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Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. is taking a big bite out of the Big Apple � merging his 30-lawyer firm with New York’s Schneider Kleinick Weitz Damashek & Shoot, creating the largest plaintiff’s negligence firm in the nation. Collectively, the lawyers at the two firms reported securing verdicts and settlements in excess of $28 billion. The most recent merger is only a first step in Cochran’s plan to build a national powerhouse, said partner J. Keith Givens. The new firm, he said, is actively pursuing plans to add offices in at least eight other cities. “Johnnie’s vision is driving the growth into a true national firm,” said Givens. Cashing in on Cochran’s broad name recognition, the New York firm will be known, at least colloquially, as the Cochran Firm, Givens said. And what about the side career on Court TV that Cochran’s been pursuing since the O.J. Simpson trial? That engagement ended Thursday night, but Cochran plans to continue doing special projects for the law cable channel.

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