Nurturing A Collegial Environment Conducive To Professional And Personal Growth

Wednesday, March 1, 2006 - 01:00

Editor: For more than two decades, you served as a member of the New York
Judiciary. What trends did you observe in the handling of corporate, business
and commercial matters?

Cozier: It is clear that over the last decade commercial and business
disputes have become increasingly sophisticated, complex and global in scope.
One of the most important developments in New York State was the introduction in
1995 of the Commercial Division of the Supreme Court. Created to handle complex
commercial and business disputes, this specialized division has produced a group
of judges with expertise in handling business, commercial and corporate
disputes. Recognizing this enhanced expertise, the corporate bar has coalesced
to increasingly litigate their commercial matters in the state courts.

Increasingly, the types of disputes that come before the Commercial Division
are not limited to substantive issues under New York law. Many of the disputes
involve conflicts of law between states and nations. The Commercial Division has
been very successful in handling and resolving business disputes that have
national, as well as international implications.

Editor: Congratulations on the many awards you've received for your public
service and dedication to the legal profession and community. Please tell our
readers about your receipt of Distinguished Service Awards as Justice of the
Commercial Division in New York County.

Cozier: In 1999, I was among the recipients of an award from the New
York County Lawyers' Association for distinguished service as a Justice of the
Commercial Division. More recently, in January 2005, I received an award from
the Commercial and Federal Litigation Section of the New York State Bar
Association. Hopefully, these awards were presented in recognition of my tenure
in the Commercial Division from 1998 to 2001, based upon my dedication to the
rule of law, combined with a sense of fairness and the importance of affording
every litigant a full opportunity to be heard on the merits. In the Commercial
Division, there is a greater opportunity for the judges to diffuse potentially
volatile controversies by applying more pragmatic approaches to problem solving
and case resolution. I was deeply honored to be recognized for my contributions
in that regard.

Editor: Your experience on the bench exposed you to a wide range of cases.
What are the areas in which you plan to specialize in private practice?

Cozier: One of the benefits of having served for 20 years as a member
of the state judiciary is that I had the opportunity to work on a broad range of
substantive legal matters. In the Commercial Division, I worked on complex
litigation matters involving partnerships, corporate disputes, class actions,
insurance and re-insurance, banking, securities and commercial paper, as well as
contract actions including employment contracts and restrictive covenants.
Epstein Becker & Green is currently engaged in all of these practice areas.
My hope is that I can assist the firm and play an active role in commercial
litigation in a variety of substantive areas. In addition, I hope to enhance the
firm's national appellate practice capability.

Editor: What attracted you to Epstein Becker & Green?

Cozier: The firm has a welcoming and collegial environment that is
conducive to professional and personal growth. The opportunity for professional
growth with a first generation firm that has a national and international
practice base and that continues in a growth posture is very attractive. Also,
there was the fact that the firm has an entrepreneurial spirit that encourages
all of its attorneys to be creative in client development and service delivery.

Epstein Becker & Green is a firm with a demonstrated and ongoing
commitment to diversity in recruitment and advancement of minority attorneys.
That was certainly an important factor for me in deciding to join the firm.
Recently, Multicultural Law Magazine honored Epstein Becker & Green
with its award for the firm with the most diverse partnership. With over 15
minority partners, our firm enjoys diverse leadership in its highest ranks. Few
firms of our size can match its record at the partnership level.

Editor: Please tell our readers more about your firm's diversity
initiatives.

Cozier: The firm is actively engaged in recruitment and advancement of
minority attorneys. Not only is the firm committed to maintaining a diverse
workforce, but also to mentoring and promoting qualified minority attorneys to
all levels. To that end, in 2004, Kenneth G. Standard, a prominent member of the
New York Bar and former president of the NYSBA, joined the firm as a Member and
has been instrumental in spearheading the minority recruitment and diversity
initiative at the firm.

Editor: How do your experiences on the bench complement the existing
strengths of your firm's litigation practice?

Cozier: Epstein Becker & Green has developed a national reputation
as a leader in the practice areas of labor and employment, health law and life
sciences. However, prior to my arrival, the firm did not include any former
judges as members. The scope of my experience as a trial and appellate judge
will offer the firm a judicial perspective in the handling and resolution of
client matters. The firm, through its National Litigation Practice group intends
to expand its existing client services to provide more comprehensive litigation
services and support.

Editor: You authored the chapter in West's New York Practice Series
entitled, "Commercial Litigation in New York State Courts," including the annual
supplement. What is the single most important thing that commercial litigators
can do to help ensure a timely and fair hearing of their clients' case?

Cozier: I was fortunate to have participated in the preparation of
this New York Practice Series in 1995 and 2005 by contributing a chapter on
Summary Judgment. The chapter discusses the motion for summary judgments in
commercial litigation and focuses on the nature of summary judgment, the
approach to summary judgment taken by New York State Courts and the statutory
provisions and principles enunciated by the courts in determining such motions.
Because it is a means to accelerate the determination of an action by avoiding
the necessity of a trial of the factual issues of liability, it is a critical
tool in resolving complex commercial litigation.

It is difficult to identify any single most important factor for handling
commercial litigation other than thorough preparation with regard to the
relevant facts and governing legal principles. Comprehensive preparation
requires careful attention to detail in litigating a commercial case. In order
to expedite cases, it is important to adhere to court ordered and agreed upon
time tables and deadlines for pre-trial discovery and disclosure.

In addition, consulting and keeping clients informed of litigation
developments is critical in the commercial litigation area. Finally, maintaining
civility and acting in good faith in dealings with adversary counsel and the
court are essential.

Editor: Your career has earned you well deserved stature in the legal
community. How can the state courts continue to attract jurists of your caliber?

Cozier: The economic disparities between judicial service and private
practice make it increasingly difficult for the state courts to retain well
qualified judges. The disparity between public and private sector compensation
in the profession continues to grow, making it difficult for judges to meet
personal family obligations on a fixed judicial salary. Recently, the Chief
Judge of the State of New York has urged the legislature to increase the salary
for its judges. Adequate compensation for judicial services remains a critical
concern.

Despite the financial sacrifices, there will always be an attraction and
incentive for attorneys to aspire to the judiciary. There are a number of
non-monetary rewards that contribute to personal and professional fulfillment of
a judicial career. The privilege of serving as a public official and servant is
very important. The ability to influence and shape substantive New York
jurisprudence over the course of a career is also an important incentive. Also,
serving as a role model for children and young adults to demonstrate respect for
the rule of law is important. The American judicial system as an independent
third branch of government is one of the cornerstones of our democratic society.

Editor: For many years, you have served as an adjunct professor at Fordham
Law School and on a great number of diverse professional and organizational
committees, councils and boards. Would you encourage young lawyers to follow in
your footsteps?

Cozier: Those of us that have been privileged to join the legal
profession have an obligation to our communities and the generations that follow
us to make a contribution beyond the day-to-day practice of law. Whether that
includes civic activities, educational activities involving children and young
adults, pro bono activities, services to the indigent or other service in the
public interest. These are equally important responsibilities of our
professional lives that contribute to fulfilling the oath that we take when we
become attorneys and counselors of law.

Education is particularly important. Personally, one of the most fulfilling
experiences of my years on the bench was the opportunity to participate in an
ongoing educational process with students and young lawyers. I enjoyed the
opportunity to interact with them and to act as a mentor to many of the law
clerks and student interns who worked in my chambers or who I encountered in bar
association activities. It is important, particularly for minority attorneys, to
be able to pass the torch to the generations that
follow.

Please email the interviewee at bcozier@ebglaw.com with questions about this
interview.