Amile Wilson 2013-06-12 00:47:47
“The appellate landscape has become more perilous for those attorneys who do not routinely traverse it.” Appellate Lawyers Covering All Angles The steady, dignified, almost academic voice of Robert Mandel provides a nice complement to the engaging humor and sharp wit of Taylor Young. Yet whatever their differences in style, a common vision of appellate practice in the 21st Century and a shared drive to shape the law give this dynamic legal team a powerful chemistry and an impressive following in Arizona. Identifying an unmet need Before launching Mandel Young, the two Phoenix attorneys had known of each other largely by reputation. Indeed, their initial contact came through a LinkedIn discussion group focused on appellate advocacy. “We kept commenting about similar issues and recognized that we shared many of the same views about appellate practice,” Young explains. “Since there are relatively few lawyers in Arizona who focus on appellate practice, Rob reached out and suggested we meet in person.” At that time, Young had just left a large local firm where he chaired its appellate department, while Mandel was contemplating whether nearly two decades of “BigLaw” had been enough. “I enjoyed the challenging work and the opportunity to handle high-stakes cases. But I was becoming increasingly convinced that high quality appellate services could be delivered much more cost-effectively in a small firm setting,” Mandel explains. The pair identified an unmet need in this legal market. “Although large law firms have fully staffed appellate departments, that’s really not an option for small or mid-sized firms that see only one or two appeals every few years,” says Young. “When those matters come up, they have nowhere to turn.” The two concluded that a boutique appellate practice that is nimble enough to assist on family law appeals and robust enough to handle complex commercial matters would fill this need. “Trial lawyers and in-house legal departments want the ability to rapidly, flexibly and affordably draw upon high quality services of an appellate lawyer,” Young explains. “A few of them just haven’t yet realized that’s what they want.” In fact, Mandel and Young each knew that to fulfill their own vision, they would need to change some “hearts and minds” in this legal community, as Mandel put it. “Lawyers in Florida, Texas and California routinely turn to appellate boutiques for assistance before, during, and after trial, but the litigation bar in Arizona has been slower to embrace the idea of a stand-alone appellate practice,” Young says. “Yet we see this changing in Arizona,” Mandel explains, “in part because the appellate landscape has become more perilous for those attorneys who do not routinely traverse it, and in part because consumers of legal services are becoming more sophisticated. More and more often we receive calls from former colleagues, even former adversaries, seeking to engage us during the trial and post-judgment motion stages of the case when it looks like the case might go up on appeal.” Drawing on experience While both attorneys have impeccable credentials and the personal endorsements of veteran appellate and trial lawyers throughout the Valley, the two arrived at their chosen field by very different paths. Mandel, a Wisconsin native, began his career in New York City after graduating cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School in 1993. “Candidly, I expected to practice law in my hometown of Milwaukee or perhaps Chicago,” Mandel shares. “After an exciting summer clerkship at a large New York law firm, though, I was hooked on Manhattan.” After passing the New York bar exam, Mandel found himself immersed in high-profile commercial cases and developed a reputation for his analytical ability and writing skills. But, after a decade of practicing law in New York City, Mandel packed his bags and moved to Arizona. His in-laws decided to retire to the state and with a baby on the way, Mandel and his wife, Alyssa, wanted to stay close to her family. His Arizona practice began and continued for nearly ten years with a very large international law firm, a fact Young continues to rib him about. “We’re a small firm,” Young says. “When it comes to work around the office, I have to keep reminding Rob we don’t have ‘people for that; you’re the people now!’” Mandel insists he doesn’t mind. “While I enjoyed leading my prior firm’s local appellate team, this new venture has been absolutely exhilarating and a welcome change of pace.” Young has an undergraduate degree in fine arts and, before law school, worked for several years as an audio engineer in the downtown arena. His journey into appellate law began straight out of law school when he clerked for the then chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, Thomas A. Zlaket. Young was immediately captivated by appellate review, the premium the appellate courts place on good writing and thorough legal research, and the high stakes involved. “Appellate judges are committed to taking the time necessary to ‘get it right’ and expect the same from their law clerks and the lawyers who appear before them.” When he completed his clerkship, Young immediately moved into a position at a firm with a highly-regarded appellate department. “It was wonderful,” Young recalls. “That firm was chock full of former law clerks, including many who had clerked at the U.S. Supreme Court.” Young adds that he was fortunate to have learned how to practice law “from some of the best attorneys in Arizona, several of whom have gone on to have distinguished careers as trial and appellate judges.” Mandel also pays homage to his former colleagues and mentors. “Without the guidance, support and instruction of fine litigators and appellate attorneys who took me under their wings during my formative years as a lawyer in New York and Arizona, I would never have been in a position to launch this unique venture with Taylor,” Mandel explains. “Nor would I have been able to do so without the support of my wife, who is the strongest person I have ever known.” Sharing a vision of excellence and service The team believes that their experience in appellate and trial courts gives them an edge in representing their clients. “I fully appreciate what a demanding job it is to be a trial lawyer,” Mandel says, “perhaps because I was one for a long time.” Young adds, “We understand what trial lawyers are up against and try to tailor our services to meet their precise needs at precisely the right time.” At the trial level, that may mean reshaping a complaint or answer, preparing a dispositive motion, crafting jury instructions, preserving error during trial, or formulating post-judgment motions. On appeal, the firm does everything from case evaluation to preparing the appellate briefs to presenting oral argument. “In the end, as appellate lawyers, we are serving other lawyers and their clients,” Young says. “Some lawyers remain involved in the case and some step back. Most lawyers understand that appellate courts just work differently than trial courts. They bring us cases because we are experienced navigating these unfamiliar waters.” As a team, their skills overlap and intertwine, each one making the other that much better. “Appellate work puts a premium on writing; it’s the currency of the practice,” Young says. “Rob Mandel is recognized as an excellent legal writer. And I’m no slouch, either. Put us together and we’re even better. We strengthen each other.” As with other aspects of their practice, the pair’s diverse legal experiences complement each other. “I bring two decades of business litigation, appeals and dispute resolution experience to the table,” Mandel explains. “Taylor has commercial litigation experience as well, but he also has appellate and other experience in niche areas like election law, family law, and medical malpractice.” The upshot is that their firm is prepared to handle appellate and complex litigation matters in a wide array of legal disciplines. As states go, Arizona is relatively young, meaning that much of the decisional law taken for granted in older states simply doesn’t exist here or has yet to be fully developed. These lawyers relish the opportunity to participate in shaping of Arizona law. The firm is only nine months old and already has filed two cases in the Arizona Supreme Court, has several more before the Arizona Court of Appeals, and several still in the state and federal trial courts. They are also assisting firms in cases before the Ninth Circuit. The firm also takes on pro bono matters. “When performing pro bono work, we look for cases that not only benefit our client, but affect the law for the entire state and beyond,” Young says. “We ask the question, ‘can we change the law in this state for the better; for people who can’t afford lobbyists?’” Looking to the Future Family is important to both Mandel and Young. Mandel is married to a prominent psychotherapist, has a daughter approaching ten years in age, and is deeply involved in the community: “You can’t be as good a lawyer as you should be if you haven’t wrapped yourself in a rich tapestry of family, religious, cultural and philanthropic endeavors,” Mandel says. Young devotes much of his “spare” time to his four children, who range from age 9 to 17. He has a passion for teaching. He has taught at two local universities and, each summer, leads a two-day interactive legislative simulation for executive MBA students. Occasionally, Young can be found in local restaurants or bars enjoying music performed by his fiancée or his brother—both of whom are local musicians. Mandel and Young have plans to expand the law firm to fill a gap in appellate services in the geographical region between California and Texas. Their ultimate goal is to be recognized as the foremost boutique appellate and complex litigation practice in the Southwest. True to form, the interview with Young and Mandel ended with the two good naturedly jockeying over which one is the senior partner in the firm. “If you refer to me as the handsome one, you can call Rob the senior partner,” Young says. “Even though it was my firm that he joined.”
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