Kids and Money

Capital Opportunities

The Expert Witness Role

Corrections or additions?

These articles by Barbara Fox, Melinda Sherwood, and Monika Guendner were published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on April 14,

1999. All rights reserved

The Woman Behind Jacoby & Meyers

You’ve seen the television ads for Jacoby & Meyers.

Perhaps you believe these lawyers pioneered in bringing law services

to the masses. Perhaps you think they are ambulance chasers.

Whatever image this law firm has for you, at least you recognize that

it has one. It achieved brand recognition in a profession that, for

years, labeled the mildest form of marketing as vulgar commercialism.

In the 1950s, when a law firm was mentioned in Life magazine, that

firm was reprimanded. Attorneys were not even allowed to send Christmas

cards to their clients. "Now even large firms are bidding on jobs

and have huge marketing departments," says Gail Koff, managing

partner of Jacoby & Meyers, "and everybody is trying to have a

brand name."

Koff believes she helped change the face of law firms in America.

She will speak on "The Trials and Tribulations of Building a Brand

Name" at the Venture Association of New Jersey on Tuesday, April

20, at 11:30 a.m. at the Westin in Morristown. Cost: $55. Call 973-631-5680.

"We have a fabulous legal system, and the way it protects the

rights of the individual is terrific," says Koff, "but I know

it was not working to make lawyers accessible to the average person

25 years ago, and the system needed to be changed. My vision —

and what I have been caring about — is trying to make law visible

and understandable."

Koff sets out her vision: "We were the first firm to say legal

services need to be delivered efficiently, that people need to have

an estimate in writing, that law firms should charge set fees wherever

possible, and that clients should have rights."

Koff went to the University of California at Berkeley,

Class of ’67, and to George Washington law school in District of Columbia,

where she worked in the legal services program and discovered that

only the rich and the poor had really good access to legal services.

"I could see that the middle class was getting squeezed,"

says Koff. In 1977 she left the prestigious firm Skadden Arps to join

the consumer-friendly four-year-old Jacoby & Meyers in California.

With Leonard Jacoby and Stephen Meyers she — as a co-founding

partner — moved the firm to New York.

Three years ago, after she and Meyers had bought Jacoby out, Meyers

was killed in a car accident. Now Koff is alone at the top and is

the managing partner with 23 offices nationwide (three in New Jersey)

and a total of 50 attorneys, seven doing personal injury and 20 general

practitioners.

"We were first in the media, the first to go on television, the

first to talk about accessibility," says Koff. She had realized

that in order to more efficiently deliver legal services the firm

should focus on cases that can be dealt with in a step by step way.

Another first, she says, was making law understandable, "talking

in plain English."

Among her credits was a legal challenge to the State of New Jersey’s

rule that no law firm could operate in the state unless a "named

partner" (i.e. Jacoby or Meyers) had passed the New Jersey bar.

This law predisposed law firms to have long lists of partners in the

title, and, as Koff notes, "there were firms with dead partners."

This daughter of a Manhattan advertising executive did not insist

on having "Koff" added to the company moniker, preferring

to retain the catchy double name. "We didn’t want to sound like

a disease," she says, referring to traditional law firm names.

"We were all very focused on the brand concept from the beginning

and having my name there detracted from establishing the brand."

"To brand something," says Koff, "you have to have a vision."

Add to that a good name, a "certain look," and an idea that

appeals to the public. "If you resonate with changes that are

going on in the community, people will identify with it. The average

person wants power in their own hands — that is another piece

of a brand."

The Internet, she says, will be another tool to give power to consumers.

At the VANJ meeting she will announce an addition to the firm’s home

page (http://www.jacoby-meyers.com). An "instant interview"

provides fast, free evaluation to accident victims. The site offers

questions to help clients determine if they have a legitimate case,

how much time they have to file their suits after the incidents occur,

and how much time each step in the legal process might take.

"We can still help consumers by educating them about their situation,

regardless of whether we take their case," says Koff. "That

has always been our intention and will always be our practice. In

the 21st century, we have to reinvent law, to continue to make law

more accessible in the information age."

If Koff was considered an outsider in changing the ethics of the "white

shoe" (traditional) law firms, as a woman she was also somewhat

of an outsider in the profession of law. For instance, the first time

she was called on in law school, she had to good-naturedly comply

with the professor’s request to stand up so, as the professor quipped,

"we can all see the dimensions of this case."

Despite her current influential position, Koff denies that she is

one of those women who can claim to have "had it all" in all

areas of her life but points out that she is indeed proud of her "three

fabulous children," ages 16, 14, and 9.

Still on her docket: that unfortunate stereotype. "The image,

unfortunately, of any attorney doing personal injury on a contingent

basis is that of ambulance chaser. I think that exists because at

the turn of the century the lawyers doing personal injury were the

Jews and the Catholics who not allowed into the traditional firms."

"Lawyers who do personal injury, in fact, are the most dedicated

to want to help the little guy," says Koff. "It is really

the opposite of what a piece of the public believes. It is very frustrating

to me. As we move into the 21st century, one of the things I will

be doing is to reeducate the public."

— Barbara Fox

Top Of Page
Kids and Money

Victorians would outfit their children in adult clothes,

treating their young in most regards as merely small adults. Contemporary

society, on the other hand, places an almost sacred value on childhood,

protecting it from the intrusions of adult pressures. Some aspects

of adulthood, however, are best taught at an early age. How to manage

money is one perfect example.

A new book is showing parents how they can teach their children to

manage their finances, even before they’re making a real salary. "Kids

and Money: Giving Them the Savvy to Succeed Financially," written

by Jayne A. Pearle and published this year by Bloomberg Press,

based on Business Park Drive, is a how-to book on managing finances,

from the first allowances to getting the first career job.

Chapter titles sound scary: The Battle for Your Kids’ Brains and Bucks;

Gambling, Betting, Lottery Tickets and Other Bad Habits; When to Bail

Kids Out; and Answering Sensitive, Nosy, Touchy Questions. But the

advice is down-to-earth:

Teach kids when they are young a healthy skepticism about advertisements.

Help teens who earn significant money learn that not all money

is discretionary — by charging them room and board and/or requiring

them to increase the amount they save.

When kids get restless on shopping trips, challenge them to

find (or help you find) products that meet your criteria.

Show your kids you can wait to buy things for yourself until

you buy a better deal.

Let kids make mistakes. It’s better to buy a relatively inexpensive

piece of junk now than a high-ticket piece of junk when they are older.

With siblings, remember that strictly equal is not necessarily

fair.

And here’s one for the adults: "If you can’t model good

spending, talk to your children honestly about the issue."

Top Of Page
Capital Opportunities

Skilled labor is New Jersey’s most precious resource

says Rae Rosen, a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank

of New York. "With unemployment down to around four percent,"

she says, "businesses can’t wait for people to come to them. They’re

going to need to take a proactive stance in maintaining the labor

pool."

A panelist at this year’s Capital Opportunities Conference, Rosen

will meet with other business owners, accountants, bankers and members

of the business community to discuss New Jersey’s economic outlook

and how businesses can expect to grow and compete in the next year.

Sponsored by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, the conference

will be held at the Marriott on Monday, April 19, from 8 a.m. to 2

p.m. Cost: $25. Brian Williams, anchor of news shows on MSNBC

and NBC, will be the luncheon speaker. Call the NJEDA at 609-292-0359.

Nicholas Perna, chief economist with Fleet Financial Group,

speaks at 8:45 a.m. Rosen joins Theodore Crone, vice president

and regional economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia,

in a discussion about New Jersey businesses within the context of

national economic trends. Caren Franzini, executive director

of the NJEDA, Bob Buono, corporate treasurer of Eatem Corporation,

and John Grifonetti, chief financial officer at Datek Corporation,

conduct a roundtable discussion on programs that help businesses attain

capital and techniques for succeeding in today’s market.

Rosen earned her BA from Barnard College in 1969 and received an MBA

from New York University. At the New York Federal Reserve Bank, Rosen

works with a team of economists researching the economic issues that

affect New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. Prior to assuming her

role at the Fed, she was vice president of the Federal Home Loan Bank

of New York and an economic consultant for Merrill Lynch Economics

Inc.

The scarcity of workers is putting pressure on companies to be more

productive, Rosen says, but a collaborative effort between labor and

employers — typically at odds — may be a good thing for everybody.

"Both New Jersey and Connecticut," Rosen points out, "are

ahead of other states in dealing with the labor shortage." She

cites several examples of how businesses are beginning to invest in

the next generation of workers by working more closely with community

colleges.

One example: Covance, the pharmaceutical research company at 206 Carnegie,

recently helped Mercer County Community College design and launch

a certificate program in Clinical Research and Drug Development. The

program is aimed at students with BAs who want to work in the pharmaceutical

industry. "Covance is at the forefront of what a very aggressive

community college program might be," says Rosen. "That’s a

win-win for everybody. They hire local people who get the training,

and the business stays where it is because they can get the people

with the technical skills that they need."

If cultivating the next crop of workers sounds like a large investment,

consider the fact that businesses could be shelling out much more

in pay checks. "Labor has been pretty well behaved in terms of

demanding higher wages," says Rosen, "and in that way businesses

have been rather lucky." Given the level of consumer demand, she

says, businesses would be unable to sustain the pressure of large

payroll increases. As it is, businesses are strapped just being more

productive with the resources they have.

The partnership between businesses and local colleges may even bring

about some profound social changes. "People who previously were

left out of the job market because they didn’t have the language or

the technical skills to compete are now getting training because businesses

need them," she says. The American Automobile Association, for

instance, has hired Mercer to give Total Quality Management and customer

service classes at its South Gold Drive headquarters, and the Holiday

Inn offered English classes to workers at its Route 1 site.

"People who were at the bottom, so to speak, will have an opportunity

to reach the top," says Rosen. By altering the demographics of

the labor force, businesses could ultimately foster social, economic

and cultural change across the board.

— Melinda Sherwood

Top Of Page
The Expert Witness Role

An expert witness can be a crucial player to a legal

team, both in educating the jury and informing the lawyers of the

significance of scientific evidence. And there is more to being an

expert witness than just answering questions on the witness stand.

In his presentation, "How to be an Expert Witness," Richard

Saferstein will discuss the finer points of witnessing for legal

counsel. Sponsored by the ACCC and the Chemical Consultants Network,

the talk will be Wednesday, April 21, at 5:30 p.m. at the Nassau Club,

6 Mercer Street. Cost: $35. Call 215-382-1589.

By following a medical examiner’s testimony on a Court TV segment,

Saferstein will point out the witness’s strengths and weaknesses.

Although an ironclad testimony might speak for itself, there are ways

to ensure a professional image and build credibility with the jurors,

says Saferstein.

Preparation. "You obviously want to evaluate the case

appropriately given the area of expertise you have," he said.

Once that is established and perhaps a report written, interacting

with the attorney is important. It is up to the witness to be able

to explain the science in basic layman’s terms.

"You must have the ability to communicate science to a non-scientist

comprehensively and understandably without talking down to them,”

said Saferstein. This communication also involves explaining the strengths

and weaknesses of your testimony. Review with the attorney the specific

questions that will lead to the points of strengths and let him know

what questions to avoid asking. If audio-visual props are to be used,

a properly directed question should lead into the presentation smoothly.

And if you do plan to use audio-visual props, be sure to let the attorney

know what you will need.

Image. The jury has expectations on what a scientific

expert witness will look like, and so the witness should consider

that. "It’s part of the presentation," says Saferstein. A

fancy suit with flashy jewelry may be your finest threads, but they

do not project the right image for the witness stand. Dressing conservatively

is more in tune with what jurors expect of a credible witness. Saferstein

himself usually chooses a shirt with tie, a sports jacket and "a

clean look."

Making eye contact with the jury and correct posture are two other

elements important while on the witness stand. When 12 jurors are

looking at you, having your eyes glued to the floor does not build

credibility, says Saferstein. Similarly, poor posture could be misinterpreted

as insecurity in the testimony. "You want to project an image

of self-confidence," he says.

Positioning in the courtroom. "I am a strong advocate

of creating a situation where I am the teacher and the jurors are

the students," said Saferstein. To do this requires getting out

of the witness box and onto the floor near audio-visual aids. The

movement off the stand, however, has to be a natural progression of

the testimony. "You don’t want to go out of your way to do it,"

he said. "Then it looks phony."

Creating a student-teacher relationship with the jury

usually comes with the use of audio-visual aids. Equipment such as

blackboards, easels, figures and even slides can be used. "Use

anything that helps you explain your subject," he says.

Saferstein has his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in chemistry

from the City University of New York. He was the chief forensic scientist

for the New Jersey State Police for 21 years until his retirement

in 1991, testifying as an expert witness over 700 times. Since retiring

he has been a private consultant. His book "Criminalistics —

an Introduction to Forensic Science" is currently in its sixth

edition. He has written five other books on forensic science.

Saferstein also became a commentator for television and radio during

the O.J. Simpson trial, appearing on Rivera Live, the E! Network,

and ABC Radio network.

If there is anything that an expert witness should not do on the stand

it is to lie. "The only thing you really have is your credibility,"

Saferstein says. "You should protect it at all times.

— Monika J. Guendner


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