For nearly four decades Rick Lehrich has been one of the leading practitioners of criminal-defense law in northern New Jersey, where heâ€™s well known and widely respected. A skillful attorney and a keen observer of the law, the 64-year-old Newark native maintains a matter-of-fact and unflashy demeanor - which to some extent belies a competitive streak that has hardly diminished over the years.
After graduating from Rutgers, Lehrich went on to Yale Law School at the height of the Vietnam War - circumstances that honed his sense of justice and contributed to his decision to become a trial lawyer. After a clerkship Lehrich was recruited by the blue-chip corporate firm Lowenstein Sandler - where he found the layers and re-drafts â€œboring from the start. I found out quickly that commercial law wasnâ€™t for me.â€ Less than a year later, he took an entry-level position in the Union County Public Defenders Office - hardly the track for the graduate of a prestigious law school but perfect for the independent-minded Lehrich. â€œIt was never about the money.â€ Public defenderâ€™s work allowed him â€œto do everything Iâ€™d ever wanted to do,â€ and the work was â€œmore human-interest and more dramatic - and I was good at it.â€ He spent 15 years in that office, most of that time handling scores of cases each year while also serving as a key administrator.
By 1986 (â€œIâ€™d done all I could do, Iâ€™d built a reputation - and Iâ€™d had enough of death-penalty casesâ€) he launched his own practice - teaming up with others or joining an established firm was out of the question. â€œIâ€™m not a delegator. When a client retains me Iâ€™m there for every motion, every hearing.â€ For the last 19 years Lehrich has based his practice in Cranford, not far from where he began. Famously diligent and hard-working, Lehrich has handled all manner of criminal cases. Attorneys whoâ€™ve watched Lehrichâ€™s steady and effective work say heâ€™s not only hands-on but one of the true authorities of criminal procedure and legal ethics in the state.
His wife, Laura LeWinn, is an Appellate Division judge with chambers in New Brunswick; he commutes daily from their Mercer County home. They have two grown children.