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Law Firm Leader: Jeffrey A. Cohen

jeffrey-a-cohenJeffrey A. Cohen

Capes Sokol

Several years ago, the leaders of Capes Sokol in Clayton made a momentous shift: Rather than have the firm be steered by a three-person committee, they would give the ball to one managing shareholder and let him run with it.

In January 2015, Jeffrey Cohen took the ball. He hasn’t stopped running since.

On Cohen’s watch, the number of total employees has grown by 60 percent — with a 35 percent jump in attorneys. Four new practice groups have coalesced around the areas of toxic tort defense, trusts and estates, entertainment and media, and intellectual property. And this summer, the firm will move a few blocks west to the Regions Centre, where it will occupy a space of approximately 38,000 square feet — 57 percent larger than its current home.

“When we expand, it’s not for growth in and of itself,” Cohen explained; rather, it’s the natural result of responding to client needs from the practice areas that already are in place.

One reason for this kind of organic expansion, Cohen said, is that the younger attorneys are encouraged to build their books of business independently of any succession plans that their more senior colleagues might have in the works.

“The named shareholders have built that into our DNA,” Cohen said. “At a lot of firms, retiring partners can’t really think about succession-planning until they’re too far along, but our named shareholders did a really good job of being thoughtful about that in advance.”

Cohen said Capes Sokol has settled into a somewhat unusual position in the St. Louis marketplace: an independent, mid-sized firm.

“We’re attractive to St. Louis-based clients and regional clients because we’re smaller [and] we can be more nimble and more adaptive,” he said.

He also ensures the firm stays involved in the broader community. He volunteered several of his associates for the Missouri Coalition on the Right to Counsel, and he has arranged for donations to Legal Services of Eastern Missouri and The Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis Attorneys Against Hunger project.

Cohen gets involved personally, too: For about 20 years, he has offered his time and counsel to the Gladys and Henry Crown Center for Senior Living in University City. He is on the board of directors of the St. Louis Jewish Community Center and helps to direct the capital campaign that raises funds for Camp Sabra, a nonprofit resident camp located in southwest Missouri.

When asked about these activities, Cohen joked: “I do spend time volunteering in the community — if my partners knew how much, they’d fire me.”

Cohen now is primarily a transactional attorney, but thanks to a background in commercial litigation, he spends a lot of time on business divorces. He has represented real-estate developer Michael H. Staenberg, for example, in disputes with the latter’s former business partner (and former owner of the St. Louis Rams) Stan Kroenke.

All of this leaves Cohen a busy man.

“I don’t get to play golf as much as I used to,” he said. “But I tell my kids: I’ve never had a boring day at work. They can be hectic, but I think I’m lucky for that.”

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