The Second Life of Harriet Cohen

The Second Life of Harriet Cohen

Harriet newman cohen's lifestyles resulted in 1973. She turned into the 40-yr-antique mom of four ladies, a full-time law scholar and a believer within the concept that a woman's primary duty is to care for her youngsters and support her husband. So while the person she'd been married to for 21 years unexpectedly advised her he changed into leaving, it wasn't just that the existence she'd labored so tough to create became collapsing. "i stated, ‘i think my lifestyles is over. I'm a 40-12 months-vintage lady with four youngsters. Who is ever going to want me?"' cohen says now. "and i've to inform you, i felt truely vintage at forty." the harriet newman cohen of nowadays might be unrecognizable to that 40-yr-old. In her cleanly appointed 42nd avenue office overlooking bryant park, she's bright, ethereal and comfortable with the world, a twin of diane keaton and head of one of the most a success family regulation firms in ny. To the those who recognise her, of direction, cohen's ascent into divorce regulation's elite is no surprise. She grew up in windfall, r. I., the eldest daughter of 4 children born to properly-educated, track-loving jap eu immigrants. Her father, from ukraine, manufactured hula hoops; her polish mom stayed at home with the kids and their yiddish-speaking grandmother and imbued cohen with the philosophies that you in no way give up and you usually finish what you start. "i have a memory of the hurricane of september 1938," says cohen, who became in kindergarten on the time. "my mom told me i failed to should move to highschool due to the fact the bushes had been down and it turned into hard to get to highschool, but that if i wanted to move to school, i should. I remember how beautiful it became in faculty that day with all the lecturers to myself." competitive and e-book smart, cohen observed her calling early as a 10-year-antique in elocution elegance. A common degree performer, she as soon as introduced an emotional monologue approximately a dog that died. "there wasn't a dry eye inside the room—and that i did not even have a dog," she says. "i learned the joy of being able to influence." whilst the circle of relatives moved to big apple metropolis, cohen attended faculty in brooklyn, skipping grades and graduating at age 16 to become a barnard university classics essential. She married her excessive faculty sweetheart, a talented musician and chemist, whilst she was 19, and moved to wilmington, del. Even as her husband become running for dupont, cohen were given her master's diploma in classics at close by bryn mawr college and started out raising her first daughter. "i was a complete-time mom," cohen says. "i had debated this [with myself] at barnard, that being a girl—i didn't name myself a lady in the ones days—that the satisfactory thing an educated female ought to do turned into stay at home and aid her husband in his career and raise her kids." she did this for greater than a decade—thru the own family's move again to big apple metropolis and the births of some other 3 youngsters. Within the late '60s, while her husband's business began to falter, and wearied by way of a math-teaching process she'd taken to assist pay the bills, law faculty started out to make feel. "i desired to make a distinction within the global, however in those days, women were not taken very seriously, specifically girls with kids at domestic," cohen says. "for a female in the ones days to have some credibility, i'd need to be a legal professional, because lawyers were taken very severely." however through it all, she described herself by and large as wife and mom. Then the bombshell. "i understand that first yr, when they have been separated, she misplaced about 20 pounds very rapidly," says martha stine, cohen's oldest daughter and now a associate at cohen's company. "she did not have the luxurious to experience too sorry for herself because she had four youngsters. She form of pulled herself together, and we took it in the future at a time. She has numerous wisdom from her personal lifestyles experience that makes her very compassionate with her clients." patricia cohen epstein, the youngest infant, recalls that, even though their mother was immersed in law faculty and the divorce, she changed into there for them. "she could get domestic, we would have dinner together, and that i recollect doing homework at the dining room table with my sister, sue, my mother and myself, the three of us nonetheless at domestic," says epstein, now a civil litigator in wisconsin. "she made us feel like there was nothing we couldn't do." in regulation college, matters went nicely for cohen. At a celebration, someone advised she get at the regulation assessment as soon as feasible; cohen did. Even though her fellow law students were overwhelmingly twenty-some thing men, cohen wasn't deterred, and frequently delivered her daughters to magnificence. "[years later] i stopped up going to the same regulation college and having a number of the equal professors," epstein says with amusing. Cohen's different two daughters, amy and sue, are now a flutist and a medical doctor. The new harriet cohen changed into born in 1974. That year, she graduated near the pinnacle of her elegance and was a sought-after lawyer. Among her first customers: herself. She handled her personal divorce. At her first company, her age truly have become an asset. "i used to be 41 years antique, not 23. When i met with customers, i seemed mature and pro," cohen says. That same 12 months, cohen discovered love once more. The week after her regulation school commencement, she worked up the courage to call a pal of a friend, a current widower named arthur feinberg, a successful physician, to introduce herself and try and interest him in asking her on a date—which he did the very next nighttime. "i started the complete 2nd bankruptcy of my existence," she says. "i by no means, ever would have left my first life, because it just would not have came about to me. If my first husband hadn't made the selection that he desired out of the wedding, i'd have stayed with him for my complete existence and been a totally distinctive person." cohen and feinberg, who married in 1983, were together for 32 years earlier than feinberg died of vascular ailment and open-coronary heart surgical procedure in november 2005. Although she'd been warned no longer to get pigeonholed into areas that have been seen as "girls's stuff," like circle of relatives regulation or trusts and estates, cohen located herself quickly gravitating closer to matrimonial law. "she will attain humans on a human level it really is very, very hard to achieve in a combative scenario," says partner bonnie rabin. "she will be able to honestly become aware of, because there isn't some thing that a client is going thru that she cannot assist with [via] her life revel in." on her manner to founding her own company in 1994, cohen became recognised for high-profile clients who began trickling to her thru phrase-of-mouth: andrew cuomo, patricia duff, laurence fishburne, linda lavin and ann dexter-jones. Many remained pals with cohen after their prison battles. "i'll in no way forget the coffees in china cups on a silver tray that she served me herself," says lavin, who played the name position in alice, one of the first single mothers on '70s tv, and who employed cohen for her divorce in 1989. "she's someone who's become my friend because of the sort of individual she is. The whole lot she's been through helps her as a attorney." cohen says she discovered the significance of a terrific bedside way from her second husband. "my customers are frequently partners to me," she explains. "there is nothing of the concept that ‘i am the health practitioner, you are the patient, listen to me.' i want to know their desires, get into their background. I take a history by way of going all of the manner again to the grandparents on every aspect." socialite dexter-jones recollects cohen, who changed dexter-jones's previous attorney simplest five weeks earlier than trial, as her rock at some stage in her divorce from a rock guitarist. "harriet didn't make any fairy tale promises," dexter-jones says. "but in court docket, harriet became standing beside me, and in front of me and in the back of me—allow's placed it like that." cohen would not pull any punches, either, even along with her personal clients, who're more or less same numbers men and women. "she knows the way to control her purchaser, and that is very critical," says sometime adversary david a. Field of field lomenzo. "i do not forget she was representing a husband who become now not being altogether affordable or realistic, and she become capable of use her influence on him to have him understand he become out of line. She got him to calm down and understand how off-the-wall he was inside the scenario." "harriet's superb at calling it like it is and supporting the purchaser apprehend what the realities of the scenario are," says claire gutekunst of proskauer rose, who has acted as cohen's co-counsel. "she's very human beings-orientated however no longer swayed easily. If a person tries to push, she's pretty able to pushing back." at the same time as customers respect cohen's knack for making felony proceedings understandable and less frightening, her colleagues recognize her capacity to make attorneys and judges appearance beyond the legalese to what is absolutely at stake. "do you recognize what the classic harriet circulate is?" rabin says. "you will have an issue going on in court, and he or she will suddenly start speakme from the most passionate human level to bring every person returned to the fact of ways a court docket order goes to have an effect on a consumer. ... It is masterful." cohen has garnered her share of grievance via being a part of the vocal minority that opposes introducing no-fault divorces to ny. "there are conditions in which the culprit desires the divorce, and the opposite man or woman is sincerely natural as the pushed snow," she says. "that character has the proper to mention, ‘show me why you have the proper to take my children, take my assets, take my income.'" in a comparable vein, a few attorneys say she is going over-the-top in portray customers as saints at the same time as demonizing estranged spouses. Cohen simply thinks her passion is misunderstood. "i'm my client's suggest, and that is my job," cohen says. "i have were given a thick skin and i am willing to rise up and fight if i have to." "inside the first moments while we met, we had our first arguments," says associate rabin with fun. "i don't forget very vividly being within the choose's chambers as soon as and being assigned to symbolize a toddler of certainly one of her clients, and telling harriet she may want to not talk immediately to the kid. And i don't forget her arguing that she blanketed the consumer, so consequently she included the youngsters. The law changed into on my facet, but we have been debating the ones kinds of troubles of vigilant advocacy ever since." "she's very much like a lioness, always defensive of her brood," says daughter epstein. "and that i assume her brood extends beyond her own family to include her clients." when cohen notion her lifestyles turned into finishing in 1973, she become incorrect, her daughters say. She wasn't ending one lifestyles and starting a brand new one so much as studying to percentage her innate strengths as a mother with the broader global. "if the harriet of today should speak to the harriet lower back then throughout that tough time, she'd inform herself, ‘you are going to meet a totally exquisite man, be a wife, mother and grandmother, and you're going to have a career past your wildest goals,'" daughter stine says. "she'd say, ‘do not do whatever differently.'"