Eric J. Weinstein
What’s your current position and primary practice field(s)?
I am a sole practitioner with my own law office in Framingham, Massachusetts. For the first 15 years of practice, I focused on criminal law defense and appellate work, as well as real estate related litigation. In 2008, I shifted away from criminal defense, and now focus my time on real estate related matters, which includes litigation, as well as representing buyers and sellers of real estate, lenders, developers and condominium associations. I work in a shared suite environment with 5 other lawyers, a few of whom I’ve worked with for the past 18 years. We share common expenses, and have each other to discuss cases and strategize.
How did you get here – what led you to this field and practice setting?
Having worked in a Boston practice, and in a suburban practice south of the city, I realized I much preferred the relaxed setting of suburbia. I always had an interest in both criminal law, and real estate, and I was lucky enough to rent my first office from a real estate practitioner, and be befriended by an excellent criminal defense attorney. My enjoyment of writing also led me into appellate work, both criminal and civil, but over the past few years, I have phased out my criminal and appellate practice in order to focus on the real estate side of the practice. As my Property professor told me: “The whole world revolves around real estate. You can’t go anywhere without being on someone’s property.” I enjoy the detail-oriented nature of real estate law.
Describe a typical day/week – what are the kinds of tasks you engage in on a regular basis?
Starting with a strong cup of Starbucks coffee has been a ritual since one opened across the street from my office 13 years ago. Once at the office, I usually check messages, make my initial phone calls, review the overnight/late-night emails again and then jump into substantive legal work.
Because a portion of my practice deals with transactional real estate, I find myself reviewing title exams and reports daily. In addition, since I handle a substantial amount of condominium litigation, those matters are on deadlines and I am constantly drafting and filing pleadings.
In addition to the tasks listed above, which are essentially done without client involvement, I have a number of client meetings during the week, especially for real estate closings. These afford me an opportunity to interact with the clients and get to know them, at least for a short while, which is a part of the practice I enjoy. Also, because my lenders service the entire state of Massachusetts, I occasionally have to travel to various locations throughout Massachusetts, giving me a chance to get away from the office for a little while.
How many hours/week do you work? How’s that work/life balance thing working out for you?
During the week, I am usually in the office by 8:00am, and depart around 7:00pm. Additionally, I am in the office usually for about 4 hours either Saturday or Sunday.
I do not bring work home with me. My goal has been to “leave it at the office”. There have been occasions where I’ve brought work home (especially while on trial), but in general, once I walk through the door at home, I like it to be the end of my work day (except for answering the occasional late-night email).
I am involved in a number of committees at my synagogue, and am a past-president, so I am heavily involved there, along with my entire family.
What do you like most about what you do?
In the context of my practice areas, I enjoy providing a valued service and helping clients accomplish their goals, whether it be buyers, sellers, institutional lenders or litigants. I am proud that my clients look to me for advice and careful analysis.
In the context of my practice in general, I enjoy the freedom of being my own boss, and I enjoy the company of other lawyers whom I like and respect, without the pressures of having to generate revenue to support a partnership.
What do you wish you could change?
I am generally satisfied with my practice and would only seek to change organizational items, such as staffing and logistics, such as different use of space.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I will likely be in the same position I’ve been in for these past 20 years. I cannot imagine changing careers at this point, unless some great opportunity came my way.
Where did you go to law school? What’s your favorite memory from law school?
New England School of Law in Boston, MA. Favorite memory: winning the “Best Brief” competition for Honors Moot Court, and drafting the primary winning argument in a submitted winning brief in a matter before the Supreme Judicial Court regarding DNA and paternity testing while working as a law clerk for a firm in Boston.
What did you major in at UMass? How has it been helpful to you your law career?
I was a Political Science major. I had completed my major requirements by the end of my Junior year, so I was able to take graduate seminars and independent studies my senior year. I had the privilege of working with Professor Paul Herrnson on editing a book he wrote about Congress, published by the Harvard University Press, which taught me to be detail oriented. Political Science in general taught me how to research and write.
What’s your favorite UMass memory?
During my junior year, I met my wife, and while we did not date during my time at UMass, we did begin dating after I graduated, while she was a senior. We got engaged her senior year and married while I was in law school. UMass and a mutual foreign language teacher play a central role in our relationship history.
Also, during my sophomore year, I aligned myself with an outstanding group of friends and became a “founding father” of the Alpha Chi Rho Fraternity chapter at UMass. We thrived during my tenure, and for several years thereafter, including consistently having the highest Greek-area GPA, but the chapter has since disbanded. So while establishing the fraternity and having those lifetime friendships are among my favorite memories, I am also saddened that it does not currently exist.
Did you take time before, during or after college? If so, what did you do?
Initially, I planned on going straight through law school, but deferred my admission at NESL, and took a year off and worked at a small office machines company, doing customer service. Once working in the “real world”, I decided I was destined for academic pursuits and began law school in the fall of 1989, at the same time my wife started graduate school.
What non-law experiences have ended up being surprisingly useful to you in your legal career?
Having helped to start the Alpha Chi Rho chapter, I learned early on the importance of consensus building and understanding adverse or opposing positions on issues. As President of my synagogue, I found a bi-lateral benefit—that experience was like having 280 clients at one time, many of whom had diverse needs. Managing a professional staff and many volunteers helped me learn team-building skills, and I have incorporated many of those skills at the office and in my daily practice.
Any choices along your career path that you particularly regret or are especially grateful for?
Since I had essentially started graduate school my senior year, my parents strongly encouraged me to continue on that path and work towards earning a PhD and becoming a college professor. I did chase this idea a little, gaining admission to several universities across the country for an advanced degree. However, at that time, I decided that law school was a better choice for me. In hindsight, having been an adjunct faculty member at a local college for several years, I realize that I enjoy teaching and often lament not choosing the PhD/college professor route.
That being said, I am grateful that I have had the support of my family to allow me to pursue my path as a suburban lawyer, and am particularly grateful that I found myself working for such a long time with several lawyers whose opinions I respect and whose company I enjoy.
If you couldn’t be a lawyer any more, what would you do? (Or: what’s your second career going to be?)
I would either pursue a full-time teaching position or pursue my part-time hobby of blogging and radio co-hosting (I appear on WBZ radio once every 8-12 weeks discussing a variety of non-legal topics) by turning it into something more permanent.
If you feel comfortable sharing, tell us something about your finances: How much debt did you take on for law school? How much (rough estimates are fine) do your currently make? How long do you expect to be paying off your debt? How has your debt impacted your career and life choices?
I prefer not to answer in depth, other than to say that graduate school is expensive, and I took on a fair share of debt in order to finance my law school education.
How do you respond when someone asks your advice about whether to go to law school?
“Run, don’t walk away from that idea.” Given the high cost of law school, the low likelihood of big-firm, high-paying jobs except for the highest level graduates from the most elite schools, the debt to value ratio does not make law school a good investment. Couple that with a large number of practicing lawyers fighting for work, and it is a long-term cocktail for disaster. While the law school training is invaluable to learning critical thought, there are other ways to make a living.
If you could have dinner with any lawyer, real or fictional, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Fictional lawyer: Atticus Finch. Like many lawyers, especially criminal defense attorneys, frequently protecting the rights of the disenfranchised, Atticus Finch is the paragon of virtue.