Cowan and his wife, Angie, moved from NYC, where they were working, back to NC to be near family a few years after their son, Julian, was born.
A good friend and former law partner, Hoyt Tessener, convinced Cowan to return to his trial practice. In 2018, Cowan joined Tessener at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, representing individual victims and their families following a catastrophic injury or a wrongful death. Four years later, Tessener tapped Cowan to replace him as head of the firm’s litigation department.
In many ways, Cowan discovered his careers in journalism and the law had become mirror images of each other.
“Just like a ‘60 Minutes’ story, I want the stories I tell to juries to have an impact and to inspire action – to right a wrong. It’s a simple concept, but one that’s difficult to master,” explained Cowan.
“I prepare a case for trial the same way I thought about the stories I produced at ‘60 Minutes’ – which means focusing on my client’s story at the heart of the case. What makes it interesting? What challenges has he or she faced? And most importantly, what makes you want to see a good outcome for them? Being able to tell a good story – an interesting story – is the cornerstone of being an effective trial lawyer.”
Cowan also found that some of the skills developed as a journalist cross-walked to the practice of law.
“I’m still trying to get to what I call ‘Steve Kroft efficiency.’ Steve could nail an interview in 30 minutes. I’ve gotten away from scorched earth depositions where I’m gonna ask you every single question I can possibly think of. My goal is to focus on the information I need and leave it there. I’m better now. But I’m not yet ‘Steve Kroft efficient.’”
Cowan said NC’s courtrooms are not as far away from the mean streets as you might think. Like the stories he reported and produced at “60 Minutes,” the outcome of most of his cases will change someone’s life. But as high as the stakes get, he reminds himself of a simple, but basic tenet of his journey: “I’ve walked into many stressful situations, whether a deposition, a hearing, or a trial. (I think] I’m not gonna die today, so I’ll probably be OK.”
But even with that contrast from his former career, Cowan says he still gets nervous walking into a courtroom to start a jury trial. “That tells me that what I’m doing is still important. I’d be more concerned if I ever walk into a trial, and I’m not a little nervous.”