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Mark E. NeJame is the founder and senior partner of NeJame Law. He is based in Central Florida with his main office in Orlando, but has frequently handles state as well as federal cases throughout Florida and much of the United States, including the Caribbean, Massachusetts, California, Texas, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, Virgin Islands, New York, and Virginia.
For the first twenty-five years of his thirty-three year career, Mark primarily dedicated his practice to criminal defense. Today, it appears NeJame Law has the largest criminal defense team in Florida. Mark expanded his firm's practice areas several years ago, and it now includes personal injury, real estate, immigration and civil/commercial litigation divisions. Utilizing the same reputation, negotiation, and trial skill for which Mark and his firm have become renowned, NeJame Law's vibrant personal injury division and team assist those who have been injured in everything from excessive use of force by law enforcement to negligent security injuries to vehicle accident cases. The real estate, immigration, and civil/commercial litigation divisions are also devoted to the same level of excellence NeJame Law demands.
Mark is dedicated to making sure that his firm and its team of trial lawyers offer aggressive, ethical, creative, and compassionate representation in seeking the best results on behalf of its clients. He has represented many high-profile clients, including boy band "guru" Lou Pearlman, Texas EquuSearch in the Casey Anthony Case, and professional golfer Tiger Woods. Mark is the first lawyer known to have won a settlement against NBA star Charles Barkley, and he has represented notable athletes, celebrities, politicians, professionals, renowned business figures, judges, lawyers, and law enforcement officers. Mark declined to represent George Zimmerman twice in connection with the death of Trayvon Martin.
Over the years, Mark has been awarded with several distinctions, accolades and awards. NeJame Law was chosen in the Orlando Business Journal annual reader's poll as The Best Law Firm in Central Florida in 2012 and 2013. He has been acknowledged in the Bar Register of Preeminent Attorneys, which recognizes a small number of the leading lawyers in the U.S. Mark has held an "AV" (pre-eminent) Martindale-Hubbell rating, which is the highest rating presented to any individual lawyer. He was featured in the esteemed Florida Trend Magazine's Legal Elite of the best attorneys in Florida and Orlando Leisure Magazine lists him among Orlando's best lawyers. Mark has been the subject of many magazine and newspaper articles, being referred to as the "Voice for the Voiceless," "Orlando Power Couple," "Defender is a Contender," "The Power Worthy," and as "Orlando's Own Johnny Cochran." He has also been named among Orlando's 50 Most Powerful People for several consecutive years in Orlando Magazine's Most Powerful People annual list.
Mark is dedicated in serving others and he has been a community leader and activist in a variety of civil, charity, and political functions for many years. Some of the charities he has participated in include chairing events for the Pediatric Cancer Foundation and the Heart Fund Ball, participating on the Board of Directors of the International Prostate Cancer Foundation, serving on the advisory board for Seeds of Peace, an organization that supports dialog between young individuals in conflicting regions of the world and Shepherd's Hope, which offers health care for the working poor.
Mark's primary charitable passion is Runway to Hope, a charity he co-founded with his wife, Josie in 2010. This not-for-profit organization provides research, assistance, support, and help to children with pediatric cancer. In only three years it has pledged three million dollars to all of Central Florida's three children's hospitals. Runway to Hope hosts fashion-centric fundraisers that pair children inflicted with cancer with celebrities in a fashion show. Its primary annual event, Spring Fashion Soiree, is held on Mother's Day Weekend each year. In only its first year, Runway to Hope was honored to receive the award for Excellence in Fundraising by a Nonprofit from the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Runway to Hope has been voted or named six times as The Best Charity Event of the Year in three different publications.
Its Spring Fashion Soiree in 2013 celebration raised more than $700,000 from its 1,600 attendees, which was hosted by actress Ashley Greene and Olympic Gold Medal gymnast Gabby Douglas. Multiple celebrities have provided video public service announcements supporting Runway to Hope, including Larry King, Katie Couric, Dan Rather, Akon, Shaquille O'Neal, Dr. Drew, Nancy Grace, George Lopez, the Jonas Brothers and Elizabeth Banks.
Mark is a CNN Legal Analyst for CNN and HLN, where he provides legal opinion analysis to the nation and to the world, regarding major cases of the day. He is also a Legal Analyst and commentator with Central Florida News 13 (CFN 13) where he provides regular legal commentary on legal issues occurring throughout Central Florida. Mark is also a contributor to CNN.com. In addition to his regular appearances on CNN, HLN and CFN 13, some of his national appearances include The Today Show, CBS Morning Show, Good Morning America, Piers Morgan, Anderson Cooper 360, Dr. Drew Show, The Dr. Phil Show, Greta van Susteren, Nancy Grace Show, Joy Behar Show, FOX News, MSNBC, The Canadian News Network (CBC), Geraldo Rivera, Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell, Studio B with Shepard Smith, Inside Edition, TruTv, Court TV, and many others. Mark has also appeared on a variety of CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox national and local news segments and outlets. He was nominated as a 2012 Emmy Nominee, along with the rest of the WKMG news team, where he offered consistent legal analysis and commentary on the Casey Anthony trial.
He is frequently sought out as a lecturer and speaker. Mark has been a featured speaker for the National Association of Black Narcotics Officers, the Florida Private Investigators Association, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and innumerable other law enforcement groups, schools and other associations.
He was born and raised in Orlando, FL. He is of Lebanese heritage, being a 3rd generation American. He and his 2 sisters, Paula and Chris, were raised in Orlando by his beloved mother, Ann, and his grandmother who he lovingly called Sitto. His father was out of the picture from the time he was 10 years old so he has always worked. When he was ten, Mark began working to support his family. He washed cars, mowed lawns and later worked as a supermarket bagboy, and operated the largest paper route in Orlando.
Mark graduated from Edgewater High School and is being inducted in his high school's Hall of Fame. He received a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Florida, where he was a member of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. During his college years, Mark couldn't afford a Mother's Day gift for his mother. Instead of buying a gift, he made a cactus terrarium for her. When people complemented Mark on how attractive the terrarium was, he started selling them through retailers. He successfully sold ornamental plants in Gainesville and he eventually saved $2,400, allowing him to open a store and plant rental business while still an undergraduate student. 2 ½ years later he sold the business for $64,000 while in his first term of law school. He used his profits to pay for his University of Florida law school education where he earned his Juris Doctorate degree. While a law student he became president of Moot Court, whose members were considered to be among the law school's best speakers.
When the fearless attorney isn't working, he enjoys traveling the country and world with his loving wife, Josie and their two children. He is a dedicated and devoted father to his daughters, Valentina who is 8 and Alessandra who is 6. Recognizing that the biggest complaint in life that many of his peers have expressed was that they weren't around as much as they'd like when their children were growing up, Mark never misses any activity or event in his children's life, making the girls his highest priority. Mark and Josie share their culture of service and giving with their girls. Since they were first born, Mark has whispered in their ears, "To those who much is given, much is expected." When asked about his other interests, Mark stated, "I've always enjoyed the creative aspect of creating businesses. Entrepreneurship runs through my veins." He is an avid Orlando Magic fan. Mark is a frequent visitor of Longwood's Enzo's for his favorite Italian fare and Orlando's Cedars for Lebanese and Middle Eastern cuisine.
Mark's Memories and Motivations
Did Mark receive any awards or participate in activities that influenced his decision to go into the law? He said his family didn't have money and he aspired to do something better with his life. Mark stated that his greatest achievement at the University of Florida, College of Law, was when he became President of the Moot Court team.
Why did he decide to become an attorney? Mark noted that he wanted to help people, especially the underdogs who needed assistance from an attorney. He candidly claimed, "I always had a desire to help others so I thought the law would be a good fit for me."
So what is the best part of Mark's job? "I truly enjoy helping people. You have to find out what you love to do in life and then the money will roll in when you are having fun." He also enjoys the diversification that has evolved within his firm, allowing him to grow into a successful and well-respected full service law firm.
What is he known for professionally? Mark acknowledged that he is relentless in the pursuit of a favorable outcome for his clients. He compared his strategy in the courtroom to a game of chess. Mark emphasized that attorneys must be creative when they are practicing law and they have to be many moves ahead of their opponent. His nickname is "The Fixer" and he sees this among his strongest assets.
What area of the law is Mark most passionate about? He claimed that he is enjoying all the areas he is currently practicing in. Whether it's personal injury or business litigation matters, Mark is having fun. "You have to make life fun. Attorneys get burned out because they don't change, they have to stay flexible. My firm has expanded because I am open to new opportunities for growth and helping others."
Is there an area of practice that he would like to develop further into? Mark noted that foreclosure acquisitions and forging investments are growing. He also stated that real estate, personal injury, and immigration law continues to grow. Mark shared that he would like to represent more international clientele and is developing additional overseas business opportunities in 2014.
In regard to his strengths and his weaknesses, he said, "I am creative, caring, compassionate, and I believe I am an excellent strategist whether preparing for trial or working out a settlement." Mark pointed out that he has learned to respect his adversaries. He listens and works to appreciate what is important to his adversary and why, without sacrificing his client's position. "You don't shut your ears and eyes on your adversaries." If you can figure out what they want and their motivation for it, you benefit your client immeasurably. As for his weakness, Mark revealed, "There isn't enough time in one day to get everything done."
What does Mark think about criminal law today? He asserted:
"The system has unfortunately become the tail wagging the dog because of the lack of funds in the criminal justice system. Prosecutors don't have adequate resources to focus on significant cases and defense attorneys' compassion towards their clients has been overshadowed by expediting and budget concerns. Twenty-five percent of the world's population is in prison and one out of four of those individuals are in American prisons. There is something we are doing that is not working."
If he weren't a lawyer, what would he probably be doing? "I am an entrepreneur and I enjoy establishing businesses. I would just be doing more and more business development."
Where does Mark see himself professionally in five years? He explained that NeJame Law continues to grow and he acknowledged that his firm had 4 record years during the recession. He is continuing to grow his firm and will allow it to become as large and to diversify in as many areas as the market dictates. He enjoys his regular television work and anticipates that to expand as well. Several business projects are coming into fruition, so he anticipates much more growth on that front as well.
What motivates him to be an attorney every day? Mark's greatest motivation is to help individuals. He added, "Part of my responsibility is to have the best law firm that I possibly can. We take pride and recognize the importance in what we do. So many trial lawyers are cynical, burned out, or they become abusive to others and to themselves. I believe it's important for lawyers to diversify so they can keep things from becoming old and stale. Recognize who you are and what you've become and do something positive about it. "
How does the Floridian want to be remembered? "As a great father, husband, and son who helped as many as he could."
Representing Clients and Handling Cases in Several States, What Separates NeJame Law from Other Firms, Being Named One of Orlando's 50 Most Powerful People and Speaking Engagements
Mark has represented clients and handled cases in several states and districts throughout the U.S. and the Caribbean. Does he have a case that stands out? "I don't mean to be cliché, but it's the case you're handling at the time. Your client should be the most important thing on your mind and you can't take your responsibility lightly or for granted. When you win it's gratifying, but ego can't get in the way. It's important to do the best you can to assist your clients and not your ego."
Among the many awards and accolades, NeJame Law was selected in the Orlando Business Journal annual reader's poll as The Best Law Firm in Orlando Central Florida 2012 and 2013. What separates Mark's law firm from others in Florida? "My philosophy is to focus on the best resolution for my clients. So many lawyers seem to only be concerned about the fee and the money they will make. I'm blessed to have done extremely well, but that is a result of putting my clients first and not me first. You can't teach someone heart and compassion. That is the difference between winners and losers. Lawyers who care about their clients and have a heart will make the difference."
Mark has been named among Orlando's 50 Most Powerful People for many consecutive in Orlando Magazine's Most Powerful annual list. How does he feel to be recognized for his work? "I feel humbled to be on the list. I have personal gratification realizing that most on the list are there via their position…President of a company, an elected official, etc. Only a handful of us were there as a result of being recognized for independent contributions. It's not often a trial lawyer, especially one who spent a large part of his career doing criminal defense, to be so recognized. I must admit I am proud of that."
As a television Legal Analyst, Mark speaks frequently to a national and international audience on the major national cases of the day. Will he continue his speaking engagements? "Yes, I enjoy it. To the disdain of many lawyers, the media is something they have to know how to handle, especially with high profile cases. The media can make or break cases. Lawyers need to learn and understand the media. I consider it an important asset for any trial lawyer to keep in his or her arsenal."
Mentoring Others, Runway to Hope, Pro Bono Work and Mark's Goals
Does Mark have a mentor? Is he a mentor? "I observe and learn from everybody. I mentor young lawyers. I make sure they learn to always be prepared and that they understand the importance of conducting themselves professionally. Among the greatest compliments is when other attorneys or interns let me know I changed their life when they worked or interned with me."
Mark is co-founder of Runway to Hope. What inspired him to get involved with pediatric cancer? "I have two daughters and I thank God that they are healthy. But almost every parent has said that about their child at one time or another. However with pediatric cancer kids, they one day complain of a headache, a bump, a bruise or some such thing. The parents then go for a routine visit to their pediatrician and they soon find out they are fighting for their child's life. I always desired to be the founder of a charity and the timing was right for my wife Josie and me." Mark's mom also influenced his decision to establish Runway to Hope because she used to be a lab assistant working with children with cancer.
Does he handle pro bono work? Absolutely, but Mark said NeJame Law doesn't handle pro bono work through the local bar association. His firm receives many calls and they decide which cases will be handled as pro bono work. An example is in 2013, NeJame Law's Immigration Division assisted two African sisters who had been orphaned and had come to the United States. The women were permitted to stay in the country after members of NeJame Law contributed towards the women's filling court fees and handling their immigration cases pro bono.
Some of Mark's pro bono work also includes representing Leo Visco. The military veteran's wife, Eva, had begged her husband to end her years of pain. The couple made a murder-suicide pact. Although Visco shot his wife in the head, she did not die immediately. Eventually she did die and he was later charged with first-degree murder. Mark was able to secure a short suspended sentence and probation for Visco.
Does he have goals? The prominent lawyer said he looks forward to spending more time with his family, traveling and seeking new business opportunities. Mark also plans on continuing to fully participate in Runway to Hope. Legally, he will continue to expand his law practice and continue its diversification, all the while providing the best legal assistance he and his team of lawyers can.