Meet This Month's LAWYER OF ATLANTIC COUNTY #LOAC
Modeled after the infamous HUMANS OF NEW YORK (#HONY) Site, the ACBA Young Lawyers Division started LAWYERS OF ATLANTIC COUNTY (#LOAC) to to get to know our members on a more personal level. Each month, the ACBA Young Lawyers Division Executive Board chooses a different attorney to be featured here as the Lawyer of Atlantic County. Attorneys are nominated by their peers; any attorney who is nominated but not chosen to be featured in a given month will automatically be put back into the running for each subsequent month until featured. Interview questions typically focus on the attorney's professional and life experiences.
Alex Barrera, Esq.
Perskie, Mairone, Brog, Barrera, and Baylinson, P.C., Linwood, NJ November 28, 2017
By: Julieta Gomez de Mello, JD, Co-Director of Event Planning
On November 6, 2017, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alex Barrera, Esquire. We were joined by his wife, Alexa, a founder and former Chair of the Young Lawyers Division and current partner at the D’Amato law firm.
Alex was born and raised in Atlantic County and graduated from Rutgers Law School- Camden in 2002 within the top 5% of his class. He worked as a casino games dealer in Atlantic City to support his education. Alex is a member of the New Jersey State Bar Association; Atlantic County Bar Association (“ACBA”); and American Association for Justice. Since 2008, Alex has served as a Trustee of the ACBA and currently serves as its President. He is a past member of the District I Ethics Committee and Chairperson of the ACBA Young Lawyers Division. Alex also serves as a Trustee of FACES 4 Autism, a charity that provides education and support to children with Autism and their families. In 2012, Alex received the Benjamin A. Rimm Award as Atlantic County’s young lawyer of the year in recognition of his professionalism and community involvement.
Alex and Alexa live in Linwood with their three children, Paul (8), Massimo (7) and Rocco (5).
Thank you Alex for taking the time to share your professional and life experiences with the YLD and the followers of the LOAC.
Why did you want to become a lawyer? Or did you always want to become a lawyer?
My father planted the idea in my head at a young age and it became reality from there. On my side of the family, there are no immediate or distant family members who are attorneys. My father was from Ecuador. He came here in his early 20s. He was a very smart man but he never had educational opportunities. He wanted me to have them. He was big on education. And he had a very high opinion of lawyers. He thought the profession would present many opportunities for me and provide flexibility to do anything I wanted to do, not just practice law. To me, my number one goal was to get through college with a professional degree, under which I could get a license of some sort, like a CPA. I majored in accounting. My final year in college, I decided to go to law school rather than study and sit for the CPA exam. I applied to Rutgers Camden. The application was held up for whatever reason and I was not even sure it would work out. That was until my father, unbeknownst to me, literally drove to the law school and went to see the Dean of Admissions. He had no meeting. He was a complete nobody to them – no special connection to anyone connected to that school. He just went there and in his charming but direct way got them to admit me that week. Because of him, I went to Rutgers and from there everything has worked out.
Can you talk a little bit about your career path after law school?
From 2002-2003, I did a clerkship for a year with Judge Himmelberger, a Law Division Judge. I knew I wanted to come back home to practice law in this area. I thought it made the most sense to clerk for a local trial judge. I was his last law clerk. That was a great experience, but more than anything else it opened up opportunities. Right after my clerkship, I took a job with the firm then known as Perskie Nehmad & Perillo. I also went back to school, Temple, to get my LLM in tax, since a large part of my practice is devoted to estate and tax planning. After a few years, I went with my current partners who formed the firm Perskie Mairone Brog & Baylinson. I became a partner a few years ago. The firm is now known as Perskie Mairone Brog Barrera & Baylinson.
Is clerking something you would recommend to young attorneys, and generally speaking what advice would you give to young attorneys or recent law school graduates?
It is case by case for each person. A clerkship does not teach someone how to practice law. Law school doesn’t do that either. More than anything, with lots of things in life it’s all about opening up opportunities. Showing up is 90% of everything, like “at bats”. Eventually you’ll hit a ball. It just takes one opportunity. I did not come from a family of attorneys. My parents were not affluent, they were not entrenched in the community, they were not friends with attorneys, I don’t even think they ever hired an attorney in their lifetimes. For me, the clerkship was a way to branch out, meet members of the bar, judges and the court staff. It was a doorway to the legal community. I did not know where the clerkship would lead me, but I knew I could meet a lot of people through it. During my clerkship, I wound up doing some work for Judge Steven Perskie because my judge had a conflict. Through Judge Perskie I got an interview with his cousin, Phil Perskie. He was not necessarily looking for anyone at the time but heard I might be someone he should look at. I interviewed with Phil and other partners of his firm. I was offered a job during a third meeting with him at the Shore Diner. A few years later, I joined him at a newly formed firm and now I am a name partner. Without the clerkship, without one little conflict that led me to doing some work for Judge Perskie, I no idea where I would have ended up. However, I am confident that other opportunities would have been presented if I just kept showing up and did my job.
For attorneys who are looking to follow that path of becoming a partner at a firm, what advice would you give them? What insights?
A few things. Work hard of course. But working hard is not enough. You need face time. Be in the office. Late nights fall in the category of working hard, but that is not facetime. Be available, and make sure everyone knows you’re available. Also, make sure that people know what you're doing and give yourself credit for doing a good job – don’t just let your bosses know, you’re your clients too. Lots of times, if you don’t take credit for something then nobody will do it for you. And be active, go to events; just show up.
What do you like most about the practice of law?
That each matter I work on may be a little different than others, sometimes very different and with varying challenges. I like the mixed bag.
What do you like to do for fun? What trips do you like to go on?
We always try to get away a few times a year. We love the Caribbean and Disney too. We love hanging out with the kids of course. We have three. All boys, all within three years.
Where do you see yourselves in 10, 20 years? What goals or aspirations do you have? Or bucket list items?
My father passed away last year at age 73. He stopped working at age 62. I think his mind would have stayed sharper and maybe he would have lasted longer had he not retired when he did. In so many other professions or jobs, younger is perceived as “better”. Thankfully, in the legal professions, some of the best attorneys out there are in their 60s and 70s. So I would like to work for as long as I can and for as long as I enjoy it, but with flexibility in my later years to take off a day here or there. I really enjoy what I do. I don’t expect to work six days a week when I'm 75 years old. But I always expect to have an office where I can do some work for a few days a week to keep my brain active.
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Lawyers of Atlantic County
was created in 2015 by the Atlantic County Bar Association Young Lawyers Division