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Practice Focus:
Corporate Finance;
Banking & Commercial Finance;
Corporate Governance;
Mergers and Acquisitions;
Capital Markets;
Venture Capital

Washington and Jefferson College,
B.S., 1975
The University of Akron,
J.D., 1977


Gerald W. Cowden, Partner, Cleveland

Gerry Cowden might be an attorney himself. He might have nearly three decades of experience serving growth clients. He might be a founding and active partner in the downtown law firm that bears his name. But he’s also entrepreneurial by inclination and action. And he shares with many clients a considerable discomfort with how most lawyers and law firms serve entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial businesses.

“The huge deficiency within our industry is that a businessperson is led to think of a lawyer as a solution to a legal problem. They won’t call until they believe they have a legal issue. Their lawyer then responds with legal solution. The problem for the client is that there are no legal solutions, only legal rights. The real solutions, and what the client really needs, are business solutions.”

It’s a lesson Cowden learned quickly when he began his legal career. It was reinforced when he took a brief sabbatical from law in the early 1980s to invest in and develop real estate and start a tax credits business. And it became a foundational principle in the challenging experience of starting his own law firm.

That firm grew enough to attract attention. When Cowden merged it with another firm, it didn’t take him long to realize that the more traditional approach of the new entity was unsuited to serving his entrepreneurial clients. In 1989, with two partners, he left to form what is now Cowden Humphrey, the “entrepreneurs advising entrepreneurs” law firm.

“It was clear that our clients wanted a more free‐flowing relationship, to rely on us for strategy, planning and business issues—like they would an in‐house general counsel at a big company—as well as handling their legal needs. The firm developed an outside general counsel approach that enables clients to gain guidance on a host of issues before they become legal problems. The firm grew through the 1990s, becoming perhaps the smallest firm east of the Mississippi river to take a client public and twice landing on the Weatherhead 100 list of the fastest growing private companies in Northeast Ohio—a rare honor for a law firm.

“To us, serving as outside general counsel means thinking, feeling and performing just like we're inside, like our future depends on yours. It means taking an issue you might see every day, and defining a path from that decision to your desired future, whether the issue is strategic or legal. We manage the process to produce stated objectives. We’ve been through this with dozens of clients. We have a tolerance for uncertainty, because we know that’s part an entrepreneur’s environment.”

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Cowden & Humphrey Co. LPA | 4600 Euclid Avenue, Suite 400, Cleveland, Ohio 44103-3748 | 216-241-2880 Fax 216-241-2881

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