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.
Joseph E. Sayegh, Esq.
By: Kasi M. Gifford, Esq., Co-Director of Events
On September 16, 2016, I had the pleasure of interviewing someone who has been a mentor to me thus far in my career, Joseph E. Sayegh, Esquire. Joe is a partner at GMS Law (formerly known as Goldenberg, Mackler, Sayegh, Mintz, Pfeffer, Bonchi & Gill, Attorneys at Law), an Atlantic City-based law firm which practices personal injury, workers’ compensation, matrimonial and family law, commercial law, criminal and municipal law, employment law, estates, wills and trusts, and mediation and arbitration. Joe was born and raised in Margate, New Jersey and has spent his entire career at GMS Law.
The Young Lawyer's Division wants to thank Joe for taking time out of his busy day to speak with us. It was a pleasure, and we hope that all of the young lawyers in Atlantic County listen to Joe's advice and take part in the YLD’s mentor/mentee program.
What made you go to law school?
I guess the more honest answer would be that I didn’t want to disappoint my parents, they wanted to make sure I could support myself financially. The funnier answer is that everyone always told me that I had a big mouth and that I should be a lawyer.
Tell me about your legal career
I have really only had four jobs in my life: I sold newspapers on the boardwalk, I worked in landscaping, and I had a job at a boardwalk store. The only law firm that I have been with since I graduated law school is GMS Law, and I have also been the prosecutor in Margate since 1983.
When I started with GMS Law, I used to do everything. I would do a workers’ compensation case in the morning, then handle a real estate closing, and then go a matrimonial hearing in the afternoon.
Back then, the firm consisted of Harry Goldenberg, Ken Mackler, and Jack Feinberg. Jack Feinberg left, and Goldenberg Mackler became the firm name.
Do you recall any challenges you faced as a young attorney?
It takes a while to understand the business end of law. It is difficult to adjust from a law student with an academic mindset where you are just working to figure out the answer to a lawyer who has to think practically. As an attorney, you have to think practically and get the right answer in a way that makes economic sense. You have to learn how to marry the academic side of things with the business of law. This is something you can only learn with time.
As an attorney, you have to think practically and get the right answer in a way that makes economic sense. You have to learn how to marry the academic side of things with the business of law.
What advice would you give to a young attorney who would like to join a small firm, or start a solo firm?
Make sure you have a mentor. The best lawyers have the best mentors. It is always valuable to get another opinion. The best thing is to have someone in your firm that can become a mentor because they are right there, a lot of the time working on the same cases, and they are always available to answer questions.
Starting out as a young attorney in a solo practice can be difficult because you do not have anyone to ask or to learn from. You need to have a mentor. You should do anything you need to get a mentor, especially joining organizations like the YLD who provide mentor programs. This is essential because if you are dealing with a mentor who is not a part of your firm, their time is going to be limited.
Who were the biggest mentors in your personal life?
My parents and my wife and my son- kids teach you a lot.
Who were the biggest mentors in your professional life?
The two biggest mentors in my professional life were Harry Goldenberg and Ken Mackler. Secondary to those two who I was with on a daily basis, I would have to say Paul D’Amato and Ed Jacobs because I have worked on a lot of cases with them over my career and they really taught me a lot.
Would you recommend that young lawyers join professional organizations?
Yes! Always join, especially the YLD- any conversation you can have with a more senior attorney is an opportunity to learn something. Take CLE courses: your learning never stops.
The best lawyers have the best mentors.
What is your favorite part about the practice of law?
Two things: One, the friendships with the people in my office that I work with on a daily basis; Two, we are really just glorified problem solvers. No one that comes to us ever comes to us just to tell us they are fine. They always have a problem that they need our help to solve. I love helping people and just talking to people in general.
What do you like about being the prosecutor as opposed to your civil practice at GMS?
When I am prosecuting, I still get to help people resolve their problems. My job is not only to convict. My job is mostly to get someone who was not formerly compliant to be compliant with the law. Sometimes that includes punishment, sometimes it means just getting things squared away and in order, i.e., someone had an expired license and needed to get a new one. I always want to get a good and fair result- my job is to help make it right and to try and avoid having that person make the same mistake again.
We are really just glorified problem solvers. No one that come to us ever comes to us just to tell us they are fine.
What is the most challenging part of the practice of law?
Managing expectations & time management
How do you deal with those challenges?
When I meet a new client, I clearly set out expectations from day one. I try to use good judgment and try to be practical in my approach to any case. I try to think of how to get the result I want in the quickest way with the least amount of stress.
How do you spend your free time?
I exercise, I play bass guitar in a couple bands, I go to the gym, and I spend time with my family.
You have one son, right?
Yes, he’s 27 and lives in Miami, so we try to get there as much as possible.
That’s a good excuse to go to Miami.
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Lawyers of Atlantic County
was created in 2015 by the Atlantic County Bar Association Young Lawyers Division