Success Stories

Bankruptcy attorney John Kozyak pairs minority students with law-industry mentors

Published in 2013 Florida Super Lawyers magazine

By Marc Ramirez on May 28, 2013


John Kozyak grew up on the Illinois side of industrial St. Louis during the turbulence of the civil rights movement. Though landmark laws were being passed, it took much more to change hearts and minds.

“An African-American person couldn’t think of moving into my hometown without fear of, at minimum, a lot of racial slurs and non-acceptance,” remembers Kozyak, a founding partner at Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton, a Miami bankruptcy and complex commercial litigation firm. “I just never understood it.”

That’s a big reason why, years later, he founded the Kozyak Minority Mentoring Foundation for students at Florida law schools.

The foundation has matched more than 1,000 African-American students with judges and lawyers. Last November, the foundation hosted its ninth annual picnic for more than 3,500 students, mentors and guests.

For his efforts, Kozyak’s honors have included the ABA’s Spirit of Excellence Award, Florida Bar’s Henry Latimer Diversity Award, the ABA litigation section’s diversity award, the Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Service Award and the G. Kirk Haas Humanitarian Award.

In his busy corporate bankruptcy practice, Kozyak’s area of focus lies in real estate matters. Hospitality-related clients have included Marriott International Inc. and Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. He also served as trustee and criminal-restitution receiver in a huge South Florida Ponzi scheme case involving Financial Federated.

Kozyak’s passion for mentoring began about 15 years ago. Those efforts solidified as the need for a more diversified pool of legal job applicants became clear. He came up with the idea of bringing minority students and mentors together. Kozyak says the program “isn’t a substitute for learning their own skills and doing their own hustling.” Mentors offer career guidance, resume advice and introductions.

“I have very close relationships with students I mentored 10 years ago,” he says.

“I grew up in a very segregated, hate-filled environment. It was really a social cause I couldn’t do anything about as a kid.

“Now I can.”

Search attorney feature articles

Featured lawyers

John W. Kozyak

John W. Kozyak

Top rated Bankruptcy lawyer Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton Miami, FL

Other featured articles

Kostan Lathouris’ promise to represent tribal interests and sovereignty 

Two attorneys reflect on their Warriors and Kings fandoms

Michelle Suskauer relies on persistence—and niceness—to bring people around

View more articles featuring lawyers

Find top lawyers with confidence

The Super Lawyers patented selection process is peer influenced and research driven, selecting the top 5% of attorneys to the Super Lawyers lists each year. We know lawyers and make it easy to connect with them.

Find a lawyer near you