Winter 2022


Herb Kohn, ’63, Receives 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award

Herb Kohn, ’63, a titan of the Missouri legal community for more than half a century, was honored as the 2021 recipient of Michigan Law’s Distinguished Alumni Award at a ceremony in Kansas City.

“We are so proud to call Herb one of our own and to present this award to someone who so fully exemplifies the kind of person that the Law School believes in, someone who is dedicated to the law and is held in such high esteem by his peers,” said David A. Breach Dean of Law Mark West in his remarks. “We tell our students from the very beginning that their accomplishments in the world would mean nothing if they’re not leading an authentic life and positively affecting others, and that’s exactly how Herb has conducted his life and career.”

Kohn is senior counsel at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner in Kansas City, where he is a former member of the executive committee and practices corporate, business, and banking law with a concentration in the areas of acquisitions, financial transactions, and public finance. He previously was a partner at Linde Thomson Langworthy Kohn & Van Dyke PC for nearly 30 years, including five years as chairman of the firm. Earlier in his career, he was the Jackson County Counselor and worked as a clerk in the chambers of the Hon. Harvey M. Johnsen, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

“I am humbled beyond words to be recognized by the school that I love so much, which has not only given me my law degree but also my wife and closest adviser, Nancy. Anything that I have achieved would not have been possible without her support, and I consider her my co-awardee,” said Kohn, who met his wife of 61 years in Ann Arbor. They have two children and five grandchildren.

Known for his prodigious deal making and the ability to captivate any audience, Kohn also has served as a friend and mentor to many. “Over the years Herb has developed hundreds of young lawyers, partially by encouraging them to interact directly with his clients,” said former colleague and friend Lynn S. McCreary, who spoke at the ceremony. “He helped them grow their skill while keeping a steady hand on the wheel, guiding the intricacies of every transaction while he drove other people’s success.”

Kohn has strong ties to Missouri’s political and legal communities and has been engaged with civic endeavors outside of his practice for decades. 

He has served as chairman for the Missouri Gaming Commission, the Missouri Cancer Commission, the Kansas City Art Institute, the Commission to Study Early Childhood Education in Kansas City, a blue ribbon task force studying Kansas City’s pension plans, the Kansas City Mayor’s Fast Forward Committee, the Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes’ Transition Task Force in 1999, the board of Shalom Geriatric and Convalescent Center, and the United Way Professional Group. 

He also was the director of the youth leadership program Missouri Boys State, the Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Foundation, and the Starlight Theatre, and served as a trustee of the Massachusetts School of Law and the Truman Presidential Museum and Library. He also has been a member of the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City and the finance committee of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

His previous honors have included the Baron of the Boardroom Award from the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association, the Best Rainmaker designation from Missouri Lawyers Weekly, and the 2019 Henry W. Bloch Human Relations Award from the Jewish Community Relations Bureau/American Jewish Committee. A frequent lecturer on the art of deal making, he has authored Elements for an Acquisition and Selling My Business.

Presented annually since 2011, the Distinguished Alumni Award is Michigan Law’s highest honor, and recognizes extraordinary alumni whose achievements exemplify the values and ethos of the Law School.