All Shook Up

Dan D. Kohane's snow globe collection keeps him working in a winter wonderland

Published in 2007 Upstate New York Super Lawyers — September 2007

Dan D. Kohane bought his first snow globe on an appropriately blustery Parisian street. Before heading on a European business trip in 1989, he had asked his girlfriend if she wanted a gift from the City of Lights. Her request: "Bring me back a fur." Kohane declined, but promised he would bring her the Eiffel Tower instead. Later, on that snowy avenue, Kohane was walking past the monument when he spotted some plastic Eiffel Tower snow globes in a shop window. It seemed like a funny, romantic gift, so he bought one for himself and one for his girlfriend.

Today, the senior member at Hurwitz & Fine in Buffalo owns about 400 snow globes amassed over some 18 years. Many are of the kitschy, gift store variety. "It was always a joke collection," he says. "You can't take life too seriously. For a while I didn't have anything worth more than $5." There's an Elvis globe with swirling records instead of snowflakes and a globe from Hawaii where the challenge is to land rings on a dolphin's nose. Until six months ago, these miniature worlds lived on shelves in his office and served as great conversation starters.

But Kohane, whose practice focuses on counseling and litigation for insurance coverage issues, decided he needed a little more breathing room, so he carted home all but 20 snow globes. Despite the change, there are still plenty of objects in his office to satisfy curiosity seekers. About 40 antique glass paperweights attest to Kohane's keen interest in history. Many feature scenes from Western New York, while others encase actual objects, such as seashells. His office also features half a dozen antique piggy banks, which were once given out by Buffalo banks.

Kohane also collects career accomplishments. In July, he finished up a term as president of the Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel-a 1,300-member organization of merit-selected attorneys. "It's a great honor," he says. "I have developed relationships with people all over the world."

Working at Hurwitz & Fine almost since its inception, Kohane started as a clerk while he was still attending Buffalo Law School. He took on a full-time position after graduation and discovered insurance law when his firm defended the County of Niagara during the famous Love Canal lawsuits.

It was a case with big stakes: A chemical company dumped thousands of tons of chemicals into an abandoned canal in Niagara Falls and later sold the property to the local school board. Eventually, waste began leaking into homes built in the area, and the disaster ultimately led to the creation of the Superfund program.

It's a perfect example of why his insurance-related work is so important. "An insurance policy is like a pot of gold," Kohane says. "It's important to understand what's in that pot and how it works." He shares his hard-won knowledge teaching insurance law at his alma mater and working for important causes. Through an organization called Housing Opportunities Made Equal, he represents the victims of housing discrimination. In one case, he won a settlement for an African-American woman who received anonymous death threats after moving into a largely white neighborhood. Another involved a rental agency that instructed staff to flag applicants whose speech or names sounded African-American.

Perhaps his secret to having such a successful career lies with those snow globes: He's not afraid to shake things up.

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