“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
There are certainly easier ways to make a living than as managing partner of CitizenSoldierLaw but this is the path that I believe my Lord has asked of me. We believe that miracles happen here, as a result of timing and good fortune and we are honored that you have taken a few moments to learn more about us. When I read that line from Dickens in the best job-seekers book that I know exists, in 2012, I was unemployed after a string of exciting positions as a lawyer and Army JAG. I was 43, had been on active duty for a year at the Monterey Presidio in 2002, a year in Iraq from 2003-2004 (some of which is chronicled in Drowning in the Desert: A JAG’s Search for Justice in Iraq – Vivian H. Gembara, Deborah A. Gembara – Google Books ), twenty months assigned to the Guantanamo Bay Commissions as an Army Judge Advocate defense counsel, a year as a Fort Dix Trial Counsel and then a year mobilized to Germany with my wife and daughter.
I have never read Charles Dickens but I wish that I had. When I read the Dickens’ line, I thought that no truer words had ever been penned. From Dick Bolles What Color is Your Parachute, that was a jarring line that reminded me to be grateful and I remember how that book gave me optimism, as a decades-long, and best-selling book on careers, might be expected to do. I had been a cocky criminal trial attorney for 17 or so years, had an impressive and supportive family and, importantly, I had a law license and valuable trial experience.
More than anything else, What Color is Your Parachute inspired me to “hang out a shingle” and strike out to assist, primarily, injured and justice-involved military as I saw a desperate need for hurting combat veterans in the National Guard, various Reserve Components and active-duty forces.
January 2023 = ten years of independent and fierce advocacy for our clients and 28 years as a legal advocate admitted to the Bar.
What a great gift and so many great clients, colleagues, adversaries and victories along the way, with a few duds, too, both the people and outcomes. Whatever the outcome, we do our best to live without regrets because we always prepare to our utmost and work zealously.
Through numerous trials, most of them successful, I have learned more from losing than when I have prevailed. I probably blame myself too much for the failures and give myself too much credit when my team prevailed.
Back to 2011, I had served my country in Germany. I was an experienced homicide prosecutor and between my Army Judge Advocate responsibilities and Assistant Prosecutor service in Essex County, I had defended and prosecuted homicides and other serious crimes, almost always with success, thanks be to God, strong cases and preparation.
By 2012, I had finished a string of exciting mobilizations with what I thought would be the capstone as the Officer in Charge of the U.S. Army Garrison Baumholder Office of the Judge Advocate and Rear Detachment Brigade Judge Advocate of the 172ndInfantry Brigade. I finished successfully but it went badly for a period of time for reasons that were partly my own doing but mostly because I was a United States Army Reserve Judge Advocate in a sea of active-duty JAGs. One has to adapt to the circumstances and I did not do that as well as I could have.
The details do not matter anymore but the job humbled me. Nonetheless, the Brigade Commander appreciated my work even if some of the other Army lawyers did not. Then-Colonel Matlock asked me to extend my active-duty orders and I declined as I was spent and had a job to go home to in New Jersey. Or so I thought.
Then began my second round of unemployment. After a judicial clerkship, I was out of work for only a week before an interview and offer that I accepted. In 2012, the second experience with unemployment was more painful. I was truly blessed that the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies Career Services Manager spoke at a job seminar in Manhattan that I attended. He recommended Dick Bolles’ book and it turns out that the author had been a Protestant Minister and he wrote words something along these lines:
You don’t need to believe in God to benefit from this book, but I do believe in God.
I will cut this part of the background a bit short. But a 2012 experience as an adjudicator at the Capital Region Physical Evaluation Board (PEB) reviewing Medical Evaluation Boards (MEBs) and learning the ins and outs of Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) during a 179-day TDY changed the course of things.
Going back much further, my background as a young private practitioner provided a lesson.
Preparation: although I wanted to be an Assistant Prosecutor in the worst way back in 1996, no one hired me after a successful judicial clerkship in Newark, Essex County, New Jersey. I had to accept an interview at a criminal and civil litigation firm and the 72-year-old founder, a cigar chomping, white-haired curmudgeon was interviewing me. “What is the most important quality for a lawyer?” he asked. Easy, I figured, as I had seen the masterful Michael Critchley work and prepare many successful trials. “Dedication.”
Wrong he sharply retorted: Preparation, preparation, preparation!
Taking things to the present, back in early 2021, an important member of our staff unexpectedly announced that he would no longer work full-time. There are always challenges in the private practice of law and all businesses. As I thought this week about that time of transition in his life, I gave some thought to a few other things. He remarked to me that the pressure was too much and “that I don’t know how you do it.”
There is only one way that I “can do this.” I believe that the Merciful Lord gave me this opportunity, gift, burden and blessing of a law firm. Recently, I spoke to a former colleague from the PEB, who was my PEB supervisor and fellow adjudicator in 2012. He is now a retired USAR COL and a GS-13. I thought that it must be nice and he works remotely from Tampa and he was on his way to Key West. And I wonder about an easier way…yet I believe in what we’re doing at this law firm defending and advocating for those who defend the United States.
There is more. Back in 2011, I read Joe Gibbs Gameplan for Life. Combined with a few other things, and readings, it began to change my life in gradual ways. I re-read it and listened to it as an audio book. Three NASCAR Championships and three NFL Super Bowl rings. Joe Gibbs knows something about success. As 2012 proceeded, I began representing numerous clients and supervising a team of great Trial Defense Services lawyers in Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Jersey. I had an inspiring boss in the late Colonel Patrick Barnett and plenty of work as a TDS NJ Guard JAG. That 179-day tour at the PEB changed everything.
These days I read Magnificat, a great monthly publication filled with daily Biblical passages and writings of spiritual leaders. The Bible provides motivation, inspiration and a dose of spirituality for me.
So that is a bit more about the law firm’s founding and me. Please consider contacting us and we will do everything possible to zealously advocate for you.