Meet This Month's LAWYER OF ATLANTIC COUNTY #LOAC
Modeled after the infamous HUMANS OF NEW YORK (#HONY) Site, the ACBA Young Lawyers Division has started LAWYERS OF ATLANTIC COUNTY (#LOAC) to foster a deeper, more personal connection among members of the Atlantic County Bar. Each month, ACBA Young Lawyers Division chooses a different attorney to be featured here as that month's Lawyer of Atlantic County. Attorneys are nominated by members of the ACBA and YLD.; any attorney who is nominated by not chosen for a given month will automatically be put back into the running for each subsequent month until chosen. Interview questions focus on the attorney's professional and life experiences.
Michael J. Pender, Esq.
Atlantic County Bar Association, Member Jan. 18, 2015
By: Bridget Sykes, Esq., Director of Fundraising
I am lucky to have been a law clerk at Mike's law office during my second and third years of law school and have witnessed his passion, work ethic, and humility first hand. In true busy lawyer fashion we had to conduct our interview electronically but each of those qualities still shined through. Thank you to Mike for sharing your thoughts and experiences.
I know you did not come from a family of lawyers and your parents are Irish immigrants. When did you decide, how did you decide, and why did you decide to become a lawyer?
I decided near the end of college, after eliminating other possibilities. I worked for DYFS for two years before going to law school. I liked the power lawyers had to help people through tough times. I also liked that it is a life-long profession that allows broad job possibilities. The ability to feed a family is also a plus.
You grew up in North Jersey pretty far away from Cape May where you live and Atlantic City where your main office is located. How did you end up practicing in Atlantic County?
I went to Rutgers Camden law school, clerked in Cumberland County and got a job offer in Atlantic City. At the same time, my wife (girlfriend then) clerked in Cape May County and got a job as a Prosecutor. We were living in West Cape May and didn't want to leave. !
Mike is originally from North Jersey, but after practicing by the beach for a year,
he (and his wife) never wanted to leave Atlantic/Cape May County!
The allure of the beach is hard to beat. About that first job, you are one of many great lawyers in Atlantic County that got their start at the infamous Jacobs & Barbone. What did you learn from your time there?
I learned that you had to produce high quality work, every time, or face the dreaded consequences in-house. That reality made the battles outside easy by comparison. Having a thick skin helped as well.
After Jacobs & Barbone you went to work for Donald Targan, also quite infamous in Atlantic County having been in practice here since before there were even casinos. You stayed with Don the rest of your career eventually becoming partner. How did you end up there and why did you decide to stay?
My friend Leo Dubler worked with Don and got me the job. I call Don my Schindler. I have stayed because the people I work with every day are terrific. No kidding.
I agree with that. Your work environment can definitely turn a passion into a nightmare. Okay, moving on to your practice. Your career has been principally in plaintiffs’ personal injury and medical malpractice litigation. What drew you to that practice area? And what is the hardest part of doing that type of work?
I like trial law. I like the chance to work on behalf of an individual and the freedom to take or reject cases. I also like no time sheets. The hardest part is that the work consumes a lot of time.
"[W]ork hard for every client. The results will come." - Michael J. Pender, Esq.
What do you consider your greatest professional accomplishment?
Not sure. Maybe showing up every day and trying to do it better.
That is very humble of you to say. From working with you I know you truly care about your clients. Is there any particular client that is most memorable or had a big impact on how you approach your job as a lawyer?
Hard to pick one client as most memorable. As a young lawyer, I represented a third time DWI client and lost the trial. He was nonetheless appreciative and sent clients to me, including a wrongful death case that I settled for a significant amount. It paid off my student loans! The lesson was to work hard for every client. The results will come.
(Laughing) The dream for all of us young attorneys is to pay off our student loans. I also know you tell great stories and as a trial lawyer you have a lot of good ones. What is your favorite memory from a trial?
Maybe the case we had against Milton Berle when we actually considered calling RuPaul to the stand because RuPaul wrote in a biography that his family jewels were squeezed by Uncle Miltie. The same thing was alleged by our client. The jury found that Uncle Miltie did it, but awarded zero damages. Odd ball case.
In a case against comedian and actor Milton "Uncle Miltie" Berle, Mike
once considered calling famous drag queen RuPaul to the stand to testify!
Editor’s note: The case at issue involved a claim by a bellhop at the Taj Mahal (represented by Mike) that he was assaulted by Milton Berle, who was in his eighties at the time and in Atlantic City for an appearance. Click HERE for a news coverage of the trial. - B.S.
I can just imagine the Judge and jurors' reactions to RuPaul being called up to testify! Now, your offices are at 1 South New York Avenue in Atlantic City. That building has a pretty significant history in Atlantic City doesn’t it?
The building had the Chancery court on the 8th floor and every lawyer in the county had an office in here, Hap Farley, Pat McGann, etc. We are the last of the Mohicans.
What do you like about practicing in Atlantic City and Atlantic County?
The diversity of the people we represent. People from every part of the world live here and visit here.
That I can attest to. You definitely see an interesting array of personal injury cases from people visiting the casinos. What advice do you have for young lawyers just starting their careers?
No substitute for putting in hours as a lawyer, especially early in your career. Know the law. You will impress the judge and win against an experienced lawyer who does not do the research.
Mike's advice to young lawyers: "Know the law."
I worked with you for about a year and a half and you are what I would call a true mentor. You let me be a part of everything from client meetings to sitting with you at trials. I tell everyone I learned more about being a good lawyer from working with you than I ever learned in law school. It has made me want to provide that experience for other young lawyers as I progress in my career. Did you have a mentor in your career?
Don Targan and Arlene Goldstein.
What are your passions outside of lawyering?
Sleep, baseball and basketball with my son, biking, traveling and being home with my family; Mets and Rutgers football - the last two are more of an illness.
Q: Last question. If you weren’t a lawyer what would you be?
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Lawyers of Atlantic County
was created in 2015 by Fahran Zahid