Jonathan Marshall today is one of Monmouth County's - and one of New Jersey's - leading criminal-defense lawyers, whose own scrappy and aggressive nature in many ways defines the eight-lawyer firm he founded 16 years ago.
Now in his early 50s and at the prime of his career, the Brielle native is very much a product of the region he serves today: He's well connected and knowledgeable of the municipal and county judges he regularly appears before. He's effective in defending clients who can face a range of municipal, state and federal criminal charges. Moreover, there's a straightforward, middle-class, proudly Jersey sensibility about Marshall that's made him a strong courtroom lawyer, peers say; he's a lead-by-example practitioner with his team of litigators, almost all of whom specialize in defense of criminal charges, including DWI charges, drug-related charges, among others. "Everyone in my family encouraged me to become a lawyer," says Marshall, "mostly because I could debate and argue pretty well."
Growing up Marshall and his three competitive brothers played football and hockey for Saint John Vianney High School in Holmdel; at Rider University he landed on the golf team. His early sights were set on "something in finance - I mean, Wall Street was a magnet for all of us back then." And majoring in finance and accounting, Marshall joined a Big Eight accounting firm - the Princeton office of Ernst & Young - right out of college. But the 1987 stock market crash dimmed late-80s job prospects on Wall Street, so he headed to Seton Hall's law school. "Truth is, my motivation wasn't all that high-minded - I wanted to make a good living, and do better."
Even before passing the bar Marshall worked for the Appellate Judge Thomas Shebell, in Red Bank, and later clerked for The Hon. John P. Arnone, giving Marshall early insights in and knowledge of the region's court system. He interned with Stark & Stark, the litigation powerhouse in Princeton. He had an eye on joining a prosecutor's office but with a year-long wait, he said - in somewhat typically restless fashion - "Forget this" and joined an insurance-defense firm where he could gain immediate courtroom experience. "I was answering a trial call two weeks after my clerkship ended - they said, no excuses, we're picking a jury today. It was all trial by fire."
For several years he worked for a Matawan-based practice that focused on criminal-defense work and some municipal traffic cases - and he took part-time posts as a prosecutor for several municipalities. He gained an early reputation as an aggressive courtroom advocate.
Less than seven years out of law school, Marshall launched his own practice, in 1999. By his own admission "I knew it was a risk but I wasn't afraid to promote myself." He adds, "In a strange way, my timing was pretty good because the internet was just taking off and I was out in front of other lawyers to promote my practice online, so it grew pretty quickly." Over the years Marshall, while still managing the firm, has stayed focused on his own caseload, most of which today is drug-related offenses, sex-related charges, and some major felony charges such as robbery and assault. For years he represented clients facing DWI charges; now his firm has its own DWI-defense group headed by partner Colin Bonus.
Marshall's firm in many respects reflects his own approach and values: "We have a great team - they're smart and fearless street lawyers. They have a little chip on their shoulder - something to prove. You won't find any of us sitting in our offices gazing at the diplomas on our walls." He and his colleagues appear in court for clients every day, often in Monmouth County where he resides, as well as Hudson, Essex, Middlesex, Union, Passaic, Bergen and Ocean counties, where the firm now has offices. He is frequently consulted by producers of television shows like Law and Order and House.
Away from the office Marshall follows the football and lacrosse proceedings of his two sons, now attending Red Bank Catholic High School. His daughter too is a lacrosse player. "I tell my kids to enjoy the competition," he says. "That's how you improve - and prove - yourself."