Just in his early 40's, Michael Epstein is already one of New Jersey's most accomplished young trial lawyers, a fast-emerging leader of a new generation of courtroom attorneys. In many respects he's the successor to a respected family brand name in trial law: He practices with his father, Barry D. Epstein, who for over 40 years has been one of the state's most successful independent trial lawyers. Their Rochelle Park practice thrives in spite of the general slowdown in litigation activity. But to suggest that the younger Epstein might be a coattail-rider of any sort would be, according to everyone in the legal community, way off the mark: For starters, Michael Epstein - hard-working, careful, street-smart and aggressive, all not unlike the man down the hall - emerged from Harvard Law School recruited by some of the most prestigious firms in the U.S. After less than two years at one of them, Epstein decided to join his father. Over the last decade, with a broad record of trial victories for clients, they have evolved into The Epstein Law Firm - underscoring what's become a tradition of success for the family firm. The younger Epstein recalls dinner table conversations on depositions and trials - as a 10-year-old. "When I was a child I saw how respected my father was in the local community. That meant the world to me."
Longtime residents of Wayne, the Epsteins, all athletic, had a "super competitive household - but team sports taught us to win graciously and lose graciously, and make personal sacrifices for the good of the team." At Wayne Hills High School he captained his varsity basketball team, and played college ball for a year. At Hamilton College, he graduated in the top ten of his class, and was awarded the school's most prestigious honor, the James Soper Memorial Award for the student who best typifies the highest ideals of the college. At Harvard "I was surrounded by very bright people," many of whom went on to white-shoe corporate firms. One of them, Davis, Polk & Wardwell in Manhattan, recruited Epstein for litigation work ("I wanted to see what else was out there") after two clerkships. He enjoyed the high-energy atmosphere of a major firm, but "I knew long-term that a big firm wasn't for me." His law-school classmates "respect that I chose to go independent." Thus, on Jan. 1, 2000, he joined his father, who had long practiced with a small team of lawyers.
The Epstein firm ("We are personal injury lawyers, and we don't shy away from that") handles classic plaintiffs' claims: Motor vehicle accidents, slip-and-fall cases, premises and product liability, medical malpractice, as well as employment cases. They've routinely secured multi-million-dollar settlements and verdicts for clients. In recent years they've also grown a broad civil litigation practice, including representing area businesses in complex commercial disputes. Now together for over a decade, Barry and Michael Epstein "have probably the best family legal team in the state, if not the country," says a longtime rival. They are not alone: Partner April Gilmore is highly regarded as well.
Clients will be struck by how Epstein is knowledgeable, humble, direct and efficient - and he has a prodigious memory. Michael Epstein and his wife Tracy live in Wyckoff; they have twin daughters.