Many teenagers in the ‘90s had an interest in metal music.
Steven Willner, now 35, was one of them.
At the time, he attended Ner Israel, an Orthodox yeshiva in Pikesville.
After graduating from both high school and college at Ner Israel, Willner continued his education at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.
Willner is currently a principal at Neuberger, Quinn, Gielen, Rubin & Gibber, P.A., where he helps people resolve their business disputes or go to court and litigate.
Willner and his wife Sarah live in Pikesville with their three children. The Willner family frequents many synagogues, including Congregation Shomrei Emunah.
What’s your favorite part about your job?
I like many aspects of my job. My favorite part is its strategic nature and really getting to work with clients in various industries on a host of different issues and problems. No case is the same. Each case has its own minutiae and variances that make it interesting and fulfilling for me because I’m able to assist clients at their most difficult issues, whether it’s a partnership dispute or a significant business transaction. Sometimes it’s a problem with an estate or a trust that they are having issues with, which can cause family issues that add a whole layer of emotionality to the issue. So I guess the most rewarding part of the job is getting to help people and businesses in their most trying issues.
Have you ever felt like your religious practices have imposed challenges for your work?
The current environment in the country is very accepting of accommodating religious practices. When it comes to court dates, I’ve found that judges are very happy to schedule matters around religious observances. Currently, I work for a firm where we have many Orthodox Jews and, thank God, many clients, both religious and nonreligious, so it doesn’t seem to be an impediment to our ability to thrive in this country. What matters more is meritocracy. Are we doing a good job? Fortunately, based on our client roster, we seem to be doing a good job.
Outside of work, what is something readers would be surprised to learn about you?
I was a guitar player. I was a pretty good guitar player, and my favorite music was metal, which I guess is associated with people who lead much angrier lives. Some people seem to think that I’m a nice guy, so if I’m listening to angry music, perhaps that’s surprising. But it’s what gets my adrenaline pumping, which is important for me to run high off of through my life.
When did you first discover your love for metal?
In high school. It was a way for me to deal with my angry intentions. I haven’t had the time [to play guitar recently]. I listen to things that I recorded back in my late teens, and I can’t play them. I just can’t. It’s sad. I was pretty good, and then I wanted to settle down, get married and have kids. To be a really good guitar player, you have to devote substantial time.
Do you feel like it’s important for kids to learn how to play an instrument?
It really depends. I think it’s important that every kid has some sort of outlet. It’s important for kids to have something that they feel good at, whether it’s sports or a musical instrument. Some kids do have an actual talent for music, and for them it could be very helpful and beneficial for their development and their self-confidence to have a musical instrument that they have a proficiency in. I have three children that have shown an interest in music that may develop into a passion, but I don’t want to force them to take a lesson because I don’t want them to have a revulsion for it. I’m hoping that at some point they’ll come over to us and say they’re interested in learning an instrument. I think it will manifest organically, then I think it becomes very useful and powerful for the child.
Do you think people who learn Torah make better lawyers?
I think that there’s probably some truth to that. You definitely get training in the achievement system or through learning. You definitely get training in intellectual analysis, there’s no question about that. But being a good lawyer requires dedication in that particular field, and there are differences between the study of law and the study of Torah. In order to be a good lawyer, you have to know the law. You have to know how the law works. You have to know the legal processes at play in the jurisdiction in which you’re practicing. You have to become an expert at advising your clients on how to use those laws, mechanisms and processes to their advantage. So it’s definitely a fantastic introduction to the practice, but it’s only an introduction. You need to then take the next step. You need to apply yourself to the education that is necessary to practice in that particular jurisdiction and then become great at that.