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January 2017:

Amid Serious Cases, Law Partners Say: ‘We Also Need to Laugh’

By Susan Kim, Staff Writer

January 3, 2017

Posted in: Legal

Sitting at a table with Mark Muffoletto, Karen Amos and Paul Mack feels like having dinner with a family that knows how to laugh together. Their humorous rapport belies the serious nature of their cases, and beneath their smiles, they have a steely collective insistence on thoroughly interpreting the law.

Muffoletto was admitted to the Maryland Bar in 2001 after earning his law degree from Widener University in 2000. He served as president of the Howard County Bar Association from 2011–2012.

Amos has more than 20 years of experience as a divorce and family lawyer in Howard County; and Mack, prior to becoming a partner at Amos, Muffoletto & Mack LLC, began his legal career by starting his own practice immediately after law school in 1996.

Natural Affinity

The history of their firm is one of like-minded people naturally coming together. Muffoletto and Amos first met when they served on a Peer Review Committee for the Attorney Grievance Commission of Howard County.

“I have this vivid memory of it,” recalled Muffoletto. “There was this issue that came up, and Karen and I were the dissenters on one particular area of the law. We walked out into the parking lot and spent 45 minutes talking about that law and how people were glossing over it.”

That was when Muffoletto and Amos — who were in separate solo practices at the time — first realized they had similar styles when it comes to interpreting the law.

Their offices were on different floors of the same building, and they continued building their relationship as colleagues who trusted each other’s viewpoints. “I don’t remember a day when we weren’t in each other’s offices,” said Muffoletto, who concentrates mostly in criminal law while Amos focuses mainly on family law.

“I was going to move out of my space, and we were sitting there talking about it,” Muffoletto recalled. “The conversation just kind of ended with: Why shouldn’t we be under one roof?”

It seemed, agreed Amos, “pretty organic” that the two would merge into one practice — Amos & Muffoletto LLC — which was born in 2011. When Paul Mack joined as a third partner in April 2016, the firm came into its current form: Amos, Muffoletto & Mack LLC.

Caseloads Are Growing

With caseloads expanding, particularly in family law and personal injury, the firm has grown into an eight-person team that will move into a larger space in the same Ellicott City location sometime in January.

“Family law is growing in general,” explained Amos. “Now that same-sex marriage is legal, the pool of potential clients has become greater.”

Divorcing couples are also leaning toward resolving their cases outside of court, she added. “I always tell my clients to try to work out a divorce agreement outside of court, to be the masters of their own destiny and not have a judge decide this issue for you. Now the courts are encouraging mediation as well.”

Mack’s personal injury practice is rapidly growing as he approaches a one-year anniversary with the firm. “Our referral web gets bigger every year,” he said.

The most common business-related case is what Muffoletto calls “corporate divorce,” or a dissolution of a business by its partners. “Sometimes these really do take on a similar tone to a divorce: You have two people who once had a common dream, and they’re splitting up.”

Accessibility Not Just a Buzzword

All three partners pride themselves on being accessible to their clients. Their website offers an opportunity to speak to a lawyer over the Internet video-telephone application Skype. Muffoletto said he’d rather meet someone face-to-face, but a handful of clients each year take advantage of touching base via Skype.

“Over the summer, a college kid might have a court date, and he or she lives in Nebraska, and has an alcohol citation and is flipping out. We will make ourselves accessible and convenient to reach. Sometimes people can’t take off work.”

The attorneys are not just accessible to their clients, but make themselves accessible to each other, he added. “We have three sets of skills that dovetail. We are pretty much run by committee here. We have the ability to joke and make fun of an idea, not in a dismissive way, but we joke through it until it gets polished.”

This is not an office in which every attorney has the same specialty, Muffoletto said, and that means Amos, Muffoletto & Mack can become a full-service law firm for its clients. “We want to be the Wegmans of law firms,” he joked.

Finding each other — and subsequently hiring additional staff as the firm grows — has been about locating highly-credentialed individuals, but also figuring out who will improve the quality of life every day at the office.

“Some laws firms are very stuffy and rigid,” said Amos. “We decided long ago that we need to be able to laugh once in a while. It’s a family atmosphere.”

Muffoletto agreed. “Personality is so crucial for us. Who wants to come in and be miserable? Just because the subject matter can be so grisly doesn’t mean we have to be that way.”

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