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LEADERSHIP IN LAW 2018: Jeffrey Kosc

Partner, Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP, Indianapolis DePaul University College of Law, 1996

May 2, 2018

Jeffrey Kosc came to his career in law through his computer savvy. Before transitioning most of the Indianapolis Benesch office to Taft recently, he was the office’s managing partner, handling an intellectual property and cybersecurity practice. He’s been a mentor for many young attorneys and volunteers his time with community groups including Junior Achievement and Jewish Community Center.

lil-kosc-2018.jpgWhat drew you to intellectual property law?

I had done some computer programming in high school and college, so I had a different skill set from most lawyers at the time I graduated law school. When I started my career in-house, my ability to communicate with the IT department in their language was a great asset and quickly led to all the IT-related work coming to me. At the time, there was no such thing as an “IT” or “computer” lawyer, but the economy was at the beginning of the tech boom and I was a beneficiary of market timing. As most of the IT agreements I was working with dealt with multiple IP issues, I had to develop a broad knowledge across the IP spectrum (copyright, patent, trade secret, etc.)  I was also fortunate to work at a company with a valuable trademark (thanks, True Value®!) that led to my involvement in trademark prosecution and enforcement matters, further broadening my IP experience.

When did you first decide you would become a lawyer, and what motivated you?

I decided to become a lawyer in high school. I have always been an avid reader and love to learn new things. I also enjoy helping others. The practice of law brings that all together. Being a lawyer appealed to me as each case, each deal and each project is like a story unto itself. Some are long and complex and others are like short stories, but for the most part, they all offer something interesting along with an opportunity to help your client.

Who is someone who inspired or mentored you, and what did you learn from them?

The first general counsel I worked under in-house, Dan Burns, was a wonderful mentor. The greatest lessons I learned from him were to surround yourself with smart and competent people and then to empower and trust them to get the job done. He trusted me with assignments that most first-year lawyers only dream of, and he provided great guidance and constructive criticism along the way.

What’s been the most rewarding aspect of your practice?

Building relationships is by far the most rewarding aspect. Fortunately, we live in a day and age where it is easier than ever to stay in touch with past contacts. I love watching my former colleagues, associates and clients build successful careers and lives away from work.

You’re described as a dynamic leader with a fresh and creative perspective. How do you describe your leadership philosophy?

Pretty simple — shoot straight, empower and be nice. My mentors taught me to be up front about things.  Delaying a hard conversation won’t make it any better and may make things worse. Tackle tough situations head on and take action to address problems rather than waiting for them to go away. Also, kindness and compassion are very powerful. I’ve (fortunately) not seen too many examples of it during my career, but I’ve always been amazed at people in our industry who think they can get ahead while demeaning or taking advantage of others.

What do you most enjoy doing when you’re not in the office?

I try to spend as much time with my family as I can. My daughters will be heading off to college soon and I want to enjoy the time before the nest is empty. I also love to cook with my wife. In the little downtime I have, I’m usually reading something any chance I get.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Slow down and delegate more. Like many lawyers, I’m pretty “type A”, so learning to play the long game and learning to “let go” were lessons it took me a long time to learn (and I’m still learning in some measure).

What’s something about you not many people know?

I really enjoy street art and even collect some. The way simple images can convey such powerful messages in many instances is very inspiring.

What has been your most memorable case?

I can’t give too many details as it was a confidential proceeding, but as an associate, I had memorized a great many relevant documents in preparation for an arbitration hearing and I caught the defense trying to introduce a doctored version of one of the documents in the proceeding. We were able to show the panel that the other side had doctored the document in trial prep, which helped seal a great ruling for our client.

How do you see the legal profession changing in the next decade?

As with every other industry, technology is driving efficiencies in our industry. Artificial intelligence will greatly reduce the time spent researching, and new technologies like blockchain will change the way agreements and commercial relationships are entered. Attorneys will need to be on the cutting edge of technology in order to stay relevant to their clients’ interests and to add value.

What was your most memorable job before becoming an attorney?

Probably the summer before leaving for college, when I worked at a warehouse along with several great friends. It was great camaraderie and we had a lot of fun on the job that summer.

How has the practice of law changed since you became a lawyer?

It has become so much faster-paced. Maybe I feel it more working in the technology arena, but it seems like in both deal work and litigation, things move along a lot faster than earlier in my career. In some areas, like trademark prosecution, it has made things much more efficient with electronic filings and being able to communicate with international counsel instantaneously.•

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