Welcome back to episode #100 on the NJCriminalPodcast.com - This episode features the return of attorney Jim Leonard for a conversation about pivoting in life and career.
100th episode artwork:
Painting of a businessman standing in the middle of a bustling city street.
The sun is either setting or rising, casting orange hues on the surroundings.
Emphasize new beginnings and career pivots. Capture his hopefulness through composition and use of natural lighting.
The scene should be photorealistic, hopeful, uplifting and inspiring.
Hoerner Law: https://hoernerlaw.com
Cannabis Legalization in NJ: https://www.njcriminalpodcast.com/category/cannabis-legalization-nj/
Lindbergh Kidnapping Trial: https://www.njcriminalpodcast.com/category/lindbergh-kidnapping/
Lindbergh Kidnapping Blog Posts: https://www.njcriminalpodcast.com/blog/category/lindbergh-kidnapping/
Start a Legal Podcast: https://lawfirmpodcasts.com
Start a Niche Business Podcast: https://nichepodcast.net
If you sell by referral, relationship building and network marketing. Pick a time and let's talk about podcasting. You might be surprised. When done correctly, all you have to do is have the conversations. 3s I think you got a good voice. Thank you. You're not going to hear me singing anytime soon. Welcome to the NJ criminal podcast. Welcome back to NJ criminal podcast. I'm here with Jim Leonard, my dear friend, on the 100th episode of NJ criminal podcast. And maybe we'll get Jim to sing for us today. I don't think so. 1s Is this the centennial edition of your podcast? It is. You're here for the centennial edition of NJ criminal podcast. I feel like there should be a parade. Maybe there is overlooking was it Pacific? You're overlooking North Carolina, but you're looking towards Pacific. Okay. How long have you been in this location? I have been in this location since. 2s 2006 or seven 1s not in in this building. And the location has expanded. We've taken over more space in that time. But I stumbled upon this office in 1s 2006. There was a 2s an attorney that, you know, whose name I won't mention that was occupying a portion of this space. And this is funny how this is going to tie into everything that we're talking about. So at the time, 2006 ish my office was in Camden, and my practice was focused on criminal work in Camden. And I grew up down here. I worked here. We talked about this the last time we were together. My family was down here, and I had a court appearance across the street in juvenile court here in Atlanta County. And there were two lawyers, both of whom, you know, that were working out of a portion of this office, and one of them was doing per diem work that I was utilizing their services, and the other was trying to get a practice going here. 2s When I came to this location, I immediately thought, I need to be here. Here, meaning Atlantic City, AC here, meaning this building here. This building have a name. So this building 1s was named and is known primarily as the Seagull Fruit Building because back in the day, if you're you notice outside, 2s I guess that would be a canopy, which is very heavy. The word Siegel fruit, you can see it pronounced on the lower level. This was a produce building. People would come here and buy fruit similar to, like, the Italian market in Philadelphia. Ironically, something that you might not know probably where we're sitting right now. At one time, when they were renovating, the civil courthouse in Atlanta county judges chambers were where we are sitting right now. When they were renovating, they moved in this building. In this building, probably right where we're sitting. Long before, I was a lawyer, but lawyers utilized or judges rather, were on this floor, I think temporarily while that was happening. But. 1s When I came here, I was immediately drawn to the location. And I spoke with the lawyer that I was doing the per diem work with. This lawyer indicated that they were having a very hard time 1s getting things going for themselves. And the lawyer who actually had the space told me that the space was a disaster, the location was a disaster. Esther and that lawyer was looking of getting out of it, getting out of the lease, et cetera. Well, I was doing well in Camden, but I don't know if I was inching to come back to Atlantic City. But that day I said, not only do I want to come back to Atlantic City or come to Atlantic City professional, but I want to be here in this location. You saw it. I saw it. So what I did was I worked out an arrangement with the lawyer, kind of assumed what remained of the lease, and I got going, and very quickly, Atlantic City. 2s Did good for me, and I began to pivot from Camden to Atlantic City. I tried to do both for a while, and it was just too much. I couldn't. Were you on your own, though, in Camden? Or was this not only a new space for you? Was it you going out on your own? I was completely on my own in in Camden as well? In Camden with a secretary? In Camden. And what happened was I opened up this office and I hired a secretary, and it was like I couldn't be in two places at once. It was very difficult for me to run, basically, dual practices, camden and Atlantic. And what happened was 1s I pivoted from Camden to here. My lease was ending in Camden. I was having problems with the secretary that I had in Camden. And this was just fresher. It was new. Did you remodel this space yourself? Yeah, a million times over. Okay. Because this is great space. Thank you. It's changed significantly over the years. It's gotten bigger over the years. Years. But remodeling we've probably done it. 2s Too many times. But that was a pivotal moment for me professionally, but also knowing that, hey, you know, Camden was good, but I think this can be better. And it got significantly better within a year or so. I was involved with high profile cases here that we're getting a lot of media attention. We talked about the serial killing in West Atlantic City with the four women. I got involved with that in 2007. So this was all fluid. And then I was involved with I got involved with politics down here. I got involved with 1s the missing mayor when the Atlantic City mayor disappeared and the city council president got elevated. So my hunch that Atlantic City was a good place for me was it paid off significantly. And I do think just from my own perspective, I do think that if you're a good business person and you have to be a good business person to be a good lawyer, you have to know when to follow your gut, follow that hunch. And other people may say, well, that's a risk. You're taking a risk. But knowing when to take that risk and then knowing how much of a risk to take is a great skill to have, because we've seen people make mistakes both ways take too much risk or not take enough risk. I think even just the decision to hire a secretary is often a big decision for a sole practitioner, a very big decision. You got to make payroll. You have to make payroll. And you're also now you have to train this person. You have to try to give them all of the knowledge that you have because you were your own secretary before you hired them. So now you become not just a lawyer running a practice, but now you become someone's employer, and 1s that creates a lot of. 3s Intricacies. But what's? Manager. Manager. Correct. But what's funny about the idea of pivoting? So we're recording this. Two days ago, I was watching the Grammy Awards. I'm laying in bed. You and many others. Me and many others. I'm watching the Grammy. Not your bed. Not my bed. Just myself, my wife and my dog in my bed. But I'm watching the Grammy Awards. And they did 1s probably a 15 to 20 minutes showcase of the 50th year anniversary of rap music. And they celebrated on the Grammys, which was iconic, because not only am I a fan of the music, but back in the day, the Grammys didn't focus on that genre. They excluded them, there was protests, and now here they were celebrating the art form. So they have a medley of performers in this 15 to 20 minutes window. And one of the performers, or two of the performers, are the most iconic, iconic rap group. 1s In the history of rap music. 1s Not up for debate by anybody. Run DMC bore none. I saw them when they opened for Beasties. 2s They are the Beatles of rap music, and that is not up for debate with any scholars or fans. It's universally known that they are the people that brought that genre of music to the mainstream and changed everything. Run DMC so I'm a fan, obviously, but I'm watching this medley and Run DMC comes out and they did 1s 20 to 30 seconds of one of their songs, 1s and it didn't feel appropriate for what their contribution was. So I was I was annoyed by that. You were pissed? I was, but I instead of just looking at it, I then started to look deeper. Well, why is that? 2s And then if you continue to watch the Grammys, you see Jay Z, who is probably the most prominent hiphop artist on the planet. He's in the crowd, you see Dr. Dre, who's a prominent recording artist, both of whom, by the way, are billionaires with a 2s and it occurred to me when I got done watching it and I woke up the next morning to have my coffee, run DMC 2s never pivoted in their career. They were run DMC they have their catalog of music. They've got their Adidas sneakers, they've got their chains and their look, and it hasn't changed. It hasn't changed. They have not evolved past run DMC So 1s Dr. Dre evolved into he made headphones beats headphones that they sold to Apple Music for over a billion dollars. He has created record labels. He these broken major acts. He pivoted because if you go back to his beginnings, they were, 2s as you would say, like the salad days. 2s And now he's a billionaire because of Pivots. So you look at Jay Z, who was in that crowd, has Pivoted, same thing. 2s So you look at Run DMC and they are these icons. They are on everybody's Mount Rushmore, but they did not continue to evolve. And Pivot when necessary, and when they're being celebrated all these years later, they get the 15 seconds in the medley instead of the Dre treatment on the same Grammy episode, they named an award after Dr. Dre and then awarded it to Dr. Dre on the stage. And I'm thinking to myself, 2s that could have been should have been Run DMC who had everything there in the palm of their hands, but they they didn't make that move. And. 2s I think that and this is very bizarre that we're having this conversation, because when you came into the office 1s and you said, what are we going to talk about? Because we talked about doing this episode, and I'm super honored that for your hundredth episode that you would feature me. But we we said before we came back here, I wanted to talk about pivoting, both as a lawyer, as a business person, in life, in general, and when you brought up making small talk about this office. I didn't realize nor did you when you asked the question that my move from Camden to Atlantic City was a gigantic pivot. And it was something that I, until this moment, saying, never actually looked at it and said, Wait, that was me pivoting. And that was me leaving Camden to come here and do what I'm doing and what I've done and, well, God willing to continue to do, but. 2s Like you said, having that feeling of saying, things are going good, things were going great in Camden. You could still be there and probably be very successful. Absolutely. It would have been a different trajectory for me 1s than the trajectory that I got when I came here and said, I want to be here and I want to be a part of this. Did anyone question why you were making that move and make you maybe second guess your decision at that point in time? Not that I can remember, because that happens sometimes. It does. Not that I can remember. Probably with the exception of the landlord in candidate, who was a lawyer, by the way, and who did tell me that having two offices and he was right about this never works, and that I was going to spread myself too thin and that what I should do is get a very small satellite office here, but not staff it. And that just didn't seem to make any sense to me. I thought, I can do this. And he proved to be right because I couldn't do both. It was impossible. You wouldn't see this secretary here for three days. 1s It just wasn't conducive to where's the files? Where am I going to go to work today? These people want to meet with you. And it was impossible. But as far as other lawyers go, no. At that time in my life, probably the lawyer that I had developed the closest relationship to was now Judge Levin, Joe Levin. And he was right up the street. Right up the street. And he ironically, in the early days, the same thing he was doing Philadelphia and Atlantic City. Because Joe had started as a public defender in Philadelphia and his initial foray into private practice, he was affiliated with Bob Levant, who you've I interviewed on this podcast, and you knew and has now pivoted into see how we're doing, what he's doing. We're doing here. We're doing a whole everybody's pivoting, right? Bob Levant was a prominent Philadelphia attorney that you knew as an attorney. That I knew as an attorney. Joe left the firm that he was at here in South Jersey. 2s Went to Bob's Firm, Levant, Martin Levin and Talibur. I'm doing a commercial for Joe and Bob. Neither one of them are practicing journeys right now, but and then Joe opened up his office here and expanded it, and it went through a couple of different changes. And so Joe constantly pivoted as well, and pivoted his way into wanting to be a judge, so so for me, he was somebody that I was speaking to, and I think we both had a similar blueprint of what we wanted to do, what we wanted to accomplish. And for me, at that point, it was Camden was one thing, but I thought this would be different. And I think I was right. I think it worked better for me planning my flag here and doing what I did here. I have a feeling that I know what would have happened in Camden 1s and it would have been lucrative. But it's a different landscape there than it is here. And I'm involved in the landscape in the county, in the city, whereas in Camden, I don't know that I would have gotten that. I think I would have just been a lawyer, and that would have been it. Yeah. I mean, you had the opportunity, being here in Atlantic City to represent some individuals that were alleged to be an organized crime, 1s but then you made a different pivot, which was Boardwalk Journal. Yes. How did that come about? It came about in 2008, shortly after I was here to 2007, 2008. On one day here in the office. 2s We had two national press conferences. I mean, I it's absurd now that I think about it, but I was calling press conferences in my own office in 2007, when I was like, 32, 33 years old, and we were getting because of the nature of what they were about, we were actually getting, like, national media, so we were getting New York work. In the one case, we were actually getting people from overseas that were sending people, those being the four women and the 1s missing mayor. But on one day, I did two press conferences in the office, one at, like, let's say, 01:00, the other one at, like, say, 230. And there was an overlap with some of the media, and they loved it. They were getting content. They they were in here. It was great. And one as they were winding their day up, one of the cameramen who was breaking down his equipment said, looked at me and said, man, after this, you're going to be the biggest lawyer in Atlantic City. And I said, I don't think so. And he was like, what do you mean? I said, well, it's not really like that down here. We don't really have, like, a major media presence. Whereas if you're in Philadelphia and you read the Daily News, you're following the exploits of Chuck Perudo, you're following the exploits of Fred Perry, Brian Mcmonagle, and you're reading about them, and then you're getting in trouble, and you're calling them, right? Lou Savino you're reading about them, and that you don't need they're billboards or where they place on Google. You're reading about them every day. Every morning. Every morning, so that if you need a lawyer, you don't need to ask anybody. You're calling one of them. 1s Here. It wasn't like that. The press of Atlantic City didn't have dedicated court reporters. They covered some things, but not all things. It was a big deal as a lawyer to get your name in the paper, and if you got your name in the paper, other lawyers saw it, other clients saw it. And then you get on the Harry Hurley radio show, which was a big deal. And now you could talk like we're doing here, and people could say, this person sounds like they know what they're talking about. I'm going to call them. Right? But other than those things, you had TV 40, right. Which was missed TV 40. A lot of people missed TV 40. But, oh, my gosh, TV 40 is going to come interview you outside the courthouse. You're going to be on the news, or you would get lucky and be on Channel six in Philadelphia and maybe make your way into the inquirer. George Anastasia is going to write an article about the mob case that you're involved with or something. Good friend of both of ours. The best, right? And that was a huge, big deal. But what happened was, in that moment, I thought, if we don't have that year. 2s Why don't I create it? So I created the Boardwalk Journal. That's a pivot. That was a pivot. And we did it. And our very first cover that we did was Donald Trump, who at the time was almost on his way out of Atlantic City. He was still here holding on briefly to the Taj Mahal, now Hard Rock. And we interviewed him, which so I got to give credit, harry Hurley interviewed him. Harry had a relationship with him. And when I said, he's the guy I want, harry went and got it and put him on the COVID And this is in, like, 2009. We did this. So in a very short window, I go from being a Camden criminal lawyer in less than three years in Atlantic City, where I grew up, where I work, where my family was, people I went to high school with. This is my area, my hometown, your roots. My roots. And then not only am I now in the newspaper, on the radio, now, I've got this magazine. So it kind of manifested all of what I'm doing. I also want to talk about I talked about Joe Levin, who joe Levin is somebody that Judge Levin is somebody who my career and his career were moving parallel. And although we were competitors, 1s we remain very close friends, and we never were cutthroat with one another. And 1s most of the knowledge that I got was based off of bouncing ideas off of him. And in order to do that, you have to be honest and transparent with one another. We are lucky in Atlantic Cape May County Bar that we have a close relationship with most of the defense attorneys and prosecutors. I use the word adversarial in, like, air quotation marks because it's adversarial, but it is very. 2s Congenial. But another person who I believe is one of the absolute best pivoters is the Atlantic County prosecutor Bill Reynolds. And I'm going to tell you why. I first met Bill Reynolds in Brigantine Municipal court. He was a prosecutor and got to know him in that court, would see him out and about. And Bill is somebody that one day, if you haven't one day, you absolutely should sit with. Because Bill is somebody that went from private practice and had these appointments. He was the municipal prosecutor, left private practice, actually worked for the court system, actually left the grind of private practice, and was working within the judiciary, had a very important and unique role within the judiciary, not as an employee, but moved cases along and had a very interesting role there. Pivoted. 2s Back to private practice, accumulated more municipalities. I'm going to say it was absolutely unequivocally the best municipal prosecutor that I've ever seen in the state, anywhere. Anyone who dealt with prosecutor reynolds when he was a municipal court prosecutor knows that he hustled. He worked his ass off. He did. The statement that I made about run DMC, that's not up for debate by anybody. I'm making the exact same statement and putting a period on it with bill reynolds being the best municipal prosecutor that I have ever encountered in 22 years in the entire state. And I've been in a lot of municipal courts, bar none, period. Bill reynolds is in that job, 1s and what's happening the regional municipal court, which is a whole nother conversation for another day. 2s Is roaring into town and is going to start eliminating positions. Well, this is where lawyers can, like, lay down and die or they can pivot. 1s And the next thing you know, bill Reynolds is working as a solicitor in some of the same towns where he had been the municipal prosecutor because of those relationships that he had fostered because of those relationships and because of his ability 1s to pivot. And then what happens and then what happens is, while that's all happening, 1s here comes the dialogue of greatest municipal prosecutor. How about 1s you become the Atlantic county prosecutor? And it was like, wait, what are you talking about? A couple of years ago, he was working. Here is a guy that has constantly pivoted. And I will tell you. 2s I don't know that that's going to be his last pivot. 1s That's Bill Reynolds, right? So to me, watch a guy like that, right? Because he's going to pivot again and again, and he's going to keep moving around. I mean, the key is knowing when to say yes and when to say pass, when to say yes, when to say pass, and when it's time. Time to do the pivot. Right? So for me, the time to leave Camden. 1s I had a gut feeling. I went with it. The time to start the Boardwalk Journal. I had a gut feeling. I went with it. The time to end the Boardwalk Journal. Why do we end it? Because we're putting casinos like Revel on the COVID I'm watching Revel be built out my window. I watch it come up from nothing. I was here when it was nothing. Is that Revel that I'm looking at right now? It used to be Rebel, but I watched that be built. We put them on the COVID I met with the CEO. They gave us advertising dollars. We were writing stories about them. And then they closed. 2s Taj mahal that didn't exist. We were we were in business with taj mahal. We were in business with the help. We meaning the boardwalk journal, we meaning the boardwalk journal, and all of these gigantic entities ceased to exist. Yeah, print media, it's tough, and print media, it relies on advertising pivoted into digital. And at that point, if I'm being honest, we we did 60 issues. We did five years worth of monthly issues, and very proud of all of them. And I knew it was time to pivot away from that. And when I pivoted away from that, within six months of that, I was involved with Teresa Judyce. 2s The best way to follow subscribe rate or message. The show is to visit njcriminalpodcast.com. Podcasting is a powerful sales tool with digital marketing benefits. If you're interested in law firm podcasting, simply dial 239-351-5575 and ask for tom. That's 239-351-5575 or go to law firmpodcasts.com to schedule a call.
Criminal Defense Attorney
Jim is a repeat guest and Meg's choice to celebrate the 100th episode of the NJCP.
Upon graduating from Villanova University School of Law in 2001, Jim became an associate at a prominent Camden County law firm specializing in criminal defense work. In 2002, Mr. Leonard left the firm and started his own practice, the Leonard Law Group, specializing in aggressive criminal defense litigation.
In 2003, Mr. Leonard won two high-profile jury trials that established his reputation as a highly skilled trial attorney. In 2015, Mr. Leonard was nominated by his peers as a Super Lawyer. While the scope of Mr. Leonard’s practice and his reputation have evolved significantly over the last decade, the primary focus is and always will be aggressive criminal defense litigation for defendants charged in Juvenile Court, Municipal Court, Superior Court and Federal Court throughout the State of New Jersey.
Here are some great episodes to start with. Or, check out episodes by topic.