Kari Berman: An Agent of Change

Kari Berman
2024 Feature Nominations

Kari Berman

In 2013, Cozen O’Connor expanded into the Minneapolis market with eight transactional and commercial litigation attorneys. An AmLaw 100 firm with 29 offices across two continents, Cozen O’Connor and its 750-plus attorneys are nationally recognized for excellence in litigation, business law and government relations practices. In just a few years, the Minneapolis office has grown to more than 20 attorneys whose diverse, innovative and results-driven representation is helping to define the Twin Cities community as an increasingly influential voice in business, legal and public policy matters.

Kari Berman joined Cozen O’Connor in January 2019, bringing with her 20-plus years of experience as a commercial litigator and counselor in complex business and regulatory matters. Her practice embraces businesses across a wide range of industries, and she has earned her reputation as a leading practitioner in class action and multidistrict litigation defense; employment law and litigation; environmental law; tax litigation; products liability litigation; healthcare law; and business torts of all kinds. In addition, Berman serves as FDA counsel for medical device manufacturers and advises them on regulatory matters internationally. She routinely represents clients in shareholder disputes; contractual disputes; restrictive covenants; trade secret violations; intellectual property issues; fiduciary breaches; and other similar matters. She has successfully represented clients in SEC and FINRA investigations and frequently represents companies and their governing boards with both litigation and corporate strategic issues.

“Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to work with clients and see them through the success and growth of their companies,” Berman said. “Many have morphed from small to very large corporations, from a few locations to hundreds, or from domestic to international companies. Lately, I’ve been helping clients with privacy and cybersecurity issues, and I’ve had to become proficient very quickly.”

With such a broad and ever-evolving practice, Berman identified Cozen O’Connor as a firm with an expanded repertoire of legal resources that she could leverage on behalf of her clients. “This is becoming a very fluid market in the legal profession. National firms have begun opening Minneapolis offices feverishly, and this is not expected to stop. I wanted to be part of that shift. I interviewed with a number of firms, and after meeting informally at Starbucks with two key people from Cozen, I knew immediately that these were the people I wanted to practice with. That gut feeling was enough for me to put a halt to other opportunities. I was at the headquarters in Philadelphia about a week later and had an offer a week after that. I loved that the firm moved so quickly and decisively. I really appreciated that they were acting the way you’d like to see a firm act that lets you know you’re wanted, and they’re excited about you. In the end, I’m glad I trusted my gut.”

With offices in key locations around the U.S. and in London, staffed by a cadre of preeminent legal professionals in a variety of practice areas, Berman is able to draw upon the expertise of her colleagues to further her clients’ interests wherever they are located.

“It’s nice not to be limited in terms of having a presence in certain jurisdictions,” Berman said. “I rarely now have a need to hire local counsel, since we have offices and licensed attorneys in other states and in the U.K. It’s been a big deal for me, since for many years I have had to retain local counsel. Clients are so much happier since they are paying only one firm, and they receive a more seamless work product. It’s so much easier for me to call a partner here at Cozen and get things done, than working with someone I don’t have a relationship with.”

Thomas G. Wallrich is the office managing partner for Cozen O’Connor’s Minneapolis office. He practices in the areas of commercial transactions, banking, bankruptcy, real estate finance and development, and commercial litigation, with a substantial practice in international trade in the regions of China, Mexico, and Canada. He echoed Berman’s thoughts, stating, “When I started practicing law in Minneapolis over 20-plus years ago, the practice of law was exceptionally localized or, at best, highly regionalized. Today, clients of all sizes need lawyers who can bring legal expertise and political clout to bear on any one of a host of legal issues. If the issue arises in New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles, our clients need services delivered at the same level of expertise as the most-skilled lawyers in any of national or international market. Also, clients are looking for rates and pricing for the services that are consistent with all other firms in the Twin Cities market. In sum, clients need ‘boots-on-the-ground’ expertise and responsiveness, and they are looking for pricing that is consistent with that of the best local firms’ rates.”

He continued, “Our firm has adapted to these needs by adding the most highly skilled national and international legal talent, while at the same time keeping tight reigns on controlling the costs of sustaining a large international firm. Our strategy has allowed us to meet client demands for the highest possible quality work and value to the client, regardless of the market.”

According to Berman, the people at Cozen O’Connor are the secret to the firm’s advantage in the legal marketplace. The firm’s culture strikes a unique balance between prioritizing a superior work product and dedication to clients with collegiality between members, associates and staff.

“At the end of the day, when you have lawyers working well together, supporting one another and wanting to get the best result for clients, you have a recipe for a very successful law firm with happy and contented lawyers. That means you also have well-served and happy clients.”

The unifying spirit within the firm starts at the top. “Since I’ve been here, I’ve consistently heard other lawyers speaking about management with praise. That’s rare in a firm. I both respect and like the way this firm is managed. The leadership here is very transparent, and that creates trust between management, members and associates. The financial state of the firm is also very strong, and that is a direct reflection on its management.”

Cozen O’Connor also puts a high value on diversity and inclusion, working proactively to attract and retain the most qualified talent in all areas of the profession. The firm is committed to ensuring that minority attorneys are strongly represented, with five self-identifying constituencies that promote each group’s success: Asian Attorney Resource Group, Black Attorney Resource Group, Hispanic/Latino Resource Group, LGBTQ Attorney Resource Group, and Disabled and/ or Veteran Attorney Resource Group.

Berman commented, “There is also a strong women’s initiative here that encourages women lawyers to connect with one another. We just had a fireside chat yesterday with some general counsels from major corporations addressing the glass ceiling. It was organized by one of the partners here for CLE. That kind of thing is encouraged across the board and supported. Cozen was also voted the number one law firm for associates last year. That means people are valued, and there is effort put into those who need and want to learn. All of our lawyers demonstrate a genuine commitment to excellence, and that includes our younger associates who are diligent in learning their craft.”

Berman, whose twins are on their way to college, is both excited and invigorated by her opportunity to spend the next part of her professional journey at Cozen O’Connor. “This is the law firm I always hoped existed, but never knew if I would find. This kind of thing doesn’t just happen. It’s like a marriage — you have to work at it. The truth is, a lot of us spend more time here with our colleagues than we do with our families. It means a lot when you genuinely like and respect the people you work with every day. I am truly amazed by our culture, scope of services, and caliber of work and lawyers.”

Cozen O’Connor is poised for continuing growth in the Twin Cities, with a goal of increasing its depth of representation in corporate, real estate, litigation, IP and labor law. Quality individuals, groups and firms with an entrepreneurial spirit and desire to deliver the highest standard of legal representation are all welcome at Cozen O’Connor.

H.K. Wilson

H.K. Wilson is a contributing writer for Attorney at Law Magazine. She has been writing features for the publication for more than four years.

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