A “super lawyer” and super mom
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Last updated: Tuesday August 11, 2009, 2:30 PM
BY KARL DE VRIES OF TOWN JOURNAL
A self-described “slumdog millionaire” who grew up in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood to become one of the top personal injury attorneys in New Jersey, Saddle River Board of Education member Rosemarie Arnold is used to multitasking.
As the head of two firms comprised of 13 lawyers and 40 employees, Arnold has been named by New Jersey Super Lawyers magazine as one of the top 100 attorneys in the state every year since the listings began in 2003. A single mother of two Wandell children, Arnold has appeared on multiple television networks such as Fox News and MSNBC, delivering legal analysis over the past several years and, perhaps most notably, represented Joran van der Sloot in his civil case against the family of Natalee Holloway.
For Town Journal, Arnold described the beginnings of her 23-year career, the experience of being a talking head on TV and what she brings to the school board as a member serving in her second term.
Q: What made you interested in becoming an attorney?
A: I’ve always felt like I had to fight for everything and negotiate for everything, so I wanted to learn how to do it properly.
Q: When did you decide you wanted to practice personal injury law?
A: I got out of law school and I got a job with Christian Steuben’s office, because it was a Fort Lee address and that’s where I lived. I took the job to get my feet wet, and I was doing personal injury defense work, and that’s when I decided I actually wanted to be a lawyer representing the victims who got hurt. My job was to deprive them of their money, but my heart wasn’t there. My heart was to get them the money, because I always had a compassion for humans, so I flipped to the other side and opened up my own firm.
Q: How many cases do you manage at a time now?
A: I oversee 1,000 pending cases, along with the managing partner in this firm, Sheri Breen, who is my second in command. I handle probably about 25 of my own, the top 25.
Q: What makes them the top 25?
A: They’re worth the most money. They’re the most difficult and complex.
Q: Do you find it difficult to manage all of that?
A: No. I find it challenging to manage all of that and be a good mother to my two little girls, but I think I live up to the challenge.
Q: How did you come to represent Joran Van Der Sloot in the Natalee Holloway case?
A: My partner in New York City is Joe Saccopina, and he’s a high-profile criminal attorney. Joran found him on the Internet, from Aruba, and asked him if he could represent him in New York in a civil case that was being filed against him by Beth Holloway. It was a wrongful death case that was filed against him, and I got involved in that because I’m the civil attorney in our firm.
Q: What’s Van Der Sloot like?
A: I don’t know what he’s like now, but when I represented him, he was a devoted student, a respectable son and a confused teenager. I’ve read that he’s changed since then, and he’s done some things I wouldn’t condone. Unfortunately for him, his personality became the boy that was accused of killing Natalee Holloway. Eventually, there was no evidence that he had harmed her in any way.
Q: How many times have you appeared on TV?
A: I’d say about 100.
Q: Is it becoming old hat by now or is it still pretty cool?
A: I enjoy sharing my legal knowledge and experiences with everyone. Most of the TV appearances that I do have to do with cases I’m involved in. But sometimes I’m called in as an expert to comment on other cases.
Q: Do you get nervous before appearing on a national show?
A: No, but I’m much more comfortable talking about my own cases than commenting on other people’s cases.
Q: What compels you to serve on the school board?
A: I’m a public school-educated person, and I believe in the quality of education in our town. I think I bring something extra as a board of education member having a license to practice law, because there are a lot of legal issues that face the board on a daily basis. While I’m not the board’s attorney and I never act as the board’s attorney, I think like a lawyer because I am one.