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Johnnie L. Cochran Jr.

Founder of The Cochran Firm
October 2, 1937 - March 29, 2005
Johnnie Cochran
Founder of The Cochran Firm
Johnnie Cochran graduated first in his class from Los Angeles High School, earned a Bachelor of Arts in business economics from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a Juris Doctor from Loyola Law School.

Inspired by Thurgood Marshall and the legal victory that Marshall won in Brown v. Board of Education, Cochran decided to dedicate his life to practicing law. He felt his career was a calling, a double opportunity to work for what he considered to be right and to challenge what he considered wrong; he could make a difference by practicing law. As he wrote in A Lawyer’s Life, “I read everything that I could find about Thurgood Marshall and confirmed that a single dedicated man could use the law to change society”.

Cochran began his legal career in Los Angeles as a Deputy City Attorney in the Criminal Division. Within a year, he prosecuted one of his first celebrity cases, Lenny Bruce, a comedian who had recently been arrested on obscenity charges.[13] Two years later, Cochran entered private practice and then opened his own firm, Cochran, Atkins & Evans.
October 2, 1937 - March 29, 2005
In his first notable case, Cochran represented an African-American widow who sued several police officers who had shot and killed her husband, Leonard Deadwyler. Though Cochran lost the case, it became a turning point in his career. Rather than seeing the case as a defeat, Cochran realized the trial itself had awakened the black community. He explained, “those were extremely difficult cases to win in those days. But what Deadwyler confirmed for me was that this issue of police abuse really galvanized the minority community.” (The American Lawyer). By the late 1970s, Cochran had established his reputation in the black community. He was litigating a number of high-profile police brutality and criminal cases. Despite setbacks, Cochran vowed not to cease what he was doing, saying: “I made this commitment and I must fulfill it.”
In 1978, Cochran returned to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office as First Assistant District Attorney. He took a pay cut to do so, explaining that joining the government was his way of becoming “one of the good guys, one of the very top rung.” He began to strengthen his ties with the political community and work from within to change the system.

Five years later, Cochran returned to private practice, reinventing himself as “the best in the West” by opening the Johnnie L Cochran Jr. law firm. In contrast to his early loss in the Deadwyler case, Cochran won US$760,000 for the family of Ron Settles, a black college football player who, his family claimed, was murdered by the police. In 1990, Cochran joined a succeeding firm, Cochran, Mitchell & Jenna, and then, in 1997, joined Cochran, Cherry, Givens & Smith. Today, The Cochran Firm has grown to have regional offices located in fifteen states.

Cochran’s life, as described by The New York Times Book Review, “is a compelling tale of four decades of standing up for victims of discrimination and of truly appalling police violence.”
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