What did you
want to be
An electrical engineer. I was
a ham radio operator and built
a linear amplifier when I was
13. My high school guidance
counselor said there was no
future in electronics. It was
probably one of the worst pieces
of advice given to a student.
This was in the 1970s, and the
counselor thought that soldiers
coming back from the Vietnam
War with that training would
take all the jobs. It was mostly
TVs and radios in those days; there were no personal
computers yet. But the counselor had no foresight
into how the world might change. The guidance
counselor should have said, ďFollow your passion.Ē
So, any regrets about
becoming an attorney?
No regrets because I wound up using electronics
and math as I practiced law working alongside
architects, contractors and engineers doing
construction defense. I also worked with IT shops
in the burgeoning computer world representing IBM
business partners (VARs) that developed software.
Your fatherís best friend and your fatherís
only brother were attorneys Ė your Uncle Jonas Aarons
was a distinguished
arbitrator. But you also
got introduced into the
legal system in a more
I was a high school senior
when I witnessed a triple fatal
car crash. As two guys were
drag racing down Cross Bay
Boulevard in Queens, NY, a
Ford Pinto started crossing the
boulevard and was broadsided
at more than 100 MPH by one
of the racers in a Pontiac GTO.
I had a clear view and the
crash created a small mushroom cloud like a mini
nuclear bomb. I went over to the Pinto driver, who
had intense internal injuries but outwardly, only
a gash on the leg. I lifted his hand and there was
no pulse. He died as well as his female passenger,
whose body was split into pieces. A passenger in the
back of the GTO also died.
It stays with you forever.
The GTO driver and a front seat passenger survived.
I remember the district attorney explaining the
legal concepts to me and I appeared as a witness in
court twelve times over two years. There were, of
course, proceedings such as the preliminary hearing.
Although looking back, even as a lawyer now, I canít
figure out why it was 12 times.
But in the end, I heard the GTO driver was convicted
of criminally negligent homicide.
Did that experience give you faith in the
legal system? Or not?
I donít think I exited with faith Ė or a lack of faith - in
the legal system. But I was inspired by the experience
because I am driven towards justice. I hate to see
injustice at any level.
Youíve got a Brooklyn trifecta going.
I was born and raised in Brooklyn, went to CUNY
Brooklyn for undergrad (economics major), and
Brooklyn Law School. Apparently, I wasnít allowed
to leave. And by the way, my first legal job was in
There is no such thing as a typical day
at work, but having said that, what is a
typical day like at Modellís?
We have 160 stores and the bulk of my work is contract
review, litigation oversight, marketing, trademark/
licensing, and HR issues.
What is the key to overseeing
Other than staying in regular contact with them,
there is no secret sauce. But one of my pet peeves
- one thing I think is effective Ė is to actually get on
the phone and not count on email for everything. Not
everything needs to be in an email, and I find things
fall through the cracks with email. You know, you
think you said one thing, and the reader thinks you
said another. The problem is, our society has gone
email crazy and I think the world has lost the art of
communication: Drop the keyboard, get on the phone!
You arguably have another,
unusual aspect of your job.
I first became familiar with merchandising as
general counsel for Candieís shoes. At Modellís,
our merchants decide what colors, cuts, fabrics, and
patterns to buy and I handle the relationship with
the licensees from the legal side.
But I do check for quality to make sure that products
fit into our clothing line. They donít teach you the
weight of a denim fabric in law school, but Iíve
learned to look at, and feel, fabric and know what
a 13.2 ounce jean feels like. And when the licensee
is showing you something, you learn. Whoever
thought that I would know what a wicked fabric is.
How did you connect with Magna?
Pete Hecht, Magna Executive Vice President Sales,
cold-called me several times trying to get me to his
events. I kept turning him down because you get asked
to so many events as in-house counsel. You often feel
like the red meat at these events.
Then Pete invited me to the event at Naples, Florida.
I love the town. My wife and I have a house down
there. So I checked out the event. I was impressed;
impressed by who Pete is, and the people around him.
Two of the law firms I was already engaged with were
at the event. Then Pete invited me to talk at one of his
events. Now Iím a regular.
I feel a kinship with the people at Magna and like
working with them. There is a collegiality that is
very enticing and everyone seems on board with the
mission statement of making lawyers comfortable and
providing exceptional service.
I use Magna for my depositions, and all the law firms
I work with - I oversee about 12 firms - are asked to
Magna is also known for innovative events
such as their CHOPPED mock trials/CLEs.
Magna events are incredibly well-produced. Their
multi-media is unrivaled. When most seminars give
you a fact pattern, it is written out. Magna has an
actor play a newscaster and they come on screen to
deliver the fact pattern. Magna has also had a great
Donald Trump impersonator at the past couple of
Pete delivers events in a method unlike anybody else.
Itís incredible. He is one of the great marketers of all
time. He gets branding. I am an admirer of his.
And the biggest compliment I can pay Pete is this: He
makes being a lawyer at one of his events fun.