Amile Wilson 2013-07-17 00:10:17
One-on-One Dedicated Service When someone calls Adam Feldman’s office, he answers the phone himself. Providing a personal, custom, hands-on service for the men and women he defends is the real hallmark of his firm and the basis on which he has built his brand. “This law firm is a grassroots law firm,” Feldman says. “It is, by design, a more personal experience than one would ever expect. I’ve learned through the mistakes of others that bigger is not better. You never want to compromise your service just to maintain an overwhelming caseload and staff. You want to be able to know everything that is happening within the firm and be able to handle every aspect of the firm’s daily life.” More important than business plan or workflow, the enthusiastic and successful advocate armed mainly with his cellphone and laptop finds that the smaller, leaner company structure allows him to devote more personal time to his clients and make them feel like their needs are being addressed. Feldman treats his clients the way he would want to be treated. “It is that simple,” Feldman adds. “The number one complaint defense clients have with most firms is that the attorneys have so many cases that they don’t get time to thoroughly investigate the facts and work up the case,” Feldman explains. “I left a large firm to go out on my own so that I would be in more direct control of my cases. By maintaining a lower number of cases, I have a greater ability to investigate cases and interact with my clients. This is what defense is truly about.” A native of Chicago and graduate of the University of Miami School of Law, Feldman’s personality and passion led him to defense work. “I love being the underdog,” Feldman says. “I’m a friendly, nice, quiet guy, but I am a pit bull in court!” The passion was there, but the professional training came through a 2003 internship with Hirschhorn & Bieber, P.A., the premier criminal defense firm in Miami. During the 1980s, Joel Hirschhorn became a nationally recognized powerhouse defense counsel representing the Columbian drug cartels and other RICO cases. “The cases were fun; the stories were amazing,” Feldman says. “Hirschhorn’s passion was clear and his enduring excitement over the years was what spurred my interest.” Aside from hearing a few great stories during his internship, Feldman got to see firsthand the work of some of the best felony defense lawyers in the country. Leaving the Hirschhorn & Bieber internship, excited about the criminal defense world, Feldman shaped his class schedule with his goals in mind. “I tailored my classes and electives just for this,” Feldman says. After graduation and at the encouragement of Brian Bieber, Feldman took a job as a prosecutor for Maricopa County. “There is no better way to learn to be a defense attorney than to be a prosecutor,” Feldman says. Family is important to Adam Feldman so even though he was from Chicago and educated in Michigan and Miami, he decided to start his career in Arizona, where his family had settled. “In law school, you learn a tremendous amount about the law, but nothing about practicing law,” Feldman explains. “Law school is meant to format your brain to think like a lawyer. As a prosecutor you’re given a lot of practical training.” As young attorneys become more experienced, prosecutor offices move them up to higher and higher level cases, eventually prosecuting major felonies. This gives the newer attorneys the opportunity to hone their craft and make mistakes on lower-stakes cases before tackling higher-stakes ones. “As a prosecuting attorney, a not-guilty on a marijuana prosecution is not a catastrophe,” Feldman explains, “On the other hand, as a defense attorney, a guilty on a marijuana case is a horrible loss for the client. That is the beauty of getting your training as a prosecutor. You work the kinks out and truly hone your craft before you expect people to pay for your services.” As a prosecutor, Feldman developed a reputation for reasonableness and quickly began handling larger cases with greater responsibility. After cutting his teeth as a prosecutor, Feldman followed his heart and joined the private sector with a large criminal defense law firm. After building a successful record actively defending clients, Feldman’s litigation skills earned him promotion after promotion leading up to his appointment as the firm’s lead attorney for the criminal defense division. After years of handling the high caseloads, Feldman left the world of large firms for what he calls a “more personal and better representation of those who have been accused of a criminal offense.” “Everyone deserves a defense,” Feldman explains. “I don’t present the facts, and I don’t make the ultimate decision. The facts, at least most of them, are presented by the state. The decision rests in the hands of our jurors to decide the verdict. It is my job to keep the state honest. It is my job to make sure that even those people charged with the worst possible offenses get the best possible representation. Let’s face it, if the prosecutors and the police did perfect jobs, I wouldn’t have much to do. With that said, I manage to stay very busy.” “The state and I work together to make sure anyone accused of a crime gets fair access to the system,” Feldman explains. “We have the best legal system in the world. The defense and prosecution aren’t enemies, we are colleagues working together to obtain justice.” Much of the additional time Feldman devotes to his cases is wrapped up in investigating and analyzing the facts, often searching long and hard to uncover facts no one else noticed. Some of the cases Feldman has worked on have required a lot of investigative work and more than a little creativity. “I’ve represented a large number of migrant workers, who don’t speak English,” Feldman explains. “This creates its own interesting issues. I have to represent them in their case. I also have to represent them in a way to fix their public image in Arizona.” Some of Feldman’s cases are misdemeanors and less serious felonies, but his reputation is for large, high-level felony cases. “I like all of my cases. They are all puzzles that need to be figured out,” Feldman says. “However, I love the big cases. Whether I am dealing with murder cases, sex crimes or sales of hundreds of pounds of drugs, these cases really get me excited about the representation.” One of the most high-profile cases Feldman has helped fight was the Elizabeth Johnson/Baby Gabriel case. “As horrible as that case was portrayed in the media, I knew the state didn’t have the evidence to support all of their charges,” he says. “I wasn’t there to defend her on a personal level against the media; that is hardly ever my job. My job was to defend her against the state’s charges.” Feldman had to withdraw from the case prior to trial, but believes the attorney who took his place got the right verdict. “I know the public was not content with the verdict,” Feldman comments. “However, the attorneys that worked on her case knew that the jury got it right.” Partially keeping the state accountable and partially working as an investigator, Feldman is rarely in the office. Instead he is constantly out in the field looking to find the missing pieces that he can later take to a jury. “My job is to figure out what pieces are missing,” Feldman explains. ”Each case is so different and sometimes you have to find a very a creative way of presenting evidence. I’ve had judges look at me as they read the not guilty verdict like they couldn’t believe the case was winnable. That’s a great feeling.” While many defense firms try to plea bargain as much as possible, Feldman prefers to take his cases to the jury. “I like to swing for the fences,” Feldman says. “When someone maintains their innocence, I talk them through all the risks of going to trial, all the pros and cons. Once the client understands the process, many of them want to fight and I am more than happy to oblige.” Often Feldman has to spend a significant amount of energy in trial relaying to the jury that the deliberation should not be a judgment based upon popularity. “I have to be willing to admit to a jury that the person whose life they’re voting on may not be a likable guy,” Feldman says, “but that’s no reason to convict him of a crime he didn’t commit.” “A good defense attorney has to be willing to think outside the box,” Feldman adds. Even though defense attorneys are the “beaten dogs” of the justice system, the energy and excitement of the work continues to captivate Feldman. “These are real-life stories that exceed some of the best novels out there,” he says. “These are murders, kidnappings, the kinds of things you read about in books or watch on TV. But, it’s real.” Feldman’s enthusiasm comes from a genuine love of the work and of the entire judicial process. “I feel like there are a lot of lawyers who don’t enjoy their jobs,” Feldman says. “They love the money, but all they can do is talk about retirement. My perception is that these individuals do not do criminal defense. I love my job; most criminal defense attorneys do.” Considering how much he loves his work, one might expect that Adam Feldman was one of those children that dreamed of growing up to become a lawyer. Instead, Feldman’s initial plan was to become a doctor. “I was pre-med/pre-dentistry until junior year of college,” Feldman says. “My father was a lawyer, but never pushed it on me. My two older brothers went into medicine and eventually I realized I was just following them, medicine really wasn’t for me. When I told my dad that, he encouraged me to look at law. A law degree opens up doors in business and other fields aside from just practicing law.” In the end, Feldman’s undergraduate degree is in psychology – a subject he uses on a regular basis analyzing defendants and juries. While he loves his work, the most important thing to Adam Feldman is his family. “I have a great relationship with my wife and children, and they will always be my number one priority,” he explains. “I love to work, but I do not live to work. I live and work for my family.” Adam met his wife, Stacey while the two were in law school together. She practices criminal law as well. The two have two children and truly feel blessed with the life they have created. Feldman’s favorite hobby is jiujitsu training at Team jiujitsu, a skill that fits his quiet competitive nature that has made him so skilled an attorney. “Jiujitsu is great on many different levels. It quiets the mind, implements the idea of maintaining strategy, and focuses on technique,” Feldman comments. Feldman also analogizes his practice of law to his training when he comments, “I’m not a loudmouth or a brawler in any aspect of my life. Like Jiujitsu, it is best to practice law as a quiet, strategic and technical practitioner.” When reflecting on lessons he has learned as a practicing attorney, Feldman comments, “I always tell young lawyers to have patience and to learn from their colleagues. Other attorneys are not competition, they are colleagues. Learn from them and use their lessons and shared knowledge as an invaluable resource.” The nice guy, who is a bulldog in the defense of his clients, who gives out his cell number and encourages younger lawyers to tap the elder jurists as resources, might end up having to hire help answering that phone after all.
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