America's trial bar is replete with skillful advocates, astute entrepreneurs and memorably colorful personalities. But few lawyers have been all three throughout their careers quite the way that New Jersey's Ken Javerbaum has. A founding partner at one of the state's largest (30 lawyers and six offices) and most respected plaintiffs' firms, Javerbaum is at once a serious courtroom attorney, with a 40-plus year long record of successes for clients, and a fearless ambassador for making the law accessible to the average citizen. Further, Javerbaum - creative and expressive ("I've always had a pretty good way with words") - is refreshingly and candidly irreverent, without an ounce of pretentiousness. Over the years, he has stood up to the vast resources of the insurance industry in his representation of "the little guy." Javerbaum's bustling Springfield, N.J., office is festooned with testimonial tributes and certificates of professional achievement intermingled with light-hearted caricatures of his firm's partners, all reflective of a work-hard-play-hard and congenial culture. Still, Javerbaum, youthful in his 60's, is no cartoon: For all his vivacity and outsized personality, he projects intellectual depth and independence - "He understands lawyers, judges and jurors as well as the law," says a colleague.
Growing up in the Central Ward of Newark, the son of a postal clerk ("We lived in a one bedroom in a 4th Floor walk-up . . . hardly what you'd call privileged") Javerbaum recalls early on being a "voracious reader of the newspaper, and fiercely interested in all the popular culture of the day." He recalls watching the Army-McCarthy hearings and the Kefauver hearings on organized crime when home for lunch at grammar school "like they were the World Series." He went on to Rutgers College and Rutgers Law ("Financially it was the only option") and landed a clerkship with Samuel Larner, a legend among New Jersey litigators, just appointed to the Bench. Larner was "a demanding taskmaster but I revered the guy - I believe your first mentor can really define you the rest of your career." Javerbaum was anxious to jump into trying cases ("I thought that I could do it better than most of the lawyers I saw") and later he joined the newly formed Public Defender's Office. By age 28, he'd already argued cases before the N.J. Supreme Court.
In his mid-30s, he teamed with college friend and fraternity brother Jack Wurgaft, and launched their firm. By the early `80s, as the state courts introduced certification standards, Javerbaum and Wurgaft were among the first to be designated as Certified Civil Trial Attorneys, a distinction that made Javerbaum Wurgaft quite nearly a state clearinghouse for personal injury cases. Colleagues say Javerbaum is highly regarded by his peers in the trial bar and has created a level of goodwill that helped the firm grow, gaining a strong reputation both among the public and other firms. "You have to treat each other well in our line of work," he says. "Some lawyers don't seem to understand that these days." Javerbaum and his firm took difficult cases and pioneered successful litigation in claims against governmental entities as well as advancing the law in products liability and legal and medical malpractice. After more than 40 years as a plaintiff's lawyer, Javerbaum remains an energetic presence, both within his firm and as a leader in the profession. Javerbaum has all the key traits of a rainmaker: Outgoing confidence, peer respect and a genuine interest in people. "The human element is what I love about our work." Javerbaum is also a proud family man. The annual holiday card of the practice, a collaboration by his wife and daughter, have become a signature of the firm. Each year's custom-designed cleverly crafted edition ("Torts Illustrated") is eagerly anticipated by the bench, bar and clients. His son David is a former Executive Producer of Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" and an 11-time Emmy winner as well as Broadway lyricist. His daughter, Alison, is a former editor at Simon and Schuster who has retired to raise her family. Away from the office he enjoys time with his grandchildren, and traveling with his wife, Tema, a former Deputy Attorney General.