Jim Robenalt was born in Lima, Ohio, in 1956. He was raised in a family of seven children, his father a lawyer and his mother an activist in local politics and education.
Jim majored in political science at Miami University, spent a semester abroad in Miami’s program in Luxembourg, and graduated magna cum laude in 1978. He followed in his father’s footsteps in attending The Ohio State University College of Law and was Order of the Coif when he graduated in 1981.
Jim took a job with Thompson, Hine and Flory (now Thompson Hine LLP) in Cleveland when he graduated from law school and has been with this firm for the last 28 years. He was elcted a partner in 1989 and has served on many of the firm’s committees. He is the past chair of the firm’s Lawyer Personnel Committee and was the firmwide Practice Group Leader for the Business Litigation Group through 2008. Thompson Hine is one of Ohio’s largest law firms with over 400 lawyers, and has offices in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton. Thompson Hine also has offices in Atlanta, New York, Washington and Brussels.
Jim has been a trial lawyer his entire career. He worked on major commercial disputes and construction disputes, including contests over the construction of major buildings in New York, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. In 1997, he began representing Avery Dennison Corporation in connection with a major theft of its intellectual property by a Taiwanese scientist. Jim assisted the Department of Justice and the FBI in helping the company to set up a “sting” operation in which the Taiwanese CEO was filmed in a hotel in Cleveland taking trade secrets from the scientist who had confessed and was cooperating.
The case drew international attention as it was the first prosecution under the Economic Espionage Act of 1996. The prosecution led to the first convictions under the Act and the company received a jury verdict of $81 million in a related civil case. Jim also represented the company in retaliation suits and proceedings brought by the Taiwanese company in Taiwan and China. The FBI made a training video using the case as its example and Jim appears in the video.
Jim won a $68 million arbitration award in 2004 for his client, Solvay Pharmaceuticals, a company based in Atlanta.
In addition to The Harding Affair, Jim is the author of Linking Rings, William W. Durbin, the Magic and Mystery of America, a book published in June 2004 by the Kent State University Press. Linking Rings is the biography of Jim’s great-grandfather, W. W. Durbin. The book recounts Jim’s journey to recover family memories and stories of the American drama, landing him in such disparate places as David Copperfield’s secret home and museum in the desert near Las Vegas and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park, New York.
Jim’s great-grandfather was the head of the Democratic Party in Ohio at various times from William Jennings Bryan’s campaign in 1896 until FDR’s second term.
Mr. Durbin was also an accomplished magician and became the first elected president of the International Brotherhood of Magicians in 1926, a post he held until his death in 1937. Durbin helped Woodrow Wilson obtain the nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Baltimore in 1912, knew Warren Harding as a friend, and was influential in breaking a “stop Roosevelt” movement at the 1932 convention of the Democrats in Chicago. FDR appointed Durbin as the register of the Treasury in gratitude for his efforts.
Jim is active in the Greater Cleveland area. He was the founding chair of the Judicial Candidates Rating Coalition, an assembly of bar associations that rate judicial candidates (Judges are elected in Ohio). Jim also is on the board of the Near West Theater, a community theater in Ohio City and the renowned Cleveland Institute of Music.
Jim currently lives in Shaker Heights, Ohio