Getting to Know You: Paul Marchese, Co-Founder and Partner of Marchese & Maynard, LLP

Paul Marchese is a will and trust attorney who has been in practice for nearly thirty years.

Born in Port Washington, New York, Paul grew up helping his parents run their small family business. Here, he learned the value of hard work and the importance of keeping your word. Paul became the first person in his family to attend college, earning his law degree from St. John’s University Law School.

After graduation, Paul Marchese initially worked for the District Attorney of New York’s Office before moving on to a private firm. Working in these areas showed Paul that criminal law was not his desired field. He wanted his career to mean more. When he learned more about the importance of end-of-life planning, he found his calling. Marchese & Maynard, LLP was founded not long thereafter.

It takes a special kind of attitude and a lot of experience to successfully navigate planning for someone’s passing. Paul Marchese excels in this area not just because he knows the laws, but also because he can see things from the perspective of his clients. Their concerns become his concerns. With genuine empathy, Paul helps his clients ensure their final wishes are carried out.

Work and family take center stage in Paul’s life. When he does have some free time, he likes to work on home improvement projects and tinker with cars. Spending time with his wife and kids is his favorite pastime.

What do you currently do at your company?

My role in the firm is to meet with new clients and gather information about their families and their finances. Then I come up with strategies to help them reduce or eliminate estate taxes, protect assets from long-term care expenses, and make things easier on the family when the client passes away. We do what we can to keep the family out of court by having everything taken care of outside of court. It’s not an easy conversation to have because you are literally planning for the client’s eventual passing, but it is such an important part of making the best preparations for the inevitable. Too many people don’t even consider what will happen after their death, especially when it comes to finances. I think a lot of people have the misconception that wealth, no matter how much or how little, will just pass on to the next living relative. That is not always the case. It’s my job to think about all the ‘what ifs’ and come up with a plan to handle them. That’s my role in the firm.

What was the inspiration behind your business?

I wanted to do something positive with my life. I wanted to feel that I was helping people. It’s not as financially lucrative as some other areas of the law, but you feel very good about what you do. Sometimes you see people at their lowest and they’re scared and they don’t know what to do. When you can give them comfort, when you can be the voice on the phone saying, “Don’t worry, it’s okay. We planned for this. We got this,” it’s very rewarding. It’s very satisfying work. You’re not suing anyone, you’re not chasing ambulances, rather you are helping people in a real and meaningful way. That is what attracted me to this field of law. At times, it can be very heartbreaking because you’re still human and what some people are dealing with can be overwhelming emotionally. Originally, I had thought about going into criminal law, but after working at the DA’s office while in law school, I realized it just wasn’t the right area for me. This suits me much better and I am a much better person for it.

What defines your way of doing business?

The founding principle of Marchese & Maynard, LLP is listening to the client. I need to learn from them directly about what their concerns are. I need to understand where they are coming from so I can focus on what they need me to. Once I have a proper understanding, I speak to them about what they can expect if we do nothing. Then I speak to them about how we can help alleviate those concerns. We can avoid taxes, we can protect your children—whatever you are worried about, we can resolve it. You can see the relief wash over them as they realize all these fears can be handled. That is what makes everything worth it. Just this morning, a client with a special needs child was in to see me, obviously concerned about what will happen to that child when they pass. They’ve spent their whole life putting aside their own needs to make sure their child had proper care and now they are scared about what will come. Drawing on my nearly thirty years of experience, I can solve that. By the time the meeting ended, the client hugged me. You could literally feel the anxiety leave the room as we talked about real solutions.

What keys to being productive can you share?

Maintaining your schedule is the best way to be productive. Being organized and sticking to the schedule I make is how I get through my day. When someone needs to speak to me or needs me to get something done, it goes on my calendar. I use lists a lot. It seems like a simple thing, but it really has been the best way for me to stay on top of things. If I have it written down, I have to check it off. I can’t check it off until it’s done. I’ve been this way since I started in law.

How do you measure success?

Success is having a loving family and being able to pay my bills. This specialty isn’t one that will get you on TV or make you a whole lot of money, but I don’t need a lot. For me, it’s never been about earning a lot of money. It’s about helping people when they really need it. It’s about bringing peace and comfort during a difficult time. As long as I have the love and support of my wife and my children, I am successful. Keeping a roof over our heads and the lights on is enough for me. I came from nothing, I had no help with my education. To be in the position now where I can provide for my family is what I consider success. It’s a bonus that I get to really help people while I’m at it.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned through the course of your career?

Do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it. Under-promise and over-deliver. That is probably one of the most important things that I’ve learned and I learned it early on. If you say you’ll have something done by next week, get it done. If you don’t follow through on your word, your clients are going to lose confidence in you, and that’s something you can’t recover from. It also just creates more work if you don’t follow through. You spend all your time playing catch up, and it’s not worth it. If you think something can be done by tomorrow, get it done today. That is how to build your clients’ faith in you. If you do well for them, they are going to recommend you to their friends. If you fail them, they’ll share that too. Which would you prefer

What advice would you give to others aspiring to succeed in your field?

I may be biased, but I feel like this is the finest area of law to which you can dedicate yourself. You are helping people, sometimes at their lowest moment. You are responsible for making them feel more at ease about how their concerns will play out when they are no longer here to address them themselves. That is an enormous privilege and should be treated as such. Again, it’s not going to be the most lucrative specialty and it can take an emotional toll, but it’s all worth it. It takes a special kind of commitment to focus on this area of the law. Be approachable and lead with empathy. You will make a huge difference for a lot of people.

How would your colleagues describe you?

My colleagues would describe me as a straight shooter. I will speak honestly with clients and with colleagues. I feel it’s important to establish a transparent relationship with everyone. The clients need to know that they can trust that I am working for them and offering the best advice. They won’t have that trust if I don’t show that it’s their interests I have at heart. Very early in my career, while working on a case, I happened to find several thousands of dollars in a home. I immediately reported it to the courts because that was the right thing to do. Afterward, a few people asked me about it and pointed out that not everyone would have done what I did. I was a bit taken aback, honestly. It never occurred to me to do anything different. It’s just who I am as a person. I am honest and I am straightforward.

How do you maintain a solid work-life balance?

Honestly, I don’t know that I have found the right balance even now. I’d like to think I am in a better spot now than I was years ago, but it’s something I still struggle with. Sometimes I have to remind myself to stop working. I don’t have many hobbies outside of work, and I think that has a lot to do with how much I focus on my career. Just yesterday, I worked 11 hours. Recently, my daughter got her learner’s permit to drive a car. It was such a nice night that I wanted to take her out to practice, but I had to actually remind myself to stop working and call her about it. Once I returned home, though, we had a great time driving around. That’s how I find some balance. When I am at work, I’m focused on work. When I am home, I am focused on my family. I don’t play golf or anything else when I’m off. It seems unfair, especially when I put in so many hours. I like to give my family my full attention when I’m not at work because it’s their support that has helped me find my success.

What is one piece of technology that helps you the most in your daily routine?

I’m old enough to remember the infancy of computers. Back when I was first starting, when we had a 15-page will to type out, it would take a lot of time to make corrections. Now, with the advances in computers and computer software, we can update files in a matter of seconds. Another great thing is that we can save so much more information now that it’s all stored electronically. We save every document. So, if someone calls who was a client ten years ago, it’s really a simple matter to just pull up a scanned copy of whatever document they need. The computer was such an amazing game-changer for a lot of fields, including the legal profession. The more we advance, the better things get. It has made what I do so much easier.

Who has been a role model to you and why?

I would have to say my father. He had a tough childhood. He had no education. He buried my brother. Yet, he always made time for family. He had a small business and he worked in the store six days a week. Even on Sundays, he’d go in and do paperwork. So, he worked a lot, but I never felt unloved. I never felt deprived of him. I imagine he struggled as I do with finding a good work-life balance. He worked a lot, but when he was home, he was fully focused on being present for his kids. He rose above a very difficult home life in his youth to become a great father. I have always looked up to him and, as I get older, I understand more about where he was coming from. He was always supportive, even though education wasn’t something that was really emphasized when I was young. He just didn’t know any better. However, what he taught me was so much more important than anything I learned in school.

What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten?

You cannot achieve happiness unless you are happy.” For me, it’s about making sure my family is happy. My wife and I have been married for 27 years and are still very much in love. We’ve been through a lot together and without her support, I wouldn’t be where I am. Seeing my kids happy and healthy makes me happy. My hope is that they will see me as I see my father; someone who works hard for them because they are loved so much. Your family is like one of those mobiles that hang from the ceiling. If something affects part of it, it affects the whole thing. I try to be as open and approachable to my family as I am to my clients and colleagues.