Friedman & Nemecek: Back To The Basics

Friedman & Nemecek
2024 Feature Nominations

Friedman & Nemecek, L.L.C., is headed by its founders – two of the finest criminal defense attorneys in Cleveland, Ian N. Friedman and Eric C. Nemecek. After two decades of learning the most effective and efficient ways to run a criminal practice, Friedman and Nemecek seem to have perfected their business model: creating a firm where everybody works well together and is excited to come to the office every day.

A family atmosphere is at the core of Friedman & Nemecek, L.L.C. Because of the nature of the cases the firm handles and the stresses that come with them, Friedman emphasizes the importance of maintaining a stable and comfortable working environment where everyone enjoys their work and each other.

“We have a level of comfort and respect with all firm employees, which allows us to have fun and enjoy each other’s company despite the nature and difficulty of the criminal practice,” Friedman said.

The Foundation of Friedman & Nemecek

Upon his graduation from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in 1997, Friedman opened his own criminal law practice. During Nemecek’s final year of law school, he clerked for Friedman. Ever since, the two have practiced together forming what they call a symbiotic or mutually beneficial working relationship.

In addition to being a skilled litigator in the courtroom, Friedman praised Nemecek’s writing abilities. “Have I mentioned that I’ve witnessed Eric annihilate someone on paper? Eric has the ability to take my wild, outlandish ideas and write them in a way that is effective, so much so that at times, I merely recite in a courtroom what he writes.”

There’s a lot of trust between the two lawyers and a sense of understanding in how each one works in their natural setting. Over the years, they worked on building a firm that fit the niche between small and large firms handling criminal cases. One of their main incentives was to develop a strong firm that gave other attorneys confidence in referring their clients for creative and comprehensive criminal representation.

“By all accounts, we seem to be on the mark,” Friedman said. “Because of the mental and emotional strain attendant to this area of work, it is important that you truly enjoy what you do and who you work with.”

Although criminal offenses remain at the core of the firm, the practice has become more focused on complex criminal investigations and prosecutions, specifically cyber-crime and technology- based offenses. Friedman notes the correlation of growth in cyber-crime and the growth of the firm’s involvement at the local and national levels. Additionally, the firm has been assisting large corporations with sensitive and internal investigations due to their ability to devote significant resources and implement novel strategies to resolve the matter quickly and discretely.

Have the two attorneys always loved what they do? According to Friedman, absolutely.

“I’m primarily concerned with assuring that fairness is achieved in every situation. In light of my past successes and a strong relationship I maintain with former clients, I feel extremely satisfied with the type of work that I do,” Friedman explained.

Nemecek echoes that sentiment, stating, “I firmly believe that this area of law affords attorneys the best opportunity to make a significant and lasting impact on the lives of their clients and the practice of law itself.”

One example of the significant and lasting impacts that Friedman has had is a recent case he took defending a man accused of rape. The client felt pressured and ultimately entered a guilty plea to minimize his potential prison time. Friedman stated that after reviewing the facts of the client’s case, he found that the matter had great potential for a trial. According to Friedman, the case became rather contentious because the prosecution believed the case was over and to reopen it by allowing the client to withdraw his plea was frowned upon. However, after a week-long trial, the client was found not guilty on all counts, including kidnapping and rape.

“He was simply accused of the crime. He was stripped of his job and in turn, couldn’t find a job, which jeopardized his well-being with his children – all horrible effects that can come of a mere accusation,” Friedman explained. The client and his family took Friedman and his family to dinner after the trial to celebrate being on the verge of losing everything to finally regaining some sense of normalcy.

“There’s nothing more rewarding to me than having dinner with clients who just got their lives back,” Friedman stated.

The dynamic of the office is always changing. Recently, Friedman and Nemecek won an appeal for the release of an adolescent seven years before his prison sentence ended. That night, Friedman planned on taking the family out to dinner to celebrate their victory and the seven years of life the client just got back. Celebrating not only victory, but life itself is a form of justice that Friedman prides himself on attaining.

Like most areas of law, criminal defense is constantly evolving with every case and client presenting different and unique challenges. With each case he represents, Friedman explained that he’s forged a lifelong relationship with the client from witnessing them from the seemingly lowest point in their life to a successful resolution – he’s able to get to know them on a personal level.

“There are so many peoples’ lives that we have been intimately involved with in the legal system,” Friedman stated as all cases have the potential to define and redefine the firm through unique circumstances.

One great success Friedman has witnessed is the passage of open discovery in Ohio, which became effective in 2010, for which he spent most of his time and energy developing for more than three years. Witnessing the impact the new system has had on criminal law brings him gratification every day. Friedman is constantly reminded of the difficulty and pain that his clients experienced as a result of criminal allegations, as well as the dramatic impact of their exoneration. The toast made at celebratory dinners after the successful conclusion of cases is one of the finest sounds Friedman enjoys.

Though Friedman and Nemecek have established incomparable successes and relationships with clients, it’s not always an easy task to accept a loss. “The most difficult part of being an attorney is the unfairness that I have seen clients suffer, either as a result of flaws in the system or the shortcomings of other lawyers involved in the legal process,” Friedman said.

Giving Back to the Communities

The firm is eager to continue growing and developing, both individually and as a whole. Friedman has always been interested in seeing the impact of younger lawyers in the community. Three years ago, he founded the New Lawyer Boot Camp program at the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association. It was created as a result of receiving numerous calls from Friedman’s former students asking him practical questions about navigating through the legal channels now that they are practicing law.

“It reinforced my concern that these young, new lawyers needed a crash course before they begin practicing law,” Friedman stated. “I didn’t have that when I started – I was very bumped and bruised on the way up – that’s how I learned. I thought that if I could minimize some of that for these young lawyers, it would be incredibly helpful and overall, it obviously helps the system as it betters representation from the start.”

The program’s purpose is to provide recent graduates with an intensive, practical instruction for all facets of practice. This year’s program comprised of 40 lawyers, judges and other professionals who volunteered their time to talk to the new attorneys about topics ranging from proper attire to their interactions with court staff and personnel to writing an effective brief.

“Luckily, the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association is always striving to put in the necessary programs, based on the need for it as well,” Friedman commended the association for their help in the development of the program.

“With their resources and outreach, we’ve been able to put together this great annual three-day program,” he said.

Since the founding of the program, Friedman has received an abundance of positive feedback from attendees and looks forward to the expansion of the program in the future. With past and continued success, Friedman has high hopes for the new boot camp moving forward.

“Eventually, I’d like to see most, if not all graduates practicing in northeast Ohio come through the CMBA Boot Camp. If it is running like I hope, it will serve as a model for other bar associations,” Friedman described his vision for the future of the boot camp.

Nemecek has been involved in local and national associations aimed at educating and improving the legal community. He has served as co-chair of the cybercrime committee for the American Bar Association for the past five years and has previously been appointed as a delegate for the young lawyer’s division. He is also immediate past chair of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association’s criminal division.

All members of the firm actively participate in various groups and organizations intended for the benefit of legal and local communities. Each attorney understands and takes advantage of their role in effectuating positive changes in individuals, as well as society as a whole.

“We believe that lawyers have a duty to be involved with community efforts and initiatives that seek to effectuate change,” Friedman said. He is also working to implement a local criminal rule requiring attorneys to notify courts and other case parties as to scheduling conflicts that are expected to interfere with an existing hearing or proceeding. In doing so, Friedman hopes to foster mutual respect and camaraderie amongst the parties, as well as bolstering efficiency and judicial economy.

“I’ve met a lot of people through my involvement in the local organizations. The world rotates on relationships, so it has been invaluable locally.” Friedman has also been able to network nationally, which has allowed him to routinely collaborate on matters outside the state of Ohio while trusting that he can call upon others to serve as his local counsel. Additionally, Friedman and Nemecek have been engaged to represent clients internationally in white collar and other complex criminal matters. Among those clients presently is a case in Quito, Ecuador involving international civil and white collar litigation.

The Future of Friedman & Nemecek, LLC

As the firm continues to grow in size, it is also growing in the type and complexity of cases it handles. While continuing to represent clients in Ohio and throughout the United States, the firm has been involved in representation of foreign clients and entities in the continents of Asia, Europe and South America.

“Traveling to these different locations and experiencing their cultures is an interesting and rewarding facet of our job,” Friedman added.

Among the many locations he’s been for work, Friedman noted Italy as one of his favorite destinations. In Italy, he lectured on persuasion techniques from the American courtroom to Italian lawyers and law students. He stated that he enjoyed that experience the most because everyone went out of their way to make sure that he and his wife received the most authentic visit possible. In doing so, he was invited to the houses of students and professors for dinner, as well as shown around the area. From a professional standpoint, Friedman enjoyed his time in London serving as an expert consultant in a technology case. He was able to learn a tremendous amount of law in that case, which he enjoyed for his own educational purposes.

For the future, Friedman stated, “Even though we have all been practicing law for a number of years, we are still a relatively young law firm. We have been excited with the continued success of the practice and have enjoyed watching the families of those involved with the firm grow as well.”

Friedman emphasized that he’s “having fun again.” He explains that though he has loved what he’s done and that the firm has always found success, there was something about the transition from W. 6th Street to E. 9th Street that has rebuilt the firm in a way that Friedman always wanted and hoped it would be.

I’m excited to go to work again. I haven’t felt like this since probably the first couple of years of practice. To say that 20 years in, I’m very pleased,” Friedman laughed.

Elizabeth Morse

Elizabeth Morse is a former assistant editor with Attorney at Law Magazine. As a part of her role, she specialized in interviewing and profiling attorneys and law firms.

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