As one of the top divorce lawyers in New York, Robert Stephan Cohen has had a glorious year.
On behalf of Melinda French Gates, he broke up with Bill Gates, one of the richest people in the world. He was also hired by the wife of hedge fund manager John Paulson, who had bet on a $20 billion real estate market before the 2008 financial crisis.
Then came Labor Day. The American holiday in early September marks the end of the traditional summer. Many New Yorkers expected this year’s holiday to be the time to end the isolation caused by the pandemic—and obviously, the same is true for their marriages. Since then, Cohen has paid three or four billion dollars in breakup fees.
Cohen said: “I find that Labor Day is a signal to those who are getting rid of seclusion in East Hampton or Mexico or wherever their second house is located.” “For many married couples, this is a signal. At the turning point, I think they decided to pull the plug.”
Cohen, now 82, has been proving to be very skilled in helping wealthy New Yorkers out of trouble for decades. He represents not one of Donald Trump but two ex-wives-Ivana Trump and Mara Maples-as well as former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and shipping heiress Asina Onassis and actor James Gandolfini, as well as other bold letters.
Surprisingly, Cohen never wanted to be a divorce lawyer. “I support this,” he admitted. “If someone says that I am a divorce lawyer, I will be very unhappy because I think it is not a good thing.”
It started with a phone call more than 30 years ago, when Cohen was a well-known litigation lawyer. Henry Kravis, a client of one of the most distinguished corporate lawyers in New York City, was sued by his ex-wife for a divorce agreement. The lawyer explained that his company, Simpson Thacher, did not want to be involved in such matters. Can Cohn help?
He was obliged and managed to dismiss the lawsuit.this Wall Street Journal He wrote down his achievements. “My phone started ringing and the case started to come in,” Cohen said.
Although he was called “bulldog”, “Doberman” and “your worst nightmare”, as well as other adjectives describing the ferocity of extreme litigation, on a recent afternoon, Cohen was welcoming a visitor to his Manhattan Be easy-going and kind in the office. At this stage of his career, the lion seems to only need to growl occasionally.
“If needed, I can do some difficult things,” he promised.
Part of the toughness comes from Cohen’s “bad” childhood in a one-bedroom apartment on the junction of Bensonhurst and Coney Island. His mother has long been unhappy with her husband driving a taxi. She died at the age of 37. Cohen’s father struggled, and his sister Allen was taken in by relatives. He graduated from high school early, then worked through Alfred University and Fordham Law School, earning his degree in 1962.
“Many of us come from the heart of Brooklyn, from lower-middle class families,” Cohen reflected.
During his military service, Cohn spent most of his time in Fort Dix, New Jersey, waiting for a public phone so he could call Roy Cohn’s office, a former chief legal counsel to the infamous Senator Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist investigation committee. He also later placed the young Donald Trump under his bird of prey wings.
He said that Cohen does not necessarily agree with his political views, but he respects Cohen’s skills as a litigation lawyer. In the end, Cohen gave him an interview and then a job. “That was really the first door opened for me,” Cohen said of his introduction to the gilded world of gatekeeper buildings and drivers driving cars.
The terrible Cohen also honed a kind of ruthlessness that was almost a lunatic. One night, after the young lawyer told him that he could not find a legal solution to a particular client’s problem, he reprimanded the young lawyer.
“He started screaming at me. He said,’Do you think customers will come here and tell us what we can’t do? There must be a way to do this,'” Cohen recalled. “He said,’Did you see that it’s dark outside? I can tell you it is daytime, and I will prove it is daytime.'”
Cohen became a partner and then left to start his own company. “He had a lot of failures, personal failures,” he said of Cohen, who was later disqualified.
At the same time, the pattern of divorce is changing. Divorce has become easier and easier in states that have long required proving serious faults (usually adultery). (Therefore, the reputation of the divorce lawyer is out of date because it is a snooper hiding in the bushes of a motel with a Polaroid camera).
Then in 1980, New York imposed a fair distribution of marital assets. Business is booming, and as the rich get richer, business is getting better and better. For example, the $14 million settlement reported by Ivana Trump in 1991 now looks like a rounding error in Gates’ estate, including a $55 billion charitable foundation or litigation involving Belgium, Monaco, and Brazil Onassis spin-off.
“This is a big business. It requires people who understand taxes, understand securities, and understand how to value all these different assets,” Cohen said. His company Cohen Clair Lans Greifer Thorpe & Rottenstriech has three certified public accountant lawyers and a network of external experts that can help evaluate foreign assets. Cohen predicts that hiring a cryptocurrency consultant is only a matter of time.
For all the complexities in the financial field, divorce is still a human matter-Cohen taught a course for law students at the University of Pennsylvania, where he taught a course on divorce anatomy for the past 17 years. “You must be a quasi-psychologist, psychiatrist or mental health expert,” he said. “Remember, we are dealing with people who may be in the most difficult period of our lives.”
Cohen experienced two divorces of his own, and was married to Stephanie Stiefel, the managing director of Neuberger Berman, for 23 years. (He is wearing a three-stranded Cartier Trinity Band). If divorce can be avoided, he strongly recommends doing so. He even wrote a book in 2002, Reconcilable differences, It promises seven keys to maintaining marriage.
“I’ve said it a hundred times: if people continue to maintain close relationships, which is usually an important point for me, it’s that there may be something else that can be saved,” he said, adding: “This It’s an arduous task.”