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Don’t expect him to foray into the thicket of thorny issues like abortion, capital punishment or mandatory pro bono. Instead, he stands for loosening the reins of “best practices,” revitalizing the Bar’s role in vetting judicial nominees, easing up on permanent disbarment and making sure multijurisdictional practice doesn’t mean a New Jersey land rush for out-of-state firms. If all of that sounds good for your average New Jersey lawyer, it’s because Daniel Waldman is an unabashed protectionist. “I like to help lawyers, bottom-line,” says Waldman, the 55-year-old Red Bank attorney who’ll be sworn in tonight at the New Jersey State Bar’s annual meeting in Atlantic City. His agenda, he says, is to fight for causes that strike at the heart of lawyers’ economic opportunities, clout and professional image. For example, any advance on multijurisdictional practice — allowing lawyers licensed in one state to practice in others — should safeguard the interests of New Jersey attorneys. “I call it a quality-of-life issue for our members,” he says. He’s been an outspoken critic of the tort reform that he says has been drying up work for plaintiffs’ personal injury lawyers, such as himself. In his 1998 testimony before the Joint Committee on Auto Insurance Reform, Waldman said he favored getting rid of the no-fault system and said the State Bar would not support legislation further tightening the verbal threshold for suits. He’s not a believer in automatic and permanent disbarment in all cases. He says that the rule of In re Wilson, 81 N.J. 451 (1979), which mandates automatic disbarment for lawyers who take funds from clients’ trust accounts, should be softened, taking into account mitigating circumstances. He favors allowing disbarred lawyers to apply for readmission after a certain period of time — in cases where mitigating factors exist. That’s the procedure in other states, and it’s what a State Bar committee has recommended to the state supreme court. “I don’t mind being controversial,” he says, “but I’ll pick my spots.” Indeed, Waldman says he wants to forge a unity among bar members, and that means staying away from incendiary social issues, such as capital punishment or abortion. Such issues may be “of the utmost importance to individual members,” says Vineland’s Jay Greenblatt, who was president for the 1997-98 term, but “they are not related to the practice of law and they are divisive.” Waldman says, for example, that the Bar’s resolution last December opposing a constitutional amendment to overturn the state supreme court, which had voided a parental notification law in a controversial decision, was wrongheaded. It’s too difficult to sever the procedural issue — whether the constitution should be amended to override unpopular court decisions — from the underlying issue of abortion, he says. “Every time we venture into this area, we wind up offending half our membership — and then we wind up losing members,” he says. Another potentially divisive issue is mandatory pro bono representation. Waldman is unlikely to repeat outgoing Bar President Barry Epstein’s proactive call upon each attorney in private practice to take at least one pro bono case a year, which infuriated many small-firm lawyers. Waldman says he’s not opposed to some form of mandatory pro bono, but he doesn’t want the supreme court or the Legislature to add to the list of areas where such representation is required. That almost happened a few years back when the court gave orders that would have mandated pro bono representation for Megan’s Law offenders. The Legislature later appropriated funds for the defense work. “If the supreme court is going to find other areas of pro bono, I think we would want to sit down and say, ‘You’ve got to find some funding for this,’” says Waldman. “We don’t have the luxury any more — it’s not an economy where it’s necessarily affordable for lawyers not to be compensated for their time,” he says. One area where pro bono representation may be mandated, says Waldman, is in cases involving parents who are jailed for failing to pay child support. He says he’s watching that development and will want to be heard if more pro bono is proposed. Waldman doesn’t emphasize diversity when he speaks of his agenda, but he says he’s already appointed two women to important committees. Ellen O’Connell, an associate with Newark’s Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, will head the Judicial and Prosecutorial Appointments Committee; and Lynn Newsome, of Short Hills’ Donahue, Braun, Hagan, Klein & Newsome, has been appointed to the Nominating Committee. Waldman is more interested in the type of bread-and-butter issues the average practitioner faces every day — getting and keeping business, reducing paperwork and other burdens and maintaining a good public image. IMPROVING ON BEST PRACTICES High on Waldman’s agenda is working to change the more burdensome requirements of best practices so that the new system of case management isn’t so onerous for practitioners whom he says have been “a little bit left out in the cold.” “Complying with best practices, for a lot of small firms, is economically disastrous,” he says, citing the additional paperwork, the required videotaping of experts and the time taken away from focusing on substantive issues. “I’ve spent a lot of wasted time on some of the best practice procedures when I felt I could have directed myself to substantive issues,” he says, adding that it makes no sense to force lawyers to ready a case for trial when there aren’t enough judges to try the cases anyway. Waldman says the State Bar is going to have its own best practices committee, and that he plans to sit down with Richard Williams, acting director of the Administrative Office of the Courts, to discuss practitioners’ concerns. REINVIGORATED VETTING Another of Waldman’s goals is to restore the role the State Bar traditionally enjoyed in evaluating state supreme court nominees until Gov. Christine Todd Whitman dispensed with it after the contested nomination of Justice Peter Verniero in 1999. “As lawyers, we are the ones who interact with lawyers who become judges, so we feel we best know their capabilities,” says Waldman. The State Bar, he says, was tarnished when that power was taken away. He says he’s already received positive signals from Acting Gov. Donald DiFrancesco that the 31-year-old compact between the State Bar and the governor’s office would be honored once again. AGAINST NATIONAL LAW LICENSE Although Waldman says he wants to wait until the State Bar’s committee on multijurisdictional practice makes its recommendations to the American Bar Association in June, he’s clearly against opening the floodgates to out-of-state lawyers. He doesn’t favor measures that would eviscerate state lines, such as a national law license, but might go for a middle-ground approach — one that would allow transactional lawyers who reach across state lines on a limited basis but also would protect local practitioners. The State Bar committee’s recommendations to the ABA will be based in part on responses to a questionnaire sent in March to local bar associations, says its chairman, Allen Etish, a partner in Cherry Hill’s Kenney & Kearney. The ABA will issue a preliminary report in November, says Wayne Positan, who heads the ABA’s committee. The ABA hopes to issue a final report in May 2002, says Positan, of Roseland’s Lum, Danzis, Drasco, Positan & Kleinberg. CIVIL BUT TENACIOUS Colleagues say Waldman is qualified to advocate for the average practitioner because he’s been one from the onset. He went right into private practice after his admission in 1971 — without taking a public interest job or a clerkship — because, he says, he needed to support his family. His three-member firm, which includes partner Charles Moriarty and associate Andrew Walsh, occupies a Victorian house in downtown Red Bank. His practice includes personal injury and general litigation as well as matrimonial, general equity and estate cases. Judges and lawyers who know him say he’s a force to be reckoned with. “He fights to the last ounce on his client’s behalf,” says Monmouth County Assignment Judge Lawrence Lawson. State Bar Trustee James McGovern Jr. agrees: “If he gets a case, he’s like a pit bull locked on your leg — he doesn’t give up.” Yet, adversaries say he doesn’t lose his professionalism in the heat of battle. “It’s always a pleasure to deal with him,” says Dennis O’Brien, of Asbury Park’s Campbell, Foley, Lee, Murphy & Cernigliaro. “He recognizes where we can work together.”

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