January 23, 2017 at 1:46 pm

CLJC Spotlights Political Science Alum | Kluznik Takes on Employment Discrimination Cases

Jack Kluznik

Jack Kluznik

Center for Law, Justice & Culture Alumni Spotlight

Jack Kluznik is a partner with Weston Hurd LLP and chair of the firm’s Litigation Section and Employment and Civil Rights Practice Group.

He focuses his practice on litigation, employment and labor, civil rights, intellectual property, copyright, trademark, commercial and education law.  He has extensive trial experience, both jury and bench in matters involving wrongful termination, age discrimination, sex discrimination, race discrimination, sexual harassment, directors’ and officers’ liability claims, and commercial litigation matters including restrictive covenants and trade secret claims.

After receiving his B.A. summa cum laude and his M.A. with distinction, both in Political Science, from Ohio University, Kluznik received his J.D. from Yale Law School. He was granted admission to the Ohio Bar in 1977 and subsequently to the U.S. District Court for the Northern and Southern Districts of Ohio and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Kluznik is a member of the Ohio State Bar Association’s Labor and Employment Section Council and he has presented at the Midwest Labor and Employment Conference on the topic of “Professionalism and Civility in Depositions, Mediations and Settlements.” He is a member of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, the Defense Research Institute, the Ohio Association of Civil Trial Attorneys, the John M. Manos Inn of Court, the Employment-American Inns of Court, and the Court of Nisi Prius.

He is also a volunteer in the CMBA 3R’s teaching program, a board member of the non-profit Canalway Partners whose mission is to extend the Towpath Trail to downtown Cleveland, a member of the regional faculty of the National Institute of Trial Advocacy, and a former adjunct faculty member of the Case Western Reserve University School of Law. Kluznik is a participant on the CMBA committee to develop and present a series of interactive seminars on professionalism and civility for lawyers in various aspects of the legal practice including depositions, mediation and settlement, and business transactions. He has also presented at the Council of Smaller Enterprises’ Annual Small Business Conference on the topic of the “Workplace Investigative Process” and has conducted diversity training for supervisors of a large governmental employer.

An AV-rated attorney by Martindale-Hubbell, Kluznik has been listed in the Best Lawyers in America for Entertainment Law and Labor and Employment Law since 2007 and has been recognized as an Ohio Super Lawyer in the areas of Civil Rights/First Amendment and Employment Litigation Defense since 2009.

What brought you to Ohio University?

OHIO was the only college that I considered.  During my senior year in Mentor High School, I visited a close friend who was a freshman living in the dorm at OHIO.  I thought the campus and Athens was the coolest place I had ever seen.  From that point on, I wanted to be done with high school and to start my career at OHIO, which I did in the fall of 1968.  I lived in James Hall on the West Green.

The campus blends nicely into the town of Athens and the Georgian architecture of the campus gives the place a warm feel and the sense that “this is what a college campus and town are supposed to look like.” A mixture that is nice, but not too perfect (e.g. not Miami U in Oxford). The energy of the student body was great as was the sense of free spirit and non-conformity in very exciting times politically, socially and musically. Things were changing quickly and the students seemed to be riding the waves of change as they rolled in. It was a time of learning new things academically and socially. It was nice to be surrounded with folks of comparable age and station in life gaining these new experiences together.

What is your current occupation? Explain what you do in a typical day.

I am an attorney in a 50-person law firm in Cleveland. I do civil litigation, primarily involving lawsuits about employment disputes (discipline, demotion and termination), including civil rights matters, and commercial litigation about such things as, business disputes, feuding owners of small businesses (usually siblings who no longer get along), and challenging or enforcing non-compete agreements. Litigation is stressful and expensive for the participants, so it can be unpleasant in many ways for the lawyers who are the key players in the litigation process and frequently considered by the parties as necessary evils to tolerate.

A typical day involves reading documents, drafting pleadings, discovery requests and responses, writing briefs and preparing for depositions and conducting them. That means gathering information from people and synthesizing that information into a rational theory and an understandable narrative story for decision-makers. Lawyers must be able to communicate with people who are frequently unhappy to be involved in the litigation which is a distraction for them from their normal daily activities and as a result they are frequently emotional. This requires a calming role for the lawyer as well as gathering the relevant information in a logical and rational manner.

My typical work day starts with an hour workout for fitness at 6:15 am. and in the office around 8 a.m. If my schedule permits, I try to run sic to 10 miles, five days a week. I find this to be essential to maintain health and stamina and to relieve stress. It is also a nice social outlet separate from the workplace. I usually leave the office between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. During trials or days of intense depositions or hearings, the days are longer and the workouts may not occur. The point is, this career choice is a major commitment of time and energy.

How did you become interested in that field? Was there a particular topic or field of law that got you interested in it in the first place?

I majored in Government-Political Science at OHIO and I earned a master’s degree in it as well (at OHIO). In 1974 law school was a move to maximize employment options (not so much so any more). I truly enjoyed the urban politics and criminal justice courses and the faculty at OHIO. I had the good fortune to work closely with several faculty members while I was a graduate student teaching assistant. That interaction helped me a great deal to learn the material more in depth and to broaden my horizons.  It was on the advice of one of those professors that I applied to Yale Law School, among others (on a vertical hierarchy of choices). To everyone’s surprise, not the least of which mine, I was accepted by Yale and went there. (New Haven Conn. is not Athens in any way).

After law school I joined a large law firm in Cleveland. I wanted to do litigation because it seemed more interesting and exciting. The litigators seemed to have more personality than the business lawyers or the tax and estate lawyers. I had the good fortune to work with excellent litigators who handled First Amendment litigation for newspapers and copyright infringement litigation for a nationally syndicated comic strip that was being pirated. When I went to the firm that I have been with for 36 years, I was mentored by a wonderful trial lawyer and a true professional gentleman and I was doing civil rights defense litigation (representing cities and city officials who were sued for civil rights claims). One thing seems to evolve or lead into another over time.

What’s your favorite part of your position? What are you passionate about?

I have been spending more time teaching and presenting seminars on litigation techniques (eg. deposition practice) and professionalism and civility among lawyers. There is a real satisfaction that comes from helping someone achieve a fair and good result in a difficult situation. There is also satisfaction from sharing wisdom learned from years of practice and learning from my own mistakes and bad experiences over the years, hopefully to assist other less experienced lawyers to avoid making the same mistakes. That, plus staying active, catching good live music and pursuing fitness activities would be my passions. I must add that my wife of 26 years has been a major factor in keeping me oriented in the right direction.

How did your Ohio University experience prepare you for law school and shape your career path?

OHIO was a wonderful socializing experience beyond the academic training that I received. I learned to deal with diverse people, to think critically about what I read and I observed, and to articulate my opinions clearly in a public setting. My experience at OHIO reinforced the importance of working hard, and treating people fairly and with sincerity, for the issue at hand, rather than for self-aggrandizement.

What do you think most important things you did as an undergrad to get you prepared for law school?

I think that developing good academic studying skills and a strong work ethic was important. Also the professors in my courses challenged us to think critically and to ask questions about what we were reading or hearing. Reading, writing clearly and learning to present ideas and viewpoints in a classroom for discussion was valuable.

Do you have any advice for students interested in law?

In this tight economy for lawyers, students should have a clear plan of how they want to use their legal skills and training. The days of going to law school simply to maximize career options like I did, are long gone.   Law school is not fun, it is long and hard work. It might be satisfying for some, but generally it is a grind and it is very expensive. So make the most of the experience to learn from the faculty and from fellow students (including their mistakes). I suggest that trying to participate in clinical programs and/or special research projects and writing for faculty would be valuable experiences and networking opportunities.

What is your favorite Ohio University memory?

I have numerous favorite OHIO memories from six years in Athens. I had great experiences from several years of volunteering at the Cavern in old Baker Center where we presented live music weekly, including national acts like Leonard Cohen, Alex Bevan and local talent on campus. I worked as a busboy/houseboy at Chi Omega Sorority house for five years and that was a wonderful way to make friends and to eat well for free. I had a motorcycle on campus for several years which gave me the freedom to explore the back-country roads and scenery around Athens County in the Spring and the Fall seasons, which are picture postcard quality experiences. The OHIO Marching Band at half-time was special.  The OHIO Post newspaper was a real asset to read. Finally, I remember working hard to get petitions signed to lower the voting age to 19 because we felt that if we were old enough to go to Vietnam, we were old enough to vote.  That campaign was moot because the voting age was lowered to 18.  The right to vote therefore has always had a special meaning for me.

Anything else you would like to share?

I don‘t know what the magic formula is for OHIO that makes it different from the other state universities in Ohio, but it is and it apparently always has been different and special for those who attend.  I can remember when I was a high school student, I would tell adults who were the age of my parents that I was planning to go to OHIO and frequently they would light up with glowing memories of their days at OHIO. They matched what I found there and what am now recalling for myself. It is a great place to be a young person and a student.

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