The Man of Many Faces

A chance encounter turned Kevin Duffis into an actor

Published in 2006 Southern California Super Lawyers — February 2006

Kevin Duffis has made a career out of seizing opportunity. In fact, he’s made about four or five careers out of it. Through the course of his life, Duffis has been a nurse, a soldier, an actor, a writer/producer and, most recently, a lawyer at Cotkin, Collins & Ginsburg. Not bad for a kid from the South Bronx.
After serving as a medic in the Vietnam War, Duffis decided to go back to college, and won a full scholarship to the USC Drama department when they saw him in a production of Jesus Christ Superstar.
That chance encounter turned into a 15-year career as an actor, in which he worked on stage, in films and on TV series, including portraying a lawyer on L.A. Law — a rather appropriate role, in retrospect.
After a while, Duffis started his own production company with a partner. After their first film, they were staggered by the more than $100,000 in legal fees.
Duffis and his partner came up with what seemed to them a simple solution to save money: “We said, well, one of us should just go to law school.”
And that’s exactly what he did. While he was in law school, Paramount offered his partner a contract to do general production work, leaving Duffis with no partner, no company, a law degree and the not inconsiderable task of being a single father. While waiting for his partner to finish up at Paramount, Duffis took a job as an attorney, and unexpectedly found himself loving the law and using the skills he had learned in his previous careers to make himself a formidable force in the courtroom.
“Presentation skills can directly translate from acting to being an attorney,” says Duffis. “Of course, there are little things, like don’t stand with your hands in your pockets and don’t pick your nose. But there are other things, too … and it’s the little things that can make or break a case.”
Although Duffis says that his time on L.A. Law had “little to do, if anything” with his latest career, it’s difficult not to make life-imitating-art jokes to the former actor and nurse. Years after he left both professions, the lawyer Kevin Duffis uses the skills gleaned from each career to represent his clients. That’s just Duffis’ way — making the most of every opportunity.

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