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PROFILES IN THE LAW Michael Cohen Parlayed his Passion for Music into a Legal Career Photograph courtesy of Michael Cohen Staying in Tune W hile still in college at the Uni- versity of Chicago, Michael A. Cohen already had begun promoting top musical acts. And one day he received a call from the manager of a musician Cohen had booked to appear at the university. The call was from jazz star Miles Da- vis’ manager, who told Cohen that he normally accompanies Davis on tours but could not make this appearance. He asked Cohen to handle meeting the musician at the airport and accompanying him to his hotel. Cohen, a jazz aficionado, readily agreed, but then he became nervous when a stretch limousine picked up Cohen at his low-rent apartment. “I was not sure I would be able to rec- ognize him,” he admits. That ended up being the least of his worries, though. Da- vis was dressed to the nines: “He looked like a superstar, and he immediately got mobbed by fans. I had to pick up a white phone to get help from security.” 28 OREGON STATE BAR BULLETIN • JUNE 2016 By Cliff Collins In the limo, Davis — who Cohen had been warned sometimes could be tetchy — immediately began talking warmly to Cohen, and he kept going at the hotel, for hours. “I spent two days with him,” Co- hen recalls. “He was very grandfatherly,” probably because he appreciated Cohen’s enthusiasm about Davis’ music and histo- ry, as well as recognizing that “I was green and wet behind the ears,” he says. Now a Portland intellectual prop- erty lawyer with Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt, Cohen had begun playing drums in grade school and taking piano lessons at the encouragement of his musically inclined mother. “I’ve always had a real passion for music,” he says. “My parents instilled that in me early on.” A Portland native, Cohen went from kindergarten through high school at Cat- lin Gabel School, where as a junior he promoted his first concert by booking the Jeff Lorber Fusion at a benefit for the school’s music department. “That’s where I first caught the bug,” he says. He also booked the bands for his ju- nior and senior proms. For his junior- year prom, he booked a funk band called Shock through Double Tee Concerts, which ended up becoming his first em- ployer after he graduated from the Uni- versity of Chicago in political science. For his senior prom at Catlin Gable, Cohen booked Nu Shooz, which had just released a song that became its biggest hit and propelled the group to become well known nationally. Cohen continued playing drums through college, and still plays for a hob- by, but he realized that he probably did not have quite enough talent to be a mu- sician professionally. “I knew I wanted music to be a part of my life, so I incorporated that into my career,” he says. “Cutting my teeth” in college booking big acts such as Beastie Boys and Red Hot Chili Peppers “became addictive for me. I got my hooks in talking with talent agents in Los Angeles.” But the experience meeting and conversing with Miles Davis made “a life-lasting im- pression,” Cohen says. “I named my first son after him.” In a constitutional law class in col- lege was when Cohen had his first ex- posure to what eventually became his true profession. The study of evaluating text and the different ways it could be interpreted fascinated him, as did visits by notables such as Justice Antonin Sca- lia. Cohen found these early exposures to law “exciting, but not more exciting than music to me,” he says. “I enjoyed the business and entrepreneurial side of that.” Nothing is more satisfying than looking out from backstage at an audi- ence of people enjoying themselves, and knowing you played a part in bringing that about, he observes. As a result of that realization, he de- cided to return to the more moderate cli- mate of Portland, where David Leiken, president of Double Tee Concerts, hired him, initially as production manager. In that role, Cohen didn’t book acts but dealt with tour managers to make sure ev- erything was orchestrated properly when bands appeared. “The whole day of actu- ally producing a concert is a complex un- dertaking,” he explains. Within his first year, Double Tee’s general manager left, and “David gave me a shot,” Cohen says. Leiken remembered Cohen from his Catlin Gabel days. “He always seemed very interested in our busi- ness,” says Leiken, who founded Double Tee over four decades ago. The fact that Cohen had booked shows and shared sim-