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Jay Marks and Jonathan Katz met each other at a mutual friend’s birthday party when they were 6 years old. The two later became junior high and high school classmates in Fairfield, Conn. So by time they opened Silver Spring’s Marks & Katz in 1998, they already had a mutual history. Marks focuses his practice on immigration and personal injury, and Katz on criminal defense and individual rights. Marks is past vice president and legal counsel to Marcelino Pan y Vino, a major local community service organization. Katz is president and a founder of the Free Speech Coalition of the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia, and he provides legal assistance for students’ and teachers’ rights through the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Both practice in the District, Maryland, and Virginia. In this installment of “Five Questions,” Katz is speaking for the firm. Why did you decide to start your own practice? Jay Marks and I both wanted to be our own bosses, probably before law school. The question was when to do it. When we both found out that we were ready to open up our own practices at the same time, we realized that it would be much more beneficial to do it together than to do it alone, and that’s proved correct over the last five years. We had both worked for numerous other employers and that proved very beneficial because both of us have had some excellent mentors as a result. I’ve been practicing since 1989. I started with what was then called Weiner, McCaffrey, Brodsky & Kaplan, which was a small-sized, for D.C., regulatory and corporate practice, doing primarily federal regulatory and federal and state litigation work. And then, after two years with the firm, I moved to the Office of Public Defender in Maryland. And I was there for five years doing a tremendous number of criminal trials. Then I moved to D.C.’s Chaikin & Sherman, which was the result of the breakup of Chaikin & Karp. I started there right at the breakup time in late 1996, where I stayed for almost two years. And that was a wonderful way to learn the civil trial practice beyond just doing the pretrial work, which is what I was doing in the first law firm. Jay started out working as a law clerk for the United States Court of Claims. He moved to State Farm, in-house in Towson, where he stayed for a few years doing a lot of trial work there, on the personal injury defense side. He switched to the plaintiffs personal injury side, with Silver Spring’s Greenberg & Bederman, where he moved to in the spring of 1996. And then of course we opened Marks & Katz in August of 1998, which was a great way to finally return to doing a criminal practice and doing almost anything else we wanted to do as long as there were clients available. About two or three years before we opened our business, we started bumping in to each other in Baltimore, when he was working in Towson and I was working in the public defender’s office in Baltimore. When we moved to respective personal injury firms, we ended up having a trial together that got postponed twice. We had set aside two days for trial, and we had a lot of time available. Both times, we went to the courthouse cafeteria, and we found out that both of us were ready to open up our own law firm. Within two to four weeks after the second postponement, we already had agreed on a partnership. So in some respects, we owe a bit of thanks to the defense lawyer who got the postponement of the trial over our objections. Tell us about your clients. My main focus is on criminal defense, federal and civil, in Maryland, Washington, and Virginia, as well as a large amount of civil litigation on the constitutional protection side such as representing adult entertainment businesses. I do adult entertainment representation actually both on the civil and criminal side. We have people coming in for representation for student discipline defense. It seems anytime that I write an article that gets on our Web site or anytime that I’m interviewed about something, we get clients for that area. That’s very much a similar thing for Jay. Jay focuses on immigration and plaintiffs personal injury, and he has a heavy emphasis on the Spanish-speaking community. The entire law firm is Spanish-speaking. I speak proficient, intermediate Spanish, but everyone else is fully fluent. I speak fully fluent French, and Jay speaks fully fluent Portuguese. So we’re a quadrilingual law firm. That has been very beneficial for us. As far as some of my clients right now, I just came back from a hearing today at the Roxbury Correctional Institution, a prison in Hagerstown, Md. I’m local counsel, along with a lawyer in Florida, for a woman who was fired as a prison guard there because it was discovered by the prison authorities after she was hired that she had posed on the Internet nude, with tattoos, and that has become a fairly big case. Other than that, we won a landmark double-jeopardy case in the Court of Appeals of Maryland last November in State of Maryland v. Taylor and Bledsoe,where it was a joint victory by both us and the Maryland public defender’s office on pushing double-jeopardy protections much further for defendants than on the federal level. For Jay, he has been doing heavy amounts of representation both on the business and individual side of immigration. He is well-known in the Hispanic community, particularly based on the fact that he’s been very active with organizations, including Marcelino Pan y Vino, where he went as high as being vice president and legal counsel to the group. Where do you find your clients? What we love doing is making sure that all of our clients’ causes have an important element of justice � whether it’s a constitutional issue we’re arguing, that we’re representing the underdog against larger forces, or we’re vindicating issues that are important for us. Often, we get rather radical in our views of what justice is. The nice thing about being our own bosses, of course, is that there are no bosses to tell us not to do that. One of the ways that we get clients is because we are so true to our values. We love doing criminal defense. We’ve never prosecuted, and we never will prosecute. On the immigration side, we love representing the immigrants. We’ve never represented the government side on that, and we don’t think we ever will. On the personal injury side, we’ve never represented a person accused of causing a physical injury, only the people being injured, with the exception that on the personal injury side, we will be totally happy to represent libel defendants or McDonald’s in any hot coffee cases because we feel that just because someone is injured does not automatically entitle him or her to an award. I do want to say this about marketing. When we opened up, we never realized how many of our clients would come from our media appearances as well as from our Internet site, www.markskatz.com. I built our Internet site myself four years ago, and that gets us an incredible number of clients. It’s a content-rich Web site. Anytime that we publish an article, we put it up on our Web site. We have a lot of free information for people, including legal links that are current and relevant. Also, we’re really out in the community a lot. We do it the old-fashioned way. For instance, we make ourselves available to speak for free to community groups. The first few years we opened our law firm, we sponsored a show on Spanish radio, called ” Legalmente Hablando,” or “ Legally Speaking.” We did a half-hour discussion on current legal topics, and we opened up the phones for questions for a half-hour. That was very, very popular. We stopped doing that radio show when we found that probably most the people in the audience were the same people each week, and they knew who we were. We seem to be on broadcast television or radio at least once a month if not more. Between a combination of broadcast media and print media, we seem to be in there, including on the Internet, at least one, two, or three times a month. Jay is in heavy demand by the Spanish-speaking media. Univision Television, which is the main Spanish-speaking television station, is only a half-mile down the street from us, and he always makes himself fully available to the press. We both do. How do you measure business success? We define success based on a blend of doing good while doing well for ourselves. If we stop doing good, we might as well be doing something other than law � and we’re very serious about that. I didn’t realize, at least when I was involved with the American Civil Liberties Union very actively starting even 10 years ago, that somehow that kind of passion would turn into paying clients, but it has. We have a very successful, blended approach to bringing in revenues. A plaintiff’s personal injury work means that the money is coming in not until the case resolves. A misdemeanor case typically means that we’re taking a flat fee upfront. Then we have plenty of hourly paying clients, such as for the First Amendment cases, some of the felony cases. So it all works well. That means that when it’s taking some time for personal injury cases to resolve, we’re getting the money elsewhere. If we’re getting fewer cases in the area of upfront money, we’re getting some of our money from the personal injury cases or from the hourly clients. It has been working, because if it wasn’t working, we wouldn’t have been open for five years. It’s amazing. We never have a dry spell. The worst thing that ever happens is we might say, when we’re very lucky, “Gee, is this ever going to stop?” Or we might see a cycle coming up when we’re going to have some free time on our hands, but we’re always plenty busy. Then it’s just a question of how much more support staff to hire. What challenges to your practice do you foresee in the future? Well, there’s the good ones and the bad ones. I think that people who practice exclusively in plaintiffs personal injury better be worried. Between tort reform and insurance companies, it will be much more difficult to settle cases. It’s not wise, I think, to have exclusively a plaintiffs personal injury practice. And furthermore, we wouldn’t want to do that, even if it were more lucrative, because we really enjoy the other areas of practice � criminal, immigration, the constitutional work, the other civil work. I think the main challenge is going to be to continue to not have a high-volume practice. We don’t have a high-volume practice. We’ve been able to work it out that we charge fees that enough clients will pay to let us give the attention to them that we want to. I’ve done a high-volume practice when I was at the Maryland public defender’s office, and I always felt bad when insufficient resources did not let us give sufficient attention to our clients. I really like it that we’re always able to give enough attention to the clients, and we want to be able to keep it that way.

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