Jeffrey Kohn: When Giving Back Is Win-Win

"Each student—there were nine of us—studied the opinions of a Supreme Court justice and analyzed how each justice would decide pending Supreme Court cases."

Jeffrey Kohn, JD ’84, remembers the first time a GW Law professor called on him.

“I recall standing up in torts class for what seemed like an eternity—when in actuality it was likely no more than 10 minutes—and I remember thinking, ‘Does anything I just said make sense?’” says Mr. Kohn, the managing partner of O’Melveny & Myers’ office in New York. “That first experience reinforced the importance of preparation.”

Although that day may have been stressful, Mr. Kohn has good memories of his time at GW Law. He was happily surprised by the school’s collegial atmosphere, and he took advantage of its Washington, D.C., location to work during his first year in the office of a congressman from New York. 

“It has been 30 years since I left law school, but I am amazed at how much I have been able to retain,” he says. “GW Law had then, and still does, an outstanding faculty that truly enjoyed teaching and cared about its students. Professors like Tom Dienes, Max Pock, Roger Transgrud, Roger Schechter, and Gene Shreve all presented course material in a thoughtful and engaging way. 

“I still remember Professor Pock’s well-organized, schematic contract law outlines,” he adds. “For many years after law school I continued to use them.”

Mr. Kohn, who has a Bachelor of Science in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University, says his favorite course at GW was a seminar on labor law cases in the Supreme Court. 

“Each student—there were nine of us—studied the opinions of a Supreme Court justice and analyzed how each justice would decide pending Supreme Court cases,” he says.

Mr. Kohn has kept his ties to his alma mater strong, as a philanthropist, as a member of the Law School Board of Advisors, and as a mentor to students. He has steadfastly served on the Class of ‘84 Reunion Committee and the NYC Dean’s Dinner Committee. 

“I think about my career and see how people helped me along the way with their guidance and support,” he says, “so there is certainly a strong desire to give back to a law school and university community that supported me and gave me opportunities to succeed in my career.”

He says connecting with the law school in different ways has also been personally rewarding. “I enjoy meeting old friends from my class and professors from back then. And I enjoy getting to know alumni who I am meeting for the first time,” he explains.

He also notes that his involvement with the law school helps current students connect with O’Melveny & Myers, which regularly recruits from GW. 

Mr. Kohn’s law practice focuses on employment and traditional labor law, including employment litigation, labor negotiations and arbitrations, workplace investigations, compensation disputes, and the Employment Retirement Income Security Act. His practice also touches on trade secret litigation and corporate transactions that affect labor, and Mr. Kohn has worked on some notable bankruptcies. 

“I started with O’Melveny & Myers following law school and discovered quickly that labor and employment law played to my strengths,” he says. “I enjoy dealing with real-life problems and helping clients address a wide range of issues that affect employees.”

His involvement with GW Law isn’t his only exposure to higher education these days. His son Brian graduated last year from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University (NYU), and his daughter Alexandra is a junior at Bryn Mawr College. In May, his wife, Martha, received a master’s degree from NYU’s Silver School of Social Work.

Client work and his management and administrative duties at the law firm eat up much of his day, but he manages to squeeze in time for cooking, independent movies, and reading—mostly history books. He is also an avid biker, with three bike trips through Israel under his belt.

— Mary Dempsey