Joseph W. Cotchett ’64 understands the value of both education and philanthropy.

One of the nation’s leading trial attorneys and a longtime UC Law SF booster, Cotchett recently donated $1.5 million to support the Building UC Law SF Fund and to name the Joseph W. Cotchett Advocacy Center. To be located in a newly constructed building at 198 McAllister Street, the Center will house the Justice Marvin and Jane Baxter Moot Courtroom, the Shanin Specter Courtroom, and the Center for Negotiation and Dispute Resolution.

“We’ve got to give back to education today, because that’s what this country is all about,” Cotchett said. “UC Law SF is one of the best public law schools on the West Coast and [does so much] for underprivileged students who want to go into the legal profession. The school stands out because it’s willing to look at potential students or lawyers-to-be with a different eye.”

The senior partner at Cotchett, Pitre, & McCarthy, he was also the keynote speaker at UC Law SF’ 2018 Commencement—urging graduates to take a stand and make a difference in the world. “There is one purpose to being a lawyer,” Cotchett said. “It’s to see that the doors of the courthouses are open to everyone on issues of public interest in accordance with the rule of law.”

Cotchett has an exceptional history of standing up for social justice in his 50-plus year legal career, especially representing victims of white-collar fraud and corporate malfeasance.  He has tried more than 100 jury cases, including a celebrated victory on behalf of 23,000 senior citizens harmed by the collapse of Charles Keating’s Lincoln Savings and Loan in 1990 that resulted in a $3.3 billion verdict. He also successfully represented the California Supreme Court and individual judges in a case brought against them by the New York Stock Exchange and the National Association of Securities Dealers. Among his many honors: Cotchett was named to the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame in 2011, has been recognized as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in the nation for the past 17 years, and was lauded by his peers as Super Lawyers’ No. 1 lawyer in Northern California in 2017.

After receiving his B.S. in Engineering from Cal Poly and his JD from UC Law SF, Cotchett served as an officer in the U.S. Army Intelligence Corps; he was also a Special Forces paratrooper and JAG Corps officer before retiring from the active reserves with the rank of colonel in 1991.

Cotchett has a deep commitment to pro bono work and has participated in civic work for numerous local organizations. He sees California, and specifically the Bay Area, as a guiding force for the legal community at large.

“California is leading the nation in laws that protect its citizens from Wall Street, corporate America, oil companies,” Cotchett said. “It’s leading the drive toward social justice.”