory of Cohen's career. If nothing else, Cohen stands for the proposition that chutzpah and being a street fighter (e.g. bully) will take you far in life.

Other lawyers might need fancy academic credentials to break into major law firms—but not Cohen. A graduate of Cooley Law School (often cited as one of the worst law schools in the nation, Cooley was sanctioned by the American Bar Association for its lax admissions standards in 2017), Cohen rose to become partner at Philips Nizer. He also impressed Trump who hired him to be counsel at the Trump Organization, where he was known as a pitbull. And Cohen's humble creds didn't stop Squire Patton Boggs from affiliating itself with him either, though it's murky what exactly he offered that firm.

Plus, isn't it refreshing that Cohen never behaved like those stuffy Big Law types? Remember those reports about how he threatened a journalist in 2015 who was working on a story about Ivana Trump's accusation that Trump once raped her? According to The Daily Beast, Cohen told the reporter: "I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly. Because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting."

Wow, that message wasn't ambiguous.

Loyalty, chutzpah and authenticity: Cohen is the whole package. 

So how lucky is Trump to have a kindred spirit like Cohen in his court! Trump should be grateful. Maybe so grateful that he'll pay Cohen's legal bills, which are undoubtedly hefty. (Fun fact: Unlike POTUS, Cohen has been able to get Big Law representation, Stephen Ryan of McDermott Will & Emery.)

And if Cohen ultimately gets convicted and disbarred, can he count on that presidential pardon to wash away his troubles?

"The underlying conduct can still be disciplined," says New York University Law School ethics guru Stephen Gillers. "The same conduct can lead to discipline and disbarment. A pardon makes no difference."

In fact, New York, where Cohen is admitted, actually addresses presidential pardons in its laws, says Fordham Law School professor Andrew Kent. "If a New York attorney was disbarred due to a felony conviction, and such felony conviction was subsequently reversed or pardoned by the president of the United States," explains Kent, "the New York courts may, but are not required, to reinstate the pardoned attorney."

Cohen will be at the mercy of the New York judicial system. Debate all you want, but my bet is that Cohen will never practice law again. And then where does he go? Who knows if Trump will want a loser on his team.

Poor Cohen. He's just too noble for his own good. 

vchen@alm.com

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And he has a nice sartorial style!

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The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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