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As the spotlight sweeps the stage at Wetlands, a smoky, environmental-activist rock club near the Holland Tunnel, the bands showcase their wares. In the middle of a song by a Brooklyn-based pop band, Brave New Girl, the spotlight rests on a tenor saxophonist who performs a solo for a few minutes, ending with the audience breaking into cheers and applause. This night — a drizzly Thursday in July — the saxophonist, Mark S. Kaufman, is a professional musician. But when the morning comes, he will reincarnate himself, as he often does, not into a waiter or a bartender, but into a respectable lawyer in midtown Manhattan. A 21st-century Janus, Kaufman refuses to choose one face over the other. So much so that he even carries two separate business cards, one to advertise him as a sole practitioner and the other as a tenor and soprano saxophonist. Although it is his lawyer persona that sees the light of day from nine to five (and then some), it is his artistic side that Kaufman, 38, has been cultivating for the majority of his life. “I think he is a talented saxophonist,” said Leslie E. Fourton Jr., also a Manhattan-based sole practitioner and a professional drummer who has played with Kaufman since his law school days. Taking up the clarinet in third grade, Kaufman, who grew up in Westchester County, N.Y., was soon captivated by music. Three years later he switched to the saxophone and has been playing both ever since. After graduating from Amherst College in the mid-1980s, Kaufman and his sax moved to New Orleans, joined the musicians’ union, and set out to pursue a music career. TOUGH LIFE Living on paltry proceeds from Mardi Gras balls and club gigs, the real highlights, he recalls, came when he played at jam sessions with such popular jazz musicians as Harry Connick Jr. and Ellis Marsalis. Once he even performed in Ella Fitzgerald’s warm-up band, he said, beaming with energy and excitement as he remembered the legendary singer. But it did not take long for Kaufman to realize that life as a full-time musician was a lot less glamorous and a lot more difficult than it is often portrayed. And at times, he said he felt that an important part of him — the part that loves to read, write and talk — was atrophying in the French Quarter. “I wanted to impact people and not just entertain them,” said Kaufman. So into law he went, graduating from Columbia Law School in 1989 and landing an associate position at New York-based Kronish Lieb Weiner & Hellman. “I don’t look back and say, ‘I could have been a contender.’ I know what it would be like to be a musician,” he explained. Although now on a solid path in law, Kaufman had no intention of abandoning his artistic side. While at law school, he said he would study in the library well into the night, waiting for other students to leave, then find an empty classroom and play for an hour before going home himself. And no matter how busy his day job got, he always found time to play his saxophone either at home or in clubs with other musicians. “I don’t resent my law practice . … I feel I have struck a good balance,” he said. But longevity at Kronish Lieb was not to be. As the recession permeated the early 1990s, Kaufman, along with hundreds of his young colleagues at New York City law firms, was sent packing. After a couple of years of private practice at other firms, Kaufman struck out on his own six years ago, concentrating in intellectual property, commercial litigation, and even some transactional work. “I enjoy being a lawyer, particularly since I have started my own business. It’s a form that works for me,” said Kaufman. “Having ownership of what I do makes the difference . �I’m not just a cog in a vast wheel,” he added. Although he loves practicing on his own, Kaufman is not immune to the difficulties that go hand in hand with the freedom. For instance, it took him about four years to get his practice off the ground, he said. And this year was the first time he took a week’s vacation with his wife and two young sons in four years. Kaufman, who shares a suite of offices with another small law firm, said of the experience, “I have the camaraderie of being in a small firm, but I get to keep the fish that I catch. Unfortunately, I just have to keep fishing,” he said with a huge smile. One of the more exciting cases that Kaufman is working on is a suit against Bell Atlantic — now known as Verizon Communications — on behalf of some customers who signed up for the company’s DSL service. The plaintiffs claim that they have had nothing but problems with the service, which was advertised by the company as easy to install and reliable. The suit before Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Herman Cahn accuses the company of deceptive advertising and breach of warranty. The company denies the allegations and claims that any new technology is bound to have some glitches. Kaufman, who is working with Jason L. Solotaroff of New York’s Stamell & Schager, is up against New York-based Davis Polk & Wardwell. They await a ruling by Cahn on Verizon’s motion to dismiss. In addition to litigation, Kaufman handles copyright and trademark cases, often for his musician clients. And after he counsels them on their contracts, he sometimes joins them in the evenings for jams during their performances. When not performing at nightclubs or piano bars, Kaufman plays at bar mitzvahs and weddings. And he jams on his clarinet in a quintet made up of lawyers he met after answering an ad for a musician in The Association of the Bar of the City of New York’s newsletter. “He’s a great musician and a great lawyer, too,” said Edward M. Reisner, a lawyer and guitarist who organized the City Bar’s jazz band (and the City Bar’s ad hoc committee on jazz) roughly three years ago. Reisner, who is also an intellectual property lawyer in Manhattan, sometimes refers cases to Kaufman, and recently even used him to close on his apartment. Although Kaufman said he would love to play music more often, he is satisfied with doing it part-time. “I don’t romanticize being a full-time musician. � Being a full-time artist is extraordinarily hard work.”

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