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Father, two sons who practice law together say family is first priority

Left to right - Andrew, Arthur (father), and Warren Aplerstein

Andy and Warren Alperstein grew up listening to their father, Arthur, describe his legal work at the dinner table. They would laugh at courtroom humor, ponder trial outcomes.

Decades later, only one thing has changed — now the trio chats around the office water cooler.

Working with family may not be for everyone, but the Alpersteins wouldn’t have it any other way. Andy, 42, and Warren, 40, are both members of Alperstein & Diener PA, the general practice law firm Arthur co-founded in 1978. Andy recalls moving boxes into his father’s new downtown Baltimore office when he was 10 years old. Now his own desk is just five doors down.

All three attorneys agree having such intertwined professional and personal lives makes both spheres more enjoyable and rewarding. For them, company loyalty translates to family loyalty, and vice versa.

“You never have to worry about trust issues or competition or fairness issues because you certainly know that your father’s looking out and your brother’s looking out,” Warren said. “I’m always going to do whatever’s in the best interest of my family and then the business, as well.”

Family has always been priority No. 1, they said. That shared mindset keeps harmless work squabbles from erupting into full-fledged office battles or, worse, morphing into after-hours grudges.

“It’s easier when it’s family,” Warren said. “I think a lot of it has to do with your upbringing and personality. Whenever there’s a disagreement, we work it out. Period. … We know each other so well that we know how to communicate with each other in a way that will resolve it the best.”

Arthur said he has tried to cultivate a family-oriented work environment where the entire 15-person staff feels at home, and his efforts haven’t gone unnoticed.

“I’ve been there long enough sometimes I almost think of myself as family,” said Bob Wolf, a partner who’s been with the firm for almost 27 years. “Actually the whole firm is very cohesive. … Art is a proud papa not only of [his sons] but for all the attorneys in the office.”

“That’s really a tribute to Dad,” Andy said. “That’s what he’s tried to do the whole time.”

Wolf said clients usually respond well to the Alperstein dynamic and are reassured by the trusting atmosphere it creates. That bond began decades ago when Arthur first introduced his young sons to the profession during mealtime conversation.

“We’d sit around the table and we’d alternate,” Arthur said. “‘You went first yesterday, Warren, so Andy, you talk first.’ It was a way to get the kids to talk about sports and school, and then Daddy would talk about his cases and walk them through the trial. I’d explain how the law worked and how much fun it is and I think it became an adventure for them. We’ve always had a wonderful family closeness.”

The sons did get a brief hiatus from the legal world when they went off to George Washington University — Andy majored in finance, Warren studied political science — but the law is in their blood. They both found themselves at the University of Baltimore School of Law, but neither headed straight to the family firm after graduation. That was never the plan, they said. First they wanted to gain their own experience and prove their qualifications.

Andy got his degree in 1993 and worked for five years as an assistant state’s attorney in Baltimore County. Warren graduated in 1996 and spent a year clerking for Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Joseph T. McCurdy before heading to the state prosecutor’s office in Baltimore City — which is where Arthur got his start in 1968. (Along with his legal practice, Arthur, a Baltimore native and University of Maryland School of Law graduate, served in the House of Delegates from 1974 through 1986.)

But soon the “inevitable” happened, they said. The family firm needed extra help with criminal cases and the sons wanted extra time with Dad. Plus, it made financial sense for Warren, whose wife was expecting a second child. Andy joined the firm in 1999, and Warren came on board two years later.

The Alperstein sons said though they aren’t looking forward to the day Arthur reluctantly retires, they’re eager to continue his legacy. And because they each have three children, the firm may well always be a family affair.

“My 10-year-old said he wants to work with me when he grows up,” Warren said. “[My kids] love it. It’s really the same way I was with my dad. Do they ultimately really want to be a lawyer? Who knows?”

But a family can’t be defined only by its business, so the Alpersteins said they follow a “no office talk” policy at family functions. However, that rule doesn’t always work both ways.

“I remember the first time I ran into Dad in court,” Andy said. “We’re an affectionate family. … We happened to be scheduled at the same time, and I walked over and gave him a kiss hello and his client looked at me like, ‘What’s going on here?’ But why wouldn’t I kiss my father hello? Before all this other stuff, he’s my father.”