Personal Experience Drives Accomplished Attorney to Come Full Circle and Support Rising 2Ls

Personal Experience Drives Accomplished Attorney to Come Full Circle and Support Rising 2Ls

When Stephen L. Cohen, J.D. ’97, was about to enter his second year at Miami Law, he found himself at a crossroads.

“I was advised by several people in my life to try to transfer to a ‘higher-ranked’ law school,” he recalls. “I was very happy at Miami and had just made University of Miami Law Review, but I appreciated that certain law schools in N.Y. or D.C. might increase my career options in those cities. I was profoundly concerned about my educational loans—both from college and law school—and needed to maximize my career opportunities. I was deeply conflicted.” In discussing his concerns with the Dean’s office, Cohen was happy to learn that scholarships were available based on specific academic achievements and he was able to continue his studies at the School of Law through The Paul R. Gordon Scholarship Fund and The Paul B. Anton Scholarship.

“I made amazing friends in Miami and was excited to continue my education and serve on Law Review,” he continues. “These scholarships, given my financial circumstances, unquestionably made a difference in my decision to stay at Miami Law and become a proud graduate of the U. Putting aside how happy I am with my education, I am blessed with lifelong friends that I made at UM that have been an important part of my life in ways that were not imaginable back in 1995.

“I have never forgotten the generosity of those families and what it meant to me that they would share their funds as an investment in my future,” he said, “and always hoped that I would be fortunate enough one day to do the same. I feel incredibly fortunate in the trajectory of my career since leaving UM, having had the opportunity to serve in government and private practice while repaying my substantial student loans. I am inspired to help make the same opportunity available for future rising 2Ls so that they may choose to stay and contribute to our community rather than taking their skills elsewhere.”

This year, Cohen followed through on that inspiration by establishing an endowment for The Stephen L. Cohen Endowed Law Scholarship. The aim is to provide high-achieving 1L students with the means to stay at Miami Law without taking on additional or burdensome educational debt. Cohen also says the scholarship might support those eager to pursue careers in public service after graduation (as he did) without feeling pressured to take higher-paying entry positions to repay student loans.

After graduation, Cohen worked as a U.S. Department of Justice trial attorney and spent nearly a dozen years with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, rising from assistant chief litigation counsel to senior advisor to the chairman and, ultimately, associate director for the Division of Enforcement. He is now a partner at Sidley Austin LLP and is the global practice leader of the Regulatory and Enforcement Group.

"There are many ways to make a difference through scholarships of any size, and I encourage folks to reach out to the school if you are grateful for your legal career and would like to pay it forward.”

As for his own scholarship experience and what it meant to stay with and graduate from Miami Law, Cohen offered the following:

“The diversity of experience of the professors and the students is one of the richest parts of UM as a law school. My law career has allowed me to practice nationally in multiple different environments at different time periods. [Studying] with people who mirror those different environments helped me appreciate different experiences and different ways of thinking about issues and even provided friends to visit across the country.

“I also appreciated that Miami as a city attracts really talented professors from some top law schools and adjunct professors with deep experience to share as a complement to my traditional legal education,” he said.

The Stephen L. Cohen Endowed Law Scholarship is part of the University’s Centennial Law Scholarship Challenge, which seeks to establish 25 new named scholarships by the University’s Centennial in 2025. Cohen shares some motivation for those considering donating to Miami Law as a scholarship endowment or similar gift.

“Scholarships allow the school to invest in someone’s promise based on their talents or circumstances," saidn Cohen. "They create important opportunities for people who might otherwise need to take a different path. They create important opportunities for the school to maximize the potential for a deep and diverse set of backgrounds and skills in our student body, which greatly enriches the law school experience."

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