The Making of a NYC Super Lawyer: Kevin O’Brien

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Harvard-educated New York City Super Lawyer and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin O’Brien is ready to share his decades of legal experience with the world. 

Despite his successful career as an attorney, it wasn’t always obvious that O’Brien would forge his career in the legal profession. Born in Rochester, NY, he was raised in a middle-class family with blue-collar roots on his mother’s side. In the 1960s, his father moved their family across the country to Oregon and again to Los Angeles.

“At the time, Oregon was a great place to be a Boy Scout,” O’Brien says, “but LA was an even better place to be a high school student. I drifted along in school for a while; I was what you might call a ‘nerd.’ It wasn’t until my 7th-grade math teacher took me aside and told me how smart I was that I realized I had a knack for thinking through problems and persuading other people.”

That realization left a lasting impression on O’Brien. Now he had some sense of direction. Not only was O’Brien good at public speaking, but he also enjoyed it. He became a national-level debate champion, winning the California state championship his senior year.

He regarded speeches as his own unique kind of “performance art” that would ultimately propel him to apply to Harvard University, from which he graduated summa cum laude in 1974. O’Brien went on to obtain a graduate degree in philosophy at Oxford, and then was accepted to Harward’s prestigious law school and graduated with his Juris Doctor in 1979, kickstarting his lifelong career in law.

O’Brien found his way in the law when “I came to realize that helping others solve problems was deeply satisfying.” O’Brien continues: “It made you feel better, which does not typically spring to mind when referring to white-collar criminal defense, regulatory enforcement, litigation, or arbitration law.” Along the way, O’Brien found time to write a book on the Lincoln-Douglas debates, entitled The Art of the Campaign, in 2013.

Indeed, throughout his career, O’Brien has tried more than two-dozen court cases and carried even more arbitrations to a decision. One of his more recent cases was the Platinum Partners criminal case in 2019, in which he and a team of lawyers from his firm obtained a judgment of acquittal on all counts for Platinum’s former CEO, Joseph SanFilippo. After walking out of the courtroom as a free man, SanFilippo wrote that hiring O’Brien and his firm was “the best and most important decision” of his life.

Due to O’Brien’s determination to help others, it’s no surprise that he has been formally recognized as one of the country’s top-performing “Super Lawyers,” in both 2020 and 2021, a title reserved only for lawyers who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and personal achievement.

Kevin O’Brien is a frequent lecturer and author and has been published in the National Law Journal, Westlaw Today, the New York Law Journal, Law360, the Legal Times of Washington, and other legal publications.

He has lectured for the Practicing Law Institute and other organizations on criminal defense, securities law, and business law topics. He is admitted to the bar of New York and also the author of a book, The Art of the Campaign: How Lincoln Won the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, published by Amazon in 2013.

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