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Michael J. Zeigerman is a May 2014 graduate of Florida Coastal School of Law. He is interested in several different areas of the law, including bankruptcy, collections, and residential and commercial real estate transactions, with plans to focus on practicing commercial law in Florida. Michael plans on taking the Florida and New Jersey State Bar.
He was born and raised in Morganville, New Jersey. Michael grew up with his mother, father, and brother. When asked about how his family and fiancée, Megan, motivated him, Michael said, "When I wanted to quit or when I was lazy, my family encouraged me to work hard. They told me to take advantage of every opportunity to succeed. And without Megan it wouldn't even have been possible for me to become a lawyer." He continued to discuss his upbringing:
"I did not speak English until I was about four years old. I was born in central New Jersey, but my parents who are from Russia (now the Ukraine) sent me to Russian pre-school and kindergarten. When I finally went to public school I had to take English classes. I can read, write, and speak Russian. I also read, write, and speak Spanish, which I learned in grade school.
Michael graduated with a B.A. in History and minored in Business from the University at Albany, State University of New York (SUNY) in 2011. From 2007 to 2011, he served as a freelance writer for the campus newspaper and was a member of an on campus fraternity. Michael also served as captain of the debate team and was vice president of the Philosophy Club (2010 to 2011).
At Florida Coastal School of Law, Michael served as a certified translator and interpreter in Russian (2011 to 2014). He assisted Florida Coastal with Eastern European individuals who sought the institution for help. From 2013 to 2014, Michael served as vice president for the mentor-mentee program on campus and was secretary for the Jewish Legal Student Association. During this time, he also served a law professor as a teaching and research assistant in contracts and bankruptcy.
From 2008 to 2011, Michael served as an intern during his summer and winter breaks for Schachter Portnoy, LLC, in Princeton, New Jersey. He prepared motions to dismiss and summary judgments. Michael prepared cases for trial by conducting discovery and submit reports based on that research. He also assisted attorneys in applying Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to loan disputes.
February 2013 to November 2013, Michael served as a law clerk and research assistant for the Johnson Law Firm, PA, in Jacksonville, Florida. He prepared motions to dismiss and summary judgments. Michael assisted attorneys in applying Bankruptcy Code to bankruptcy proceedings. He was responsible for conducting research and submitting reports in various areas of bankruptcy. Michael also consulted with clients on various options available to them in bankruptcy and foreclosure.
He currently serves as legal intern for the Exit Real Estate Gallery/Infinity Advancement Financial Services, LLC, in Jacksonville, Florida. Michael assisted agents in reviewing purchase and sale agreements. He is responsible for weekly evaluation of titles for encumbrances.
Additionally, Michael serves as Westlaw student representative for the Thomson Reuters Corporation. He conducts campus-wide student training in all aspects of legal research. Michael organizes charity, fundraising, and educational events relating to legal research. He also ensures that all students meet various school requirements of research proficiency.
Michael discussed his internship programs. He stated:
"During my law school career I have interned at a real estate company and a bankruptcy law firm. Both opportunities have enabled me to gain real world experience and get a sense of what the professional world is really like. I have assisted my superiors in deed and contract evaluations and motion and discovery practice.
Additionally, my role as an on campus West law representative has enabled me to do extensive research for my coworkers on topics they were not very familiar with. It was very rewarding being a student but also having a direct impact on helping others either buy a home or file for bankruptcy. My roles varied at both internships I had; sometimes I would do some writing or make phone calls to customers, and sometimes I would research what kind of fishing boat is best for shallow streams. Every day there was definitely a surprise waiting."
What are Michael's hobbies and personal interests? "My hobby is watching, coaching, and officiating soccer. I also enjoy reading historical non-fiction, you know - those boring biographies about the founding fathers. I also play golf weekly, or as often as my schedule allows. Megan and I also enjoy bird watching at local parks in Jacksonville. Probably my biggest passion (other than soccer) is cooking." The couple enjoys cooking lasagna, Chicken Parmesan, and Chicken Piccata. Michael's favorite authors include Edgar Allan Poe and Jules Verne.
Michael's Academic Law Career and Future Aspirations
"Originally I went to law school because my parents always told me I could become a doctor, businessman, or lawyer; that's it. I am not a fan of blood so becoming a doctor was out immediately. So ever since I was little I thought of combining business and the law and came up with owning my own practice one day. I knew I wanted nothing to do with litigation and luckily enough in high school I interned for a law firm that handled collection and contract matters and was hooked from that point on. Looking back now I think I went to law school because as a child I saw many adults who were lawyers making decent or really good money and wanted to have that for myself in the future."
What are the areas of the law he hopes to practice? "I hope to practice commercial law, specifically bankruptcy, collections, and residential and commercial real estate transactions."
Michael shared his aims and aspirations. "My goal is to eventually 'have my name on the door.' I want to own a small law firm, five or six attorneys at most, then after 20-25 years sell my shares and open a restaurant. My true passion is cooking, but I know that the restaurant business is not for me right now."
Are there any particular achievements that he would like to share? Michael acknowledged:
"I have studied extremely hard for three years while working two internships and refereeing soccer matches roughly 30-40 hours per week. Additionally, I have become engaged recently to my college sweetheart, and as many people know, maintaining a healthy relationship through law school can be challenging. However, she really is my rock, and I could not do it without her. I think the biggest accomplishment is her putting up with me during these hectic years."
What are Michael's key accomplishments? He noted:
"I think my biggest achievement is making it this far. My parents are immigrants who came to this country with nothing. They gave me a great opportunity to succeed, and I did not throw it away as many young people do, unfortunately. I am far from perfect, believe me, but I have never strayed from my path to hopefully one day own a small law firm and golf every Friday morning. I have also trained hundreds of young people over the years on how to play and referee soccer. Being able to teach someone discipline, respect for others, and creativity (even if it is with a soccer ball), is very important to me."
Michael then discussed the key skills and strengths that he will use to further his career goals. "I think my biggest strength for career purposes is my determination to finish every task as proficiently as possible, being meticulous, and knowing when to listen rather than speak."
As for his weakness, he admitted, "I have to learn how to try not to control every aspect of my life. I know it is impossible and things can happen, I just have to learn to accept that."
Law school can be stressful at times, so Michael shared how he relieves stress. "I have been running at least 5k every day since I was probably ten years old. I love running and it is the best stress reliever for me. Another stress reliever is just going out to dinner with my fiancée on the beach and enjoying the weather and each other's company."
How does he handle new assignments? Michael said:
"If the assignment is new material I will try and get as much information as possible, as quickly as possible (lawyers don't tend to give much time to unpaid interns, which I fully understand and usually agree with). Then I will start the assignment and complete as much of it as I can, asking coworkers for help if absolutely necessary after exhausting all other options myself. After I have done all I can I submit my work and note any areas I am not confident about or did not even complete because I did not want to waste anyone's time correcting my mistake. If the assignment is something I have done in the past I will just do the assignment, check my work, and submit it."
Where does Michael derive his confidence? "I have no idea. I know I can say I have some semblance of intelligence, otherwise, I would not be graduating law school (otherwise I am completely lost here). All I know is that if I put my mind to something, with others help, I can succeed."
Three Wishes to Live By, Top Priority, Community Service, Most Influential Traveling Experience, Coping with Fear and Major Obstacles
If Michael had three wishes, what would he wish for? "That's a tough question. 1: America becomes an isolationist country and starts fixing problems at home and feeding starving children at home, 2: find out if there is life on other planets, and 3: go back and win the lottery on my 18th birthday so I would never have to go to law school in the first place."
What is his top priority? "My top priority outside of law school is definitely work. I am a USSF certified soccer referee and nearly every day year round I travel the Southeast refereeing everything from children in pull-ups to college and professional players. I need the money to support myself, fiancée, and two cats who we consider our children (until the real babies come)."
Has Michael participated in community service? He asserted:
"I served Habitat for Humanity from 2004 to 2014. I built and repaired homes in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. I volunteered with the Special Olympics soccer and bowling divisions from 2004 to 2014. I was also a translator and interpreter for Jacksonville residents in matters ranging from citizenship issues to child custody disputes from 2011 to 2014. I was the only student at Florida Coastal certified to do such work."
Does he have a most influential traveling experience? Michael replied:
"I have traveled all over the world because of family vacations and tagging along on my parents or relatives business trips. Probably my most vivid memory was traveling in the Swiss Alps. Writing about the beauty there does not do it justice. If I were not raised near the New York City area I would say travelling there is the most influential traveling experience of my life, but since I grew up there I have a completely different perception now than I would if I were just a tourist. In my opinion Switzerland is the most beautiful place to visit, but New York City is the most important and magnificent city in the history of the world. I strongly feel that New York is the melting pot for all modern civilization."
In regard to handling fear, he said, "I am always in fear of not finding that first legal job after graduation. I deal with it very simply - I look as hard as I physically can for a job, and at the end of the day even if I did not get a single call or email I know I did everything I could, and the job will come eventually."
Has Michael faced any obstacles in his life? He claimed:
"My biggest obstacle growing up was meeting the expectations of my parents. As I stated earlier - they came to America without a lick of English and a few dollars in their pockets, but they made something of themselves. I guess that I always felt I had to outdo them because I was born here, I speak the language; what would I tell them if I did not succeed in my endeavors. Seeing how hard my parents work with little complaint gives me a good example of how to approach every day - just do one thing at a time and eventually the to do list will shrink."
Legal Role Models, Personal Philosophy, People You Want to Surround Yourself With, Favorite Quote and Final Thoughts
Does Michael have any legal role models? "Without a doubt Felix Frankfurter and John Marshall. Justice Frankfurter I think is a legal genius (I have read most of his decisions and think they are the most coherent legal documents I have ever read), and Justice Marshall founded judicial review, which is the cornerstone of our legal system. Without him our country's legal system would look quite different."
What is his personal philosophy? "My personal philosophy is 'To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift,' which is a quote by Steve Prefontaine."
The future attorney discussed what he believes holds more truth in light of his personal philosophy. Was it fate or choice? "I definitely believe choice is what molds my universe. I do not subscribe to Platonic philosophy which states that many or most of life's occurrences are predetermined by the universe. It's easy for me - if I study I will probably pass the bar. If I do not study at all I will most likely fail; the choice is mine to make."
What kind of situations and people is Michael attracted to and what kind does he avoid?
"I need order and a plan for pretty much all of my daily activities. I am attracted to people who make a plan and stick to it and speak with sincerity. I am also attracted to situations where there is a certain level of excitement but also certainty. I guess a courtroom is a good analogy - always exciting and sort of predictable, but you never know what will happen." He added, "I am definitely a people person, I think I naturally thrive in a team environment due to my many years of involvement in organized sports activities."
As for situations and people to avoid, Michael revealed, "After nearly two decades of dealing with 'star' soccer players I have learned to avoid situations where the other person in the conversation will never compromise or at least respect my opinion on an issue. I try to avoid people or situations that discuss religion, politics, or any hot button issue. I definitely have strong opinions, but I see no reason to share and argue about those opinions in public with people who are little more than strangers to me."
His favorite quote is by Henry David Thoreau: "I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude." Michael said the quote has stuck with him since he read it when he was 12.
When asked if he had anything else to share personally or professionally, Michael stated:
"If you are considering going to law school, look deep inside yourself and see if you are ready for a lot of reading and stress. I think that almost anyone can become a lawyer, but it takes a specific type of person to become a successful lawyer. I know I am not even a lawyer yet, but I see students everyday who just go through the motions, never becoming involved in the process. Law school makes college look like daycare, and the bill you receive after three years will definitely make you think twice about the whole experience. A law school applicant has to have some internal drive to become an attorney. Many people come in thinking that lawyers make a ton of money and make their paralegals do all the work, so I can definitely do this. Forget everything you know about Jerry Maguire and Johnnie Cochran, being a lawyer is not glamorous, it is hard work."
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