Phillies, Eagles, Flyers, 76ers. These sports teams defined Michael’s childhood growing up outside Philadelphia, in suburban New Jersey. “I’ll always truly be from up there, no matter how long I live in the D.C. area,” Michael says. He grew up playing and attending sports games of every sort, with baseball having the slight edge as his favorite. He’s from a tight-knit Italian family, most of whom still live there. When visiting home, Michael savors the authentic Italian food and time spent with family and friends.
The Capital City
Even though the Philadelphia area has his heart, Michael enjoys living in “the capital city of the most powerful country in the world.” He attended law school at The Catholic University and followed a lifelong interest in politics to work as a White House intern, and later on Capitol Hill. He’s had some unforgettable experiences, including meeting President George W. Bush and sitting up close for several State of the Union addresses. He worked for the Sergeant of Arms on the floor of the House of Representatives and witnessed several historic votes, not to mention “the arm twisting that goes into getting representatives to vote one way or another.”
Michael’s grandfather shaped his life in a lot of ways. His Mom’s father was an Italian immigrant who put himself through college and started a business that was eventually a publicly traded company. In addition to his grandfather’s drive, Michael admired his devotion to family. “He loved us more than anything. I could never wait to see him. We spent every summer together down on the shore.”
Michael’s parents forecast his law career based on how much he liked to argue as a kid. And how really good he was. They said it came naturally. “I always kind of knew that’s what I would do,” Michael says. His Dad’s father was General Counsel for Random House Publishers and read every manuscript for legal ramifications. “Every time I saw him, he would give me dozens of books. Endless books. So, I had a lot of cool things to read growing up.” Despite the wide variety of material, Michael favored reference books, like the Encyclopedia. Not surprising, for someone who would become respected by peers and judges alike for his solidly fact-based motions and arguments.
Outside the Courtroom
Traveling, the beach and sports. Life doesn’t get much better than that during Michael’s off hours. He’s been going to the shore in New Jersey every summer his entire life. But the pull of familiarity is offset by Michael’s passion for international travel. “Since we have everything in this country, it’s so easy to forget what else is out there. It’s important to know what else is out there.” He is fascinated by different cultures, and by the similarities of people all over the world. Michael especially wants to visit the Middle East, Iran, North Korea—”places that have been vilified. Because I’ll bet they’re not what we all think they are. They’re just people, like you and me, at the end of the day.”
Why Criminal Law?
This is an easy answer for Michael. It’s about individual rights and fairness. He is a tenacious defender of the Bill of Rights. “Our founders were worried about day-to-day government encroaching on people’s lives and taking their freedoms away.” As a college student, Michael saw a few peers’ promising futures rerouted by seemingly innocuous laws and apathetic legal representation. “I want to help people like that. I may sometimes care more about their situation than they do. But maybe they need that.” This attitude underlies the tenet of Michael’s practice: Treat every case with equal urgency and dedication. “The courthouse is the one place where everybody is supposed to get a fair shot. Regardless. And that’s exactly how it should be. It’s my job to help people who really need it.” Even with a busy practice, Michael takes on more court-appointed cases than he should, for this very reason.
Why Nichols Zauzig?
“Like it or not, if you’re charged with a serious crime, you need to have resources available. And we have those. We have the staff and capability to handle a big case.” That means having the time, research, contacts and experts a client needs when facing serious consequences. What also matters to Michael is the quality and work ethic of the firm’s attorneys and leadership. At Nichols Zauzig, “I respect what they’ve accomplished and how they run their business.”