Throughout his legal career, Frank Morelli earned a reputation as being a fair but tough enforcer of justice. After serving as a fighter pilot in the Air Force, Frank made good on a pact he’d formed with a couple friends and used his GI Bill to attend Seton Hall Law School. From there, Frank built a legal career spanning more than 30 years that earned him the respect of his clients, peers, and colleagues, including our own Lisa Pezzano Mickey. The two met first in the courtroom before sharing office space together. Lisa then became “Of Counsel” to Frank’s law firm, helping his clients with workers’ compensation claims, kicking off a camaraderie that has spanned life events and borders. “Lisa, an excellent attorney, and I practiced together in Phillipsburg in a shared space,” Frank says.
“Eventually, I turned my cases over to her and retired. Well, I didn’t actually retire; that’s when I took the bar in Florida.” After Frank left New Jersey, their relationship flipped and Frank became “Of Counsel” to PMB, giving the firm a Florida connection. Lisa isn’t the only PMB connection that Frank gives high regard to. “I can’t forget Jane Nickel,” Frank points out. “She is a marvelous and wonderful person — very loyal. I would not have started practicing law in Phillipsburg if it weren’t for Jane. She is smart, efficient, and I give her full credit for running the office efficiently.” Any of you who know Jane will agree.
Now semiretired, Frank still takes on pro bono cases for those who need legal help but can’t afford it, and he is of counsel to PMB. He took a few minutes out of his day to tell us, in his usual modest way, about his unconventional journey. “How I got into law is a crazy story,” Frank begins. “Two high school friends and I decided we were going to go to law school after college and practice law together. One became a professor, one went into insurance, and I was the only one who became a lawyer. I made up my mind in high school to be a lawyer, and I had my obligation to serve.” That service-oriented mindset extends to his experience in the Air Force.
“Everyone should spend time in the military,” Frank says. “It’s a cause bigger than yourself. Most of the time, we take for granted the country we live in. The people who keep it going are the people in uniform — not only military, but police and emergency service workers — who put their lives on the line every day. I have the highest respect for anyone who volunteers to put themselves in harm’s way for the benefit of complete strangers. Believe me; they don’t do it for the pay
Motivated by a sense of justice early on in his life, Frank has used that as his moral compass. “I felt a very strong responsibility to the law and to fairness,” Frank says. For 10 years, he served as a municipal court judge, a role that called on his sense of justice. “As an attorney, you’re advocating for a cause. As a judge, you’re advocating for justice.” After 10 years in the role, Frank realized he wanted to put his family first, so he returned to his work as an attorney.
Frank has passed the bar in four states, most recently earning his license in Florida. “I like to say I have more licenses than I have time,” he says. Despite the exam’s fearsome reputation, Frank, in his trademark style, is matter-of-fact about it. “People ask, ‘How’d you do it at 73?’ The bar is very simple. If you know the basics, you can pass the bar exam.”
Of Frank’s most recent foray into earning his fourth bar licensure, Lisa says it’s typical of his steadfast, can-do nature. “Here, at the age of 73, to do something he’s never done before. That, to me, says so much about him as a person. Money is not what motivates him. He is very passionate about his family, clients, and doing what’s right.” She adds, “They don’t make them like that anymore.”
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