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8 May 2020 Download

A Talk with Criminal Defense Attorney Walter Mack

Walter Mack is a name partner at New York, New York’s Doar Rieck Kaley & Mack, where he has handled criminal defense work since 1996. There, he divides his time between court-appointed and retained federal criminal defense work, as well as government-appointed legal compliance. The latter includes a current engagement overseeing a major construction project at Newark International Airport.

But the stability of Mack’s nearly quarter century in the same place belies a diverse background that includes former Marine and Vietnam veteran, Harvard Law School grad, BigLaw litigator, and several roles in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York, where he rose to deputy chief of the criminal division and, from 1981 to 1984, led the Southern District’s Strike Force Against Organized Crime.

“I’m a competitive person, I love a challenge and I get personally involved in all the issues,” says Mack. “I’m an information freak, and sort of obsessive when it comes to trying to find the most accurate answer and then coming up with an innovative approach that perhaps not everybody else is using.”

So, it’s not surprising that Mack was an early adopter of technology-driven legal tools, which he says have radically improved efficiencies for small and midsize law firms. “Over the past three to five years, as information technology has evolved, it’s been a tremendous boon for me,” says Mack, who relies on daily updates from online news and research services.

“I really enjoy having the expertise and the technological competence to choose a topic, define it, then get an overview or treatise and a secondary source and tie it all together with the case law. Actually, it’s kind of fun to be able to get up-tospeed on something that you may know little about, to have everything at your fingertips and to annotate it all on your screen.”

But lest one think that Mack is a “hands-off” technologist, his experience says otherwise. He has long served as a U.S. Criminal Justice Act panel attorney authorized for court-appointed representation of defendants facing criminal charges in the Eastern (and in the past, the Southern) District of New York.

While most such cases involve “drugs and weapons and robbery and other crimes of violence,” he says “There certainly are occasions when a white-collar case will emerge. Given the expense these days of litigating in federal court, people in those cases cannot afford the defense counsel that is adequate,” he adds. “We do get cases that require massive white-collar time and effort.”

Paying clients also retain Mack and his firm to thwart criminal charges. “We are very comfortable with making presentations to prosecuting attorneys and government authorities in order to attempt to convince them that criminal charges are not appropriate given the particular facts,” he says.

Noting that 97 percent of all federal crimes “eventually plead out,” Mack makes huge efforts “to convince the judge for a sentence that does not disrupt and destroy the client’s future or family relations,” he says. “Even in a universe where so many cases will eventually plead, there is a great deal of important work to be done in trying to get the most positive sentence that you can get for the client.”

It’s a job, in other words, that requires Mack to play a diversity of roles. Which means he should be right at home.