Gerry Kowalski

Staying Present, Maintaining Balance

Gerry Kowalski created a distinguished career for himself as a civil trial attorney, all while managing a rich life outside of work. A practicing Buddhist for over 47 years, Kowalski uses the principles of staying present in all things to create balance within his life. He plays chess, studies Russian literature, cooks and travels as much as he can. Though he has no plans to retire in the near future, he would like to create more room for these pursuits, as well as mentorship of young lawyers.

“Eventually, I would like to slow my practice down over the coming years,” says Kowalski. “Being a litigator and a trial lawyer can be a very stressful and, sometimes, time consuming occupation. I’d like to continue to work with younger lawyers in my firm that are interested in being litigators and trial lawyers, by mentoring them.”

When Kowalski thinks about slowing down to focus on his passions outside of law, he has plenty of interests to continue cultivating. “I would like to take up cooking on a more serious level,” he says. “I do a little bit of cooking and baking now  and always have, but I would really like to attack that more seriously. I am also an amateur birdwatcher, so I’d love to do more of that as well.”

Kowalski has a couple of articles he’s been working on over the years that he’d like to have the time to finish, including an exploration of the friendship between Scopes Monkey Trial attorney Clarence Darrow and former Toledo mayor Brand Whitlock. He shares his goals and well-earned wisdom in the Q&A below.

I have always wanted to: Go to Poland. It’s where all of my grandparents were born.

What have been your biggest passions, outside of work, over the years? I’ve been a practicing Buddhist for 47 years. I believe it’s made me a much better human being and a good lawyer. I’m also passionate about my family and about reading. 

What are your favorite ways to stay active? I do 40 minutes of cardio daily. I also think mental exercise is important. For that I play chess.

What do you admire in people?  Optimism and the ability to listen to one another are qualities that are really important.

Your proudest accomplishment: Finishing night law school while working full-time. I received the Dean’s Award, which is given to one student who’s contributed to the environment of the school. My ability to finish school with good grades, all while working, and establishing a legal career is my proudest accomplishment.

What are the words you live by? Never give up. Change the impossible to possible. Winter always turns to spring.

What inspires you most? Hope and optimism, and that the world can and will be a better place.

What’s your favorite food? Number one is I’m a cheese snob. I order cheese from a New York store on a regular basis. But I also love Cheez-Its; I eat them just about every day!

Favorite book: One I recently really enjoyed was John Steinbeck’s East of Eden.

Most interesting place you’ve visited: The province of Xi’an in China and Yosnaya Polyana, the Tolstoy estate south of Moscow. 

A place you’d like to visit, but have never had the chance: Japan.

Who do you most admire? Judge Ted Walinski, who was a mentor to me in so many ways. Also, the present mentor of our Buddhist movement Aisaku Ikeda, who is important because I can rely on him for good advice on how to live and be a good human being.

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