Mentors

Published in 2011 New Jersey Super Lawyers — April 2011

The Testa Family Tradition

Michael L. Testa Jr. practices trial law at his father’s firm, Testa Heck Scrocca & Testa, where his uncle and his grandfather also once worked. Testa, president of the Cumberland County Bar Association, describes the lifelong mentoring he’s received from his dad, Michael L. Testa—and also his grandfather, Frank J. Testa.

I have the pleasure of not only working for my dad, but he’s [also] my best friend. He did not push me into the field of law; I thought maybe I wanted to write the next Great American Novel. [But] I got to speaking with my father over the summer after my sophomore year of college, and he had some large cases at the time that sounded so intriguing … I decided this might be a profession I wanted to consider. Also, as of my junior year, I hadn’t started on the Great American Novel yet.

He’s pretty firm, my father, and I love that about him, because he encourages you to learn on your own. He would always say to me, “Listen, I don’t mind answering any questions that you have, but I want to make sure that you did your research first.” But he was always there to guide me. Sometimes I’d be in my office at 6:30 at night, and he’d come walking by … and he’d say, “What’s going on? Do you need help with anything?” It was really just a great relationship because it was through discourse that I learned so much. He’s always said that there’s no substitute for good judgment: I don’t care how hard you work, I don’t care how book-smart you are.

Everywhere I go, every courtroom I go into, people will say, “How’s your father? Your father’s such a great guy.” I say, “You don’t have to say such nice things about my dad.” And they say, “No, I only say it because it’s true.”

Unfortunately, very shortly after I graduated law school my grandfather passed away. But the summer before, I had clerked at the office and got to spend three days a week with my grandfather, so it was great that I got to spend that special time with him.

I’ve been able to utilize my grandfather’s and my father’s hindsight to allow it to become my foresight.

 

 

Good Example

Elissa Glasband has worked as a commercial litigator alongside James E. Tyrrell Jr. for eight years, more than half of those at Patton Boggs in Newark. They focus on environmental toxic tort and products liability defense; Glasband also defends telecoms in consumer-fraud actions. Tyrrell is a team player, an innovator and a good listener.

Jim is the type of attorney who really leads by example; and the more closely we worked together, the more I was learning from him and the more he took me under his wing. I’ve learned so much about the legal profession, both practically and professionally. He’s an extremely patient person; he’s a very active listener. We’ve litigated matters together for over eight years now, dealing with all issues up to trial: all discovery issues and different strategic issues. There’ve been many matters that we’ve worked through mediation and arbitration and settlement; complex class action settlements, we’ve worked through several of them as well. He really values ongoing learning and sees that there are growth opportunities for everyone in our profession, whether you’re a junior lawyer or a partner or a senior partner like himself. One of the areas that he’s given me a lot of guidance in is managing and trying to exceed clients’ expectations. … Once you have realistic goals of what can be achieved, [you] try to exceed those goals by thinking outside of the box, by trying to be innovative in your approach and not being afraid to spend the extra time to research the issue or pay attention to detail. It’s going that extra mile; it’s really the idea of putting in that extra effort that, nine times out of 10, really works to the client’s benefit and to your benefit and ends up producing a really, really fabulous work product.

We’re similar in some ways. We’re big Yankees fans and Giants fans, so it’s nice to have that in common.

Jim is an extremely loyal person and very confident, and these are two qualities that I’ve really looked up to and tried to emulate. He’s a mentor to everyone in the office, and I think one of the things that he really has instilled in me and the others who work with him is the idea of being a team player. So often, young lawyers come out of law school and they become so focused on the task at hand and their ability to try to do something that they kind of miss the overall team approach. ... Without that approach, I think you’re at a huge disadvantage in our profession, because if you’re not a team player, you’re not able to share in successes and really grow as an office and a firm. If I didn’t have Jim as my mentor … I’d probably miss that piece of it, because law school tends to be focused on the individual, and you’re not really trained for the real-life practical aspects of how to be a good lawyer in a firm environment.

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