Practitioner Profile: Michael Bruckheim & Sweta Patel
Boutique firm Bruckheim & Patel was born from the partnership of Michael Bruckheim, then a solo practitioner, and Sweta Patel. Ms. Patel began her criminal defense career as a public defender in Florida, after earning her Juris Doctor at the St. Thomas University School of Law in Miami. She describes public defense work as the best place to learn litigation. She later moved to Washington, DC to work for a boutique litigation firm and met Mr. Bruckheim, who became a mentor to her. Michael Bruckheim, a graduate of American University Washington College of Law and a former prosecutor for the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia (OAG), decided to go out on his own and work for himself as a solo practitioner. After several years on his own, Mr. Bruckheim approached Ms. Patel because he knew her background in business would be an asset in growing the practice. The successful partnership between the two led them to expand the practice to include family law and civil personal injury law. While the bread and butter of the firm is DUI defense, they are experienced in all types of criminal defense cases including sex offenses, felony assault, and misdemeanor drug charges.
Both Mr. Bruckheim, a former prosecutor for the OAG, and Ms. Patel, a former legal intern for the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, have a background in prosecutorial work. They describe their backgrounds as an asset because it allows them to see a case from all sides. Mr. Bruckheim believes it is an advantage to know how prosecutors think and to approach each plea deal from the perspective of “can we get a better offer, if so, how?” As defense attorneys, they emphasize the importance of cultivating relationships with prosecutors rather than alienating them.
Ms. Patel described the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic as a defining moment in her career, especially as a partner at a small firm. While Mr. Bruckheim maintained the upkeep of the legal work, Ms. Patel focused on the business aspect and keeping the doors open. Overcoming the numerous adversities brought on by the pandemic revealed the firm’s strong foundation and built confidence in both of the partners. Mr. Bruckheim described partnering with Ms. Patel as his defining moment. He explained how her addition positively changed the business and had a significant impact on the way he practiced law. If not for their partnership, his business would not have survived the pandemic.
The mission of Bruckheim & Patel is to remain client-focused and avoid the mentality of a ‘chop shop’ practice. Mr. Bruckheim and Ms. Patel provide effective representation by exercising selectivity when accepting cases because a low caseload ensures effective representation for each client. Additionally, the attorneys are known for always being accessible to their clients; the lines of communication are constantly open through text.
Mr. Bruckheim’s advice for law students interested in pursuing a career in criminal law is to seek out as many opportunities to represent clients and to be in court as possible. He stated that litigation-oriented experiences, such as clinical programs and trial advocacy courses can stand out more to employers than journal or writing and research experiences. He explained that the mentality behind most employers in this field is the more trial experience an applicant has, the less time spent on training the applicant. Ms. Patel echoed this advice and recommended students consider clerkships after law school, interning at a law firm, and interning for a judge as other ways to obtain real courtroom experiences.
As a note to other practitioners, Mr. Bruckheim explained his philosophy that solo practitioners need the drive to bring in business to be successful because growing a practice requires generating revenue. If a practitioner is considering the idea in the back of his mind to one day go out on his own, he recommends he or she start building a clientele now. Connections come from everyday life, so start building a circle of connections from places you frequent in your daily routine.
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