Bloomberg Law
July 27, 2023, 9:00 AM

They’ve Got Next: The 40 Under 40 - Nicholas Kennedy of Baker McKenzie

Lisa Helem
Lisa Helem
Executive Editor
MP McQueen

Please describe two of your most substantial, recent wins in practice.

My most rewarding recent win is a $37 million arbitration award. We represented the widow of a founder of a fast-food empire, who was defrauded by her husband’s business partner. They tried to force a buy out for less than $500,000. They then fought us for years, hoping that our client would give up and take their lowball offer. She put her faith in us, and our team delivered a life changing result.

Coming in a close second is my recent win at the US Supreme Court in Yegiazaryan v. Smagin, a case I argued on April 25. The Court ruled in our favor in a 6-3 decision, concluding that our client had adequately plead domestic injury to support his RICO claim.

We look forward to continuing to pursue collection of the $150 million our client is owed by an international fugitive living in Beverly Hills who has hid money in Monaco through a complex web of offshore entities and criminal activity.

What is the most important thing you learned in the first year of your practice?

The best lesson I learned as a first-year attorney is the importance of decisiveness. The practice of law has significant pressure, and many influences to change who you are.

Whether it is client pressure, pressure from opposing counsel, or just overall stress, we are constantly being bombarded with outside influences. To succeed, it was important for me to realize that none of that matters.

One must focus on the task at hand, one day at a time, and have confidence in your ability to get it right. Second guessing, indecisiveness, and procrastination add unnecessary complexity to an already complex job.

I have always tried to stay ahead of the wave by acting quickly, decisively, and avoiding analysis paralysis or procrastination. Even if the task is hard, or the news is bad, there is no escaping it. And it is always preferable to address a problem head on than letting it grow by ignoring it.

How do you define success in your practice?

Success means to me having satisfied clients while being surrounded by colleagues you consider friends. I have said many times that the clients and work are what brought me into this field, as they are complex, unique, and challenging daily basis. No two cases are the same. But it is the people that have kept me here.

I am fortunate to practice with a group of lawyers and business professionals who I consider friends, and where I believe we have a mutual respect on a personal level—not just as people who help us do our job. I believe you cannot have true success without developing those strong bonds and building up those around you.

What are you most proud of as a lawyer?

I am most proud of serving as a mentor and role model to younger lawyers by showing that one can succeed in this field while still being a devoted spouse, parent, and a kind person. I believe it is imperative that we be nice people and show that the golden rule of treating others as you want to be treated applies equally in the practice of law.

When we have to work long and hard, we must do it together. When we have a difficult task, we must support those around us. And we must never lose sight of that which is most important—our family and emotional and physical well-being.

I hope that I have imparted on our young lawyers that it is possible to be a well-rounded person and a good lawyer. That, more than any accomplishments in the courtroom, will help our next generation lead a long and fulfilling career.

Who is your greatest mentor and what have they taught you?

I have been fortunate to have many strong mentors. Mark Taylor, my Baker McKenzie partner, stands out beyond all others. Mark taught me that one can be a good lawyer and a great person. Many litigators seem to believe that conflict is key. Mark taught me that common sense and compassion win.

He has demonstrated that many fights are not worth fighting, and one must always keep the end goal— winning at trial—in sight. He has also taught me that there is much more to life than the law and that one must always put one’s loved ones first.

By watching Mark, I have learned not to tell people I am right, but to show them. Other great leaders and friends who I have learned from—whether they knew it or not—include John Flaim, Michelle Hartmann, Colin Murray, and Pete Tomczak.

I have learned trial skills from watching some of the best in the business. And most importantly, I have learned that there is no “one size fits all” approach to succeeding as a trial lawyer. Throughout my decade at the firm, I have melded together many different styles into a style that is my own.

Nicholas Kennedy of Baker McKenzie and family at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif.
Nicholas Kennedy and Jonathan Hurtarte/Bloomberg Law

Tell us your two favorite songs on your summer music playlist.

The “SpongeBob SquarePants” Theme Song. Coaching my seven-year-old son’s baseball team is very important to me--and a great way to unwind from the pressures of work. Each player has their own “walk up” song they play when they go up to bat.

This is my son’s song, and it never fails to bring a smile to everyone on the field and in the stands. Also, “Space Jam.” My daughter is a wonderful competitive dancer. My favorite of her team’s dances is to Space Jam. There is nothing better than seeing how happy she is when she is on the stage dancing with her friends.

Nicholas Kennedy tries at least one high-stakes case per year with millions or more in dispute. His clients have recovered at trial or arbitration nearly a billion dollars in cases he has handled on offense, according to his firm. Additionally, Kennedy mentors junior attorneys and maintains an active pro bono practice which includes serving as first chair in an arbitration to restore mental health benefits for a developmentally delayed toddler. He is an active member of the diversity, equity and inclusion committee of the Dallas office of his firm.

To contact the reporters on this story: Lisa Helem at; MP McQueen at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Lisa Helem at; MP McQueen at

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