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Helping Hand

Russell Kohn extends his hand to personal injury plaintiffs and attorneys launching solo practices.

ProfessionalProfile_2013I am a people person. I could not be happy working for a corporation or insurance company. I enjoy the personal and professional satisfaction that comes from helping injured people obtain full and fair compensation,” says Oceanside-based personal injury attorney Russell S. Kohn. Furthermore, he also notes that over his nearly 30 year career, he’s found a great deal of satisfaction in helping other attorneys attain the same satisfaction that he realized upon opening his solo practice in 1994.

Originally from Chicago, Illinois, Kohn attended the University of Arizona in Tucson, earning his Juris Doctor in 1984. By 1985, he’d been admitted to practice in both California and Arizona. Kohn spent his first couple of years as an associate for a general practitioner, handling everything from mechanics liens, to criminal defense, and personal injury claims. There he handled his first jury trial, defending a client charged with drunk driving and hit and run. The jury acquitted the client of being under the influence and of hit and run, but convicted the client on the blood alcohol level charge.

Russel Kohn Lead Shot

Grasping Opportunity
Kohn enjoyed the personal injury work so much that he soon joined a firm that exclusively represented injured victims in personal injury matters. “I’m glad I got into the field of personal injury,” Kohn says. “I really wouldn’t want to do anything else. I empathize with my clients, and I take the time to understand the unique effects of the injuries to the specific lifestyle of each client,” he adds.

For the next seven years, Kohn worked as an associate attorney, sharpening his trial skills. “When I was a young attorney, I handled many court ordered judicial arbitration hearings. While many of these were non-binding, they honed my trial presentation skills by requiring preparation and presentation of opening statements and closing arguments, preparation of clients and witnesses, and direct and cross examination of witnesses,” he says. Unfortunately, for new attorneys starting out today, “the courts no longer order cases to arbitration, and thus young attorneys have a tougher time getting trial experience necessary to be successful going solo. I had a leg up that gave me the confidence that I could handle cases on my own through trial,” Kohn explains.

With substantial trial experience in place, Kohn was ready to make the move to solo practitioner. However, he admits that a generous break from attorney Gary Nell gave him the final nudge to open his own doors. “Gary Nell owns the office building in which I have practiced since hanging out my shingle 19 years ago. He agreed to allow me to initially rent office space on a month to month basis, when I was unsure of my successful venture into practice on my own,” Kohn says.

Kohn’s apprehension wouldn’t last long, however. He earned his first clients through an advertisement in the Penny Saver, and delved into networking within the legal community. Within just two years of opening Kohn Law Office, he was appointed Chair of the Personal Injury section of the North County Bar Association, and was one of the Association’s most active members. He went on to serving on the Board of Directors, and as the Association’s Treasurer, before becoming President of the NCBA in 2004. Over the next three years, from 2005-2008, he held the elected position as a Director for the San Diego County Bar Association.

Referrals from satisfied clients make up a large portion of Kohn’s caseload. Kohn believes “that a successful resolution of a case is only achieved if the client is satisfied with the result; I believe that a satisfied client is one who is fully informed about the applicable law, facts and available options.” Not surprisingly, this philosophy proved to further cement Kohn’s reputation as not only an experienced attorney, but as an attorney of integrity as well. In 2007 he was amongst the top 5% of attorneys endorsed by Super Lawyers for outstanding achievement.


Expanding His Reach
Over the years, Kohn has also helped fellow attorneys launching their own firms. “About 12 years ago, attorney John Hansen was considering venturing out on his own. He came in to talk with me about how I grew my solo practice. I told him that I’m living proof that you can go out on your own and be successful,” Kohn says.

Advice that Kohn routinely gives to attorneys starting their own practices includes “being responsive to clients, and keeping them informed. If your clients like you, then they will refer others who need help to you,” he says. Moreover, Kohn encourages those looking to start a solo practice to help the legal community as a whole. “I suggest that attorneys starting their own practices give back to the legal profession by volunteering with local bar associations, and getting to know other local attorneys and judges. Potential clients like to know that you are well-connected in the legal community.”

In addition to offering his own successful strategies to others, Kohn has financially assisted other attorneys launching their solo careers by associating them into cases. “In helping my clients achieve a full measure of justice, I began associating with other attorneys who are establishing their own practices. I am able to help so that they have income coming in during the start up years.” For example, Kohn has associated into his cases attorneys John Hansen, Lionel Halsey and Suzanne Skolnick. Kohn readily admits that attorneys he associates with “have some experience, so I am not teaching them from square one,” but his assistance has been greatly appreciated by those who have worked with him. “Lionel once attested that I fed his family while he was establishing his practice,” Kohn chuckles.

Clearly, for Kohn, helping others is just a part of what he does, and what he’s always done. According to Suzanne Skolnick, “When I first started my personal injury practice in North County San Diego, Russell was a source of great advice, insight and referrals. His warm and welcoming attitude helped launch my practice and his continuous support and encouragement exemplifies all that is right with the plaintiff’s bar today,” she says. Attorney John Hansen agrees. “Russell helped me get started when I decided to go out on my own. Instead of viewing me as a competitor, he saw me as a new friend. Russ values friendships.”

Whether he’s helping to level the playing field for his injured clients, or helping a fellow attorney launch their own practice; whenever anyone reaches out for a hand; Russell Kohn will make sure his is there.


Russell Kohn

Jennifer Hadley

Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal

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About the Author: Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal

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