On finishing law school in Ann Arbor in the early ’70s, John Pinney was invited to be a law clerk for a federal judge in Detroit. Philip Pratt was his name. He had a habit of asking his clerks to review each case. He’d have them write memoranda and offer recommendations as to how this or that case should be decided.
"He’d have you defend your recommendation,” John says, “and if he disagreed, he’d tell you why. He wasn’t satisfied until the thing was resolved. What struck me most was that he regarded his clerks as a resource. He gave us that respect.”
On one occasion, John persuaded the judge his initial conclusion was wrong. The experience left an enduring impression. John has since often found himself in the role of mentor himself. Among those who have benefited, say those who work with him, are a current federal district judge and scores of Cincinnati attorneys. Ask anyone at Graydon – John makes himself readily available to help tackle the tough questions that come up all the time in litigation.
“There’s mentoring, where you have an on-going, longer term relationship,” he says, “and there’s helping. As with most people in this firm, my door is generally open. It’s extremely rare if someone asks for a moment that I’ll tell that person to come back later.
“My philosophy is, ‘Sure! What’s up?’ It’s stimulating to hear a problem and propose possible solutions – not that I take over the problem; that’s not what I do. But I do try to offer insight as to how an issue might be resolved. There’s an element of creativity in it that’s fulfilling. It’s like creating a path.”
Since his days as a law clerk in Detroit, John’s own path has taken him around the world. He loves to travel. It’s a good thing. His role for the past decade at Graydon has revolved around international business disputes. He jokes about having more or less answered the question of what he wants to do when he grows up – but he continues to have something to talk about in the way of aspirations:
“I’d like to leave a legacy practice with the Firm – a group of five, six or seven lawyers who have practices similar to what I’m doing here now, to have them continue that work. No one else in Cincinnati does this kind of work.”
In John’s opinion, the key to this kind of work, or any legal work, is the ability to break free of formulas and create one’s own path. It’s what has drawn him to be also active with local community organizations, in roles ranging from board chair to advisor.
“Choosing a theme for a case that’s going to be presented to a jury requires judgment, discernment. Maybe most of all, it requires an ability to pick out a particular piece of the picture you’re presented with and build on it in a way that resonates with your jury, a way that touches their lives, too. That’s what wins cases.”
John is a senior trial lawyer in the Litigation Group and chairs the International Practice Group, focusing on international dispute resolution. He has served as lead trial lawyer in numerous complex commercial, international, banking, securities and trust litigation cases, including class actions. John has practiced in state and federal courts and before arbitration tribunals in approximately 35 states and foreign countries. Over the past 30 years, John has represented clients in a wide variety of business disputes, including successful representations in an International Chamber of Commerce arbitration against a large Korean company, a federal court litigation against a Canadian government-owned corporation, an arbitration in Hong Kong administered by the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre, a securities arbitration customer claim resulting in a multi-million dollar settlement, the defense of a federal court consumer class action and the recovery of a large sum of stolen funds thorough coordinated court actions in the United States, Turkey, Cyprus, Portugal and the Cape Verde Islands. He is also experienced in obtaining evidence abroad under Letters Rogatory and The Hague Evidence Convention as well as obtaining evidence in the U.S. for use in foreign proceedings. John has additionally has enforced and defended against enforcement of foreign country judgments in U.S. courts and U.S. judgments abroad.
John is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, teaching a course on international commercial arbitration. He also coaches the University's team competing in the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot in both Hong Kong and Vienna. John is also a frequent speaker on international litigation and international commercial arbitration, including biennial presentations at an international arbitration symposium in Salzburg, Austria; the Cincinnati Bar Association seminars; and the American Arbitration Association programs. For the past 15 years, John has presented at the annual Congresses of the Union Internationale des Avocats in many countries around the world.
Throughout his career, John has been active with the American, International, Federal, Ohio State and Cincinnati Bar Associations and, more recently, with the Union Internationale des Avocats. He is a member of the ABA's House of Delegates and has recently completed terms as chair of the Ohio State Bar Association's Federal Courts and Practice Committee. He is the Sixth Circuit Representative on the ABA's Standing Committee on The Federal Judiciary, which is the ABA's committee that evaluates all federal court judicial nominees. He currently serves as a board member of the Ohio Access to Justice Foundation and Ohio Legal Help - Ohio's internet legal assistance portal.
John also frequently represents clients on appeals in state and federal courts and is a Life Member of the Sixth Circuit Judicial Conference. As part of his appellate practice experience, he has served as chair of the Rules Advisory Committee for the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which is based in Cincinnati.
Prior to joining Graydon, John served as Law Clerk to the Honorable Philip Pratt, Chief Judge, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Based on the grading and comments of his peers, John has been named one of Ohio’s Super Lawyers several times since 2004, and selected by his peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America for his work in Arbitration, Commercial Litigation, International Arbitration-Commercial, International Arbitration-Governmental, and Mediation law from 2006-2020. Also, John has been named The Best Lawyers in America “Lawyer of the Year” for his work in Arbitration in 2014. He is recognized with an AV Preeminent Rating, the highest rating given to lawyers by Martindale-Hubbell.