Morris B. ChainMorris B. ChainFounder“The Rembrandt of the courtroom.”

Early Life

 

Birth

Morris B. Chain was born in Russia before his family emigrated to Bakersfield, Calif.
1904
Bakersfield Entrance

High School & Junior College

Morris attended Kern County Union High School (now known as Bakersfield High School) and Bakersfield Junior College, where he coined the nickname “Renegades” for the Bakersfield College football team. For this, Bakersfield College honored Morris with the “100 Stars Award” on its 100-year anniversary in 2014.
1920
Bakersfield College Archive NewsletterMorris Chain - YoungBakersfield College Renegades Logo

University Graduation

Morris B. Chain graduates from the University Of Southern California School Of Law. Being a fresh-faced lawyer during the Great Depression Morris had a hard time finding a job, so he created his own. The following was written by columnist Eddie Griffith in The Bakersfield Californian on May 21, 1977: “They wouldn’t hire me for free” during the depression days. “I had to become a lone ranger or starve … I starved anyway,” he said, black eyes snapping in amusement and with a wry half-smile which was a Chain trademark. He would work 18-hour days, investigating his own cases with camera and subpoenas in hand. Car-less, he hitched rides with prosecuting attorneys on cases he was defending. All for his clients. All in the pursuit of justice.
1934
Old Photo of USC

Lawyer Life

 

Opened Legal Practice

Morris opened his practice as a defense attorney in Bakersfield inside the Haberfelde Building in downtown Bakersfield. “Using wit and dramatic movements when speaking Mr. Chain quickly made a name for himself amongst the courtroom while fighting for the ‘the little guys’.” (The Bakersfield Californian, 1977) His law firm eventually developed a personal injury, workers’ compensation, and wrongful death focus, which is the core of the firm’s practice today.
1936
18th and Chester Office - Harberfelde BuildingMorris Chain in OFfice

Sill Building Office

Morris moved into the architecturally-famous Sill Building in downtown Bakersfield. By this time, he would earn a reputation for taking on some of the highest-profile criminal cases in the area.
1938
17th and Chester Office - Sill Building

Superior Court Victories

Morris worked in Kern County Superior Court in his role as criminal defense attorney and won victories in cases where the prosecution evidence assembled against his clients appeared insurmountable. He would also become more involved in local politics.
1940s
Morris Chain - Election for District Attorney

Formation of the Firm

Morris began to form a formidable team around him including secretary Helen Banducci, and lawyers Albert Noriega and Milton Younger. Investigator Leonard Winters also worked directly with Morris for more than three decades. The law firm would become one of the largest and most prestigious law firms in the Central Valley.
1950s
Leaonard Winters, Helen Banducci, Grace Trueblood, Dee Olicer, Al Noriega

Rembrandt of the Courtroom

By this time, Mr. Chain had achieved a state-wide reputation for being flamboyant in the courtroom while being dramatic, witty, entertaining and exciting to watch. But his performance always was firmly anchored to the logic of the law. He would be called “the Rembrandt of the courtroom.” Pictured here is Morris during the infamous Spade Cooley murder trial.
1960s
Morris Chain Courtroom Wins

Chain Legacy

 

Death – May 18, 1977

Morris B. Chain passed away at the age of 72; however, Morris’ traditions carried on to this day. His law firm prided itself on being locally focused, and most of the attorneys and employees who worked under the Chain firm through the years, including today, were born or raised in Bakersfield. Additionally, the law firm and its attorneys have followed Morris’ lead of community service, becoming active in local and statewide politics, labor and the arts. By the 1980s, the firm also began to diversify its ranks, hiring Latino, black and Asian attorneys and staff.
1977
From Left: David Cohn, James Yoro, Timothy Lemucchi, John Tello, Milton Younter, David Stiles, Curtis Floyd, and Heather Nichole

Truxtun & Chester Office

The law firm, known as Chain-Younger by this time, moves its headquarters from Truxtun Avenue and M Street into the Bank of America building on Truxtun and Chester avenues.
1990
Truxtun and Chester Office - Bank of America Building

Chain | Cohn | Stiles

The law firm becomes known as Chain | Cohn | Stiles, with David Cohn leading the law firm as the managing partner. Today, Cohn has been with the firm for more than 40 years. Other current partners include James Yoro, Matt Clark, and Neil Gehlawat. David Stiles, now retired, remains connected to the law firm with the title, “of counsel.”
2009
David Stiles and David CohnDavid Stiles and David Cohn

Current Office

The law firm employs eight attorneys at the new Chain | Cohn | Stiles building on the southwest corner of 18th Street and Chester Avenue in downtown Bakersfield, across the street from the Sill Building where Morris Chain’s offices once stood. The Chain name remained on the firm’s masthead as a symbol to local civic and community effort.
2015
1731 Chester Office

Leading Law Firm

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is Kern County’s leading plaintiffs’ personal injury and workers’ compensation law firm, representing clients from all over the Central Valley and throughout California. The attorneys focus their efforts on protecting the rights of individuals who have been seriously injured due to the negligent, reckless or intentional conduct of another. Like Morris Chain, the firm today is dedicated to standing for the working man and woman.
Today
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