Arie Michelsohn, 58, a prudent lawyer, has travelled to foreign countries and is on a journey of Jewish self-discovery.
Michelsohn, who now lives in Mt. Washington, was born in the Washington Heights neighborhood of upper Manhattan in New York City to a family of Holocaust survivors. “I am of German-Jewish descent on my father’s side, which makes me a Yekke,” he said. His family practiced German minhagim, or customs, such as waiting three hours between meat and milk and eating gebrochts on Pesach.
He left New York at 21 for graduate school in Los Angeles. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and a Ph.D. in molecular neurobiology.
“I spent some time as a frustrated academic until my mother, of blessed memory, said, ‘Why don’t you go to law school?’ I started looking into it,” he said. Then a friend talked him into giving it a chance. “I haven’t looked back a day, since,” he said. “I love practicing law. I get to solve interesting logic puzzles every day and help clients whenever I do. It is a win-win for everybody.”
Michelsohn first used his law degree as a clerk for a circuit judge.
For nearly 20 years, he practiced law at two major international law firms until he switched to independent legal consulting.
While you may picture stacks of dense books and dry critical reading when you think of law, it’s much more adventurous for Michelsohn. Once, while working on a case on genetically engineered plants, he spent a Yom Kippur in Frankfurt, Germany. This was particularly special to him because his father had spent some time in the Frankfurt Kehilla in the 1930s before escaping to Israel through Youth Aliyah.
He’s also been able to work in Mumbai, India. “In another case, I got to interview a panel of Japanese scientists [with] a panel of translators, with my shoes off, in Tokyo, to get to the bottom of a deal,” he said. “I would like to think my questioning helped increase the deal value for our client, but in any event, I got to buy an authentic men’s kimono, which I still use as a housecoat.”
His proudest career accomplishment, though, was when he was able to help an American veteran. He argued an appeal twice before the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. He successfully defended the right of an arcane area of veteran’s law to still operate. Because of the decision, veterans as a class have more access to benefits earlier than they may have had otherwise.
On Sept. 14, Steiner Law Group in Pikesville, a bankruptcy and commercial law firm, added Michelsohn as special counsel.
“Arie Michelsohn is a seasoned litigator, patent lawyer, strategic analyst and problem solver,” Eric S. Steiner, managing member, stated in a press release. “Having him join our firm will enhance our bankruptcy and litigation practices and reinforce our commitment to providing responsive and effective legal service to our clients.”
At Steiner Law Group, Michelsohn advises clients on bankruptcy litigation, intellectual property and licensing issues in bankruptcy, and bankruptcy fraud, as well as prebankruptcy and exemption planning and transactions with bankruptcy estates.
In addition to his bankruptcy practice, Michelsohn represents small- and medium-size businesses in commercial litigation, intellectual property litigation, intellectual property procurement, evaluation and due diligence, and corporate formation and governance. He also advises on the drafting of business contracts, including service, operating and licensing agreements.
Outside of his profession, he attends Bais Medrash of Ranchleigh.
“It is a wonderful, small shul with a very devoted congregation, where Judaism is an integral part of daily life,” Michelsohn said. He also likes how humble and educated Rabbi Abba Tzvi Naiman is.
He hopes to devote more time to Torah study this new year.
“I recently started learning the early prophets with a new study partner and longtime friend, in order to get a good birds-eye view of the formative years of the history of the Jewish people as a nation in the land of Israel,” he said. They aim to finish all six books of the early prophets within the next year.
He also wants to learn two new Chopin preludes by memory on the piano. “Music has always been a big part of my life,” he shared. He frequently serves as a cantor.
However, his Jewish identity is his biggest love in life.
“None of my passions would have any value or meaning, or bring me any joy, without it,” he said.