Solomiany 1 of 15 attorneys selected as On The Rise

Colleagues praise his ethics and calm demeanor as he counsels the (sometimes) rich and famous through high-asset divorces, custody issues and pre-nups.

By Meredith Hobbs
The Daily Report
08/27/2007

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MARVIN SOLOMIANY, 34, has become a hot ticket for those involved in high-stakes divorces.

Solomiany—now managing partner of family law firm Kessler & Solomiany—started working for the firm at age 23 after his first year at Emory University Law School.

At that time the firm had only two lawyers, founders Randall M. Kessler and Barry P. Schwarz. Today, it employs 11 lawyers and 10 paralegals.

Solomiany says he wasn’t interested in joining a big corporate firm like many of his classmates. “I wanted to go to a place where I could have a vested interest,” he says. “I figured if I worked hard and devoted time to it, we would be a success. Thank God, it worked out that way.”

He attributes his personal drive to his family’s extraordinary journey during the past century. To escape the Holocaust, his grandparents emigrated from Eastern Europe to Cuba. His parents, who were born in Cuba, “lost everything after Fidel [Castro] came,” he says. They emigrated to Puerto Rico in 1960, where he was born.

Even as a child, he recalls, he thought he’d be a lawyer. His father, who did not go to college and worked as a salesman, told his four sons that he didn’t want them to “carry luggage for a living,” he says. “I just absorbed that being a lawyer is good.” His three brothers are lawyers as well.

Solomiany handles prenuptial agreements, high-asset divorces and interstate child support and custody issues. Many divorce lawyers work with either husbands or wives, but his practice is evenly split between the two camps.

Because there are often children involved, divorce is not a zero sum game where one party wins if the other loses, says family lawyer Bruce R. Steinfeld.

For that reason, clients are not well served by an “aggressive scorched-earth approach,” says Steinfeld, even if that is what they want.

Instead, a good divorce lawyer tries to minimize the collateral damage by working out a divorce agreement that fosters an amicable post-divorce relationship “so it doesn’t screw up the kids,” he says.

Steinfeld, who was Solomiany’s opposing counsel in a contentious divorce case, says he does just that.

Emotions often run high during a divorce and a less-than-ethical lawyer might be tempted “to throw kerosene on the fire,” Steinfeld says. “The more animosity, the bigger the invoice.”

But Solomiany, he says, “was tenacious in trying to get his client to settle, even though it would have been more money if it went to trial.”

Solomiany’s willingness to acknowledge that he had a “problematic client” went a long way toward making a settlement happen, Steinfeld says.

When Steinfield deposed Solomiany’s client, it became apparent that the client had lied to his lawyer about his conduct. “Marvin took him outside and read him the riot act,” Steinfeld says, adding he did so in a calm and professional way.

“I’ve never seen him lose his temper,” Steinfeld says.

Catherine M. Knight, who also has had cases against Solomiany, says that when divorcing parties are at each other’s throats, a good working relationship between their attorneys is crucial; settling a fraught case can hinge on their willingness to negotiate behind the scenes.

She, like Steinfeld, praises Solomiany for his ethics and professionalism. His willingness to work with opposing counsel, the two say, helps settle cases that might escalate otherwise.

“A lot of people come in here wanting to spend tens of thousands of dollars fighting over tens of thousands of dollars,” says Solomiany. He says his job is to set their expectations and so they have a realistic understanding of what they can expect to receive. “If their expectations are unrealistic, they’re not going to settle,” he says.

Keeping clients in line takes maturity, especially when they are rich and, sometimes, famous. A number of Solomiany’s clients are professional athletes, musicians, chief executives and other high-profile types who are accustomed to being in charge.

“I am young, and I look young,” Solomiany acknowledges, but adds that his age stops being an issue once he’s met with the client. What they have to decide, he says, is “Do you trust this person? Do you understand what he’s telling you? And do you have faith in his ability to represent you?”

Knight adds that Solomiany is a tough litigator who’s ready and willing to go to court. She recently had a trial where the opposing spouse brought him in at the last minute to try the case. “He was very prepared. I was impressed with the level of work that he demanded of himself to get ready,” she said.

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