THE GREATEST TRIAL LAWYER I EVER MET
was my father, Joseph Kelner. He passed away March 4, 2013
at the age of 98. It is with sadness and pride that I write about
the founder of our firm.
On trial, he combined a brilliant intellect with a tremendous
command of the English language. He developed incredible
connections with his jurors. During his summations, at times
his voice would rise to a crescendo and then drop to a
whisper. Sometimes his fist would pound the table. Always
there would be a mixture of emotion and irrefutable logic.
His eloquence drew crowds of attorneys at his trials, which
were better than movies. It was like listening to music.
Among his notable cases were a victory in one of the first
brain-damaged baby obstetrical malpractice cases (front
page, The New York Times), the highest affirmed award ever
in a case in New York State (a brain-injured ironworker in a
construction accident), the highest award ever for a rape
victim (a child that was raped by a city employee), and serving
as chief counsel for the students shot at Kent State University.
In 1965 he became president of The American Trial
Lawyers Association (ATLA) after being president of the
New York State Trial Lawyers Association. As president
of ATLA, he worked with then-Sen. Robert F. Kennedy to
require auto manufacturers to build safer cars. He called
the program “Stop Murder by Motor.”
He was the author of a 12-volume book, Successful Litigation
Techniques, and a co-author with me of the “Trial Practice”
column in the New York Law Journal. He lectured extensively
in the field of trial law and advocacy.
Although he retired many years ago, his lessons have left a
deep imprint on our firm and its style. We learned that trial
practice is an art form, not a business. We are representing
human beings who deserve and get our best. Joseph Kelner
taught us to pursue excellence, using intellect and creativity, to
think “outside the box” and always to look at the “big picture”
in representing our clients to best portray their life situations.
The firm he started has obtained hundreds of recoveries of
$1 million or more, and many over $10 million. Six of our 10
attorneys are chosen to Super Lawyers (also, his grandson
Joshua Kelner, is chosen to Rising Stars). In the last several
years, we had the highest reported settlement in the state
of New York ($16.5 million in a construction accident case),
the highest reported wrongful death settlement in the
state ($9 million for a uniformed worker), and this year we
obtained a $7 million settlement in a wrongful death case in
Suffolk County that was rejected by six other firms that did
not see a way to solve its legal problems.
Joseph Kelner taught us that hard work, creativity and
courage must be combined with a complete understanding
of trial techniques and a deep concern for the people we
represent. No one ever had a better teacher.
1914 – 2013
Robert S. Kelner
KELNER AND KELNER
140 Broadway, 37th Floor, New York, NY 10005
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Kelner and Kelner
The Spirit of a Legend Vibrantly Lives On
We at Kelner and Kelner pay tribute to our founder
Joseph Kelner, from whom we have learned so much.