Changing the Rules

Episode 94: Hard Work Pays Off, Guest Marina Kats

Episode Summary

This week we met Marina Kats, attorney, entrepreneur and so much more. Marina shares with us how she migrated to the United States from the Ukraine at age 18. She talks with us about working hard and going to college and some of the things that shaped her path to becoming an attorney. She shares with us about her successful law practice being a place for all types of needs a client may have. Marina's story is very inspiring, you don't want to miss this episode!

Episode Notes

Guest Co-host:  Marc Bernstein:

Podcast Guest:  Marina Kats:

Marina's Website:



Kris Parsons00:03

Welcome to changing the rules, a weekly podcast about people who are living their best life and how you can figure out how to do it too. Join us with your lively host Ray Loewe, better known as the luckiest guy in the world.

Ray Loewe00:22

Good morning, everybody and welcome to changing the rules. And today we have two guests with us. We have Marc Bernstein who you met last week and Marc is acting as our co-host today. And he and I are going to interview a wonderful guest Marina Kats and, we'll give you more details in a minute. But Marina is very definitely one of the luckiest people in the world as you're gonna see. Okay, she has control of her life. She makes it do what she wants it to do and she makes it go where she wants it to go and, and the luckiest people in the world are those people that design their own lives and then live them to the fullest. And Marina, welcome to changing the rules. And Marc, welcome to changing the rules. And Marc, why don't you lead off by introducing Marina. 

Marc Bernstein01:13

Ray, I've had the opportunity to get to know Marina Kats over a long period of time. And she is one of the most amazing people I know. She's if she's going to tell her story a little bit of where she came from and how she built up her law practice and our other entrepreneurial activities, as well. As you know, she's got a lot of other interests philanthropically, and she's raised two great daughters. We'll talk a little bit about that. And so she is we've determined in our talks prior to this one of the luckiest people in the world. So Marina, meet Ray Loewe, who is the luckiest guy in the world. I'm up there somewhere, but I'm not quite at Ray's level,

Ray Loewe01:51

because he's. Why is your way up there Marc? Let me interrupt and ask a quick question. Because to start this, one of the most impressive things, I had a chance to read your resume and everything. But what I found out that you came here at age 18, from the Ukraine. Did you speak English at the time? Not at all? No English at the time. Okay. So let's start there a little bit, and how does one come into a new country and start over and then we'll get into all this stuff, and Marc, you can take over again?

Marina Kats02:27

Well, we could go back to the title of your program, the luckiest people, or we could analyze where does the luck come from, as we know luck is 99% perspiration, 1% inspiration. So we also know that, you know, luck doesn't come by itself. And the harder you work the luckier you get. So I don't want the radio listeners or podcast listeners to think that somehow you go outside and you say, God, send me luck. It happens. And all of a sudden, you become the lucky person. I don't know anybody who were able to survive purely on somehow indication of luck. So when I came to United States, I, by the way, turn 18 in refugee camps in Italy. And I didn't speak the word of English. And we came here legally waiting through the whole process. So I went to probably 12 to 14 hours a day studying English for the first two weeks, when I went to college, I still said in the classroom was a dictionary, because I couldn't understand most of the things the teacher was saying, and I took most of the science courses because the formula the same didn't matter whether it was in English, or in Russian, or in Latin. So all those things came into play. One of the things I want to tell your radio listeners and podcast listeners is working hard does pay off. 

Ray Loewe04:05

Cool. Go ahead Marc, you had a question on your lips.

Marc Bernstein04:10

Yeah, so why several so I'm trying to think which one first? So Marina, the science thing I'm interested in, do you have it? Did you have an interest in science? Or you just did that? Because you could you could translate it better? 

Marina Kats04:25

Um, well, I was always good at science. I didn't have particular interest in science, but I was going to be a doctor. I really was not going to be a lawyer. And I always had a calling for the medicine. And indirectly, I guess, when I became a lawyer, my focus was on personal injury, which obviously a lot of things involved was medicine. So I still can see myself as a doctor without license. I love to diagnose so I do have inclination for it and I have a good six sense in some ways for people who are not feeling well, and I have a compassion. So that was my interest. And the only reason I did not become a doctor is because when you were 18-19, you have this idealistic ideas about, you know, animals and taking experiments on animals. And I remember being at the university and having it was biology one or two, I think, or biology one or one, I don't remember which biology course it was. But you had to dissect the kitten in process, and I was like, I am not dissecting the kitten. And it just not something that I could possibly do. In a heart of hearts. Of course, knowing then what I know now, I would have done that, obviously, but I didn't, then I there was, I was lucky enough, it's very early in the semester. And I said, Well, I probably have to drop that course. And I'm going to add some other course. And that's how I decided that I'm going to go to law school. Some sometimes things happen serendipitously. And I was lucky enough to have a really very, very good professors. That got me very quickly interested in pre-law. And I felt that you know, with the calling to help people, you can help people get better health-wise, or you can serve some kind of equalizer in the world to make sure that people are treated fairly in this world. So I ended up with law profession, which I have no regrets, very happy doing.

Marc Bernstein06:40

So you were a Temple University undergraduate.

Marina Kats06:43

Actually, I came to full circle at Temple University. I was an undergrad at Temple University. I went to law school at Temple University. I have my LLM in trial advocacy, which is like Ph.D. in law. There is only less than 1% of the lawyers that have that degree from Temple University. And if I can make another plug for Temple University, I'm a trustee now for Temple University. So I kid you not I do believe Temple right? Yes,

Marc Bernstein07:12

I was going to bring that up to the boy your journey at Temple house. I started there. I only made it through one year before I went to three other universities. But that's another story for another day. So but go owls.

Marina Kats07:26

See in your world, and most people world, they could go to University of their choosing. And they could go away from home and live in the dorms. When I went to Temple I worked two jobs. And my parents would in no way allow me to live in a dormitory. They said the only way you could leave home is if you marry that's why I got married very young. I got married after my first year of college. Because this otherwise I would have to stay home and live with my parents. And that was the way to get out of the house.

Marc Bernstein08:07

Something I didn't know. That's interesting. So tell me about let's jump ahead to  you were married. And now you start a law practice. Tell us how that came about?

Marina Kats08:16

Well, I'm actually before starting the law practice, I worked for the law firm. And I realized that I want a different way of practicing law. And it's actually very rarely that you will see a law firm that works the way we do. Because we are different. We are not task-oriented. We are client-centric. And that's what I wanted to do. The biggest thing, especially with the ethnic communities, they don't know where to go, where you Ray, might have cousin, brother, cousin, friend, as a lawyer, as a lot of people who are newcomers to America don't even know a lawyer don't know where to find the lawyer. So if you become a task-oriented, the client has to switch for many different law firm because the clients have different needs. So today the client has an issue with a traffic ticket. Tomorrow the client has an issue with the marriage, then after tomorrow the client has an issue with buying the house day after tomorrow, the client was involved in a car accident whatever the issues are. For the firms who are task-oriented. They have to refer the client to somebody else. And in the process, they have to learn the whole new set of people go to the different location, acclimate themselves introduce themselves all over again. In my case, I've collected or I was lucky enough to hire a different attorneys who practicing different discipline. So you If you need issue was real estate, you go see Fabian, in my office, if you have an issue was family law, you go and see Stan in my office, if you have an issue with a personal injury, come see me in my office and so forth. So we have a group of lawyers that basically can assist with most of the basic needs of the individual. And it's there's a continuum in the process. And as bad as a Soviet system is, in the Soviet system, there was one, there's two good things was in the Soviet system, actually, education was a big plus. And the reason why I'm saying I'm deeply involved in the educational process, is I do believe that there should be consistency in education. So somebody who went to Temple University, and took a history course, and somebody who went to University of Delaware and took a history course, and somebody who went to University of Pennsylvania took a history course, should learn on the same books. So this way, when they get together, and they talk about history, they have a similar understanding. And if you want to learn something else as your extra-curriculum, by all means, and you can also select what history you want to learn. But the books should be the same. And the same thing should be, especially for high school, I think what happens with high schools, middle school, whatever you're addressing issue is education. Is if you go to school, a your teacher will teach you a history from one book, you go to school B, it's from different books, and then when the exams comes, you know, SATS, or whatever the exam that the child has to take. different schools have different advantages. And that's not a good thing. So even for cocktail party conversations, it's not a good thing. People should be educated. I am a big, big proponent of what Columbia University, for example, does core curriculum, you know, you have to raise an educated individuals, you cannot have a child that goes to college for four years, and not take a basic maths, or you cannot have a child and goes through college for four years and not take history. So I think there should be individual choices, but there should be a basic curriculum that the students are involved in.

Marc Bernstein12:47

That's a great idea, Marina, I just want to mention, she did her homework, she mentioned the University of Delaware, which was my school, University of Pennsylvania was Ray's school, so you did your homework.

Marina Kats12:59

But think about it, if you get together and for whatever reason, you guys saved your books that you've learned in schools. And, you know, Ray's gonna say, Oh, what is that? And you're gonna say, what is it even though it's two completely different books, it cannot be that.

Ray Loewe13:21

Great, let's pull this back. I hate to interrupt. But unfortunately, we have limited time. What was the second thing that you said the Soviet system was so good about?

Marina Kats13:30

So it was not particularly great with health care, but it was good at delivering health care. And there's two different things about it. And I'll explain to you what I mean by the health care. And we're not talking about free or pay, believe me, in every aspect of the Soviet Union system. If you wanted to have a better care, you have to pay somebody, whether it's a doctor directly, whether it's a bribe, wherever it was, even though the healthcare system was free, but what was good about the system is they had what's called polyclinics, which has every neighborhood had one and what it meant is if you have a health issue, you go into this polyclinic, which is a building and you will go see your GP and the GP says, looks at you and says, sort of like an emergency room, but it was no more it was in a hospital setting. And your GP said, You know what, I see what your issue is, you have to see ear, nose, and throat doctor, he's in room three. So you go out of your GPS office, you go to room three, and there's gonna be a couple of chairs outside the rooms and people will be sitting in those chairs. You take the last chair and that ear, nose, and throat doctor has a sitting line, you know, like a queue and he sees anybody that queue so you don't have to make an appointment. Wait for two weeks to see ear, nose, and throat doctor travel somewhere else, you are able to see somebody there. And it was the same thing as virologist going into college or college, it didn't make any difference what specialty it was, they were all in the same building. So the person would be able to at least have some type of a diagnosis or some kind of a questions answer. There might not have been as advanced healthcare system as we have here, no question about it, we have the best and most sophisticated healthcare system. But you did not have to wait to see a doctor for two weeks or three weeks or, you know, was, you know, dermatology, endocrinology for a longer period of time. And you didn't have to go all over the city to find those doctors.

Ray Loewe15:54

Yeah so you build your law practice kind of like this, you know, you have one place for clients to go. And then you usually have the specialties within your practice.

Marina Kats16:04

Yeah basically Yeah, yeah, basically consider myself a traffic cop. Yeah, I'm trying to meet with everybody who comes to my door. I tried to sit down and triage, that's, you know, the better word for it. I guess it's triage the case, I sit down and I talk to the person, once I figure out what the issue there, I will ask another attorney from my office to come and join the meeting. And at that time, it becomes more narrow issue, and that attorney will handle the matter. So it makes it very, very easy for the clients. And I joke about it, I love, you know, old-fashioned movies. And I say to myself, I'm like a country bumpkin I like this whole idea that you know, you drive horse and buggy, you pull up by my door you walk in, and you're seen and whether you pay or you don't pay, it becomes very secondary, the practice of law becomes a primary thing we're going to use to build a great law practice. You've also had some other entrepreneurial activities, which you've had success at as well, you mind talking about that for a minute? Well, I actually own the radio station many, many years ago, I own the radio station. Some of your podcast listeners probably remember Jerry blooded. Guido was a heater boss was a hot sauce. So I used to on a 1540 AM station, which was a great endeavor was a very interesting place to be. And that's how you learn, I think it's a great thing is, and one of the things if you go back to the title of the show, Lucky. Lucky is also not to be afraid. I think it's very good to be entrepreneurial. It's a little bit more dangerous, but it's a lot more rewarding. I remember going to my daughter's Career Day. And she went to a very, very, very good school and there was a panel of five people, I think one was a president of a big public company. One was a partner and the big hedge fund. Two were all big companies, and they were talking about their careers. And then the turn came to me and I said, You know what, the best thing to do is not necessarily climb the corporate ladder. But the best thing to do is open up your business. And of course, it's a philosophy, would you prefer to be a small fish in a big pond or big fish in a small pond, and I kind of always prefer to eat what I kill and kill what I eat and never hold to anybody. So

Ray Loewe18:58

Spoken like a true lawyer, kill what I eat, I love it.

Marina Kats19:02

you know, it's just the way it is you're responsible for your own happiness. And again, title of your podcast is building your own luck. That's the only way to do it in my mind.

Ray Loewe19:15

But let me interrupt for a minute because we're getting near the end of our time, unfortunately. And, and I would like you to talk for a minute about where you're going. But before we go there. I know you've got tremendous credentials, right? A whole lot of boards, and if people want to find out about them, they can find them on your website. You're absolutely. And what's the website address.

Marina Kats19:37

So there's two websites, the best one is it's one word so it's easy to remember. They could Google me Marina Kats, so they'll know everything about me. And the firm name is Kats, Jamison, and Associates so they can also Google that you My uncle Google is always you know, we'll get you there. And they can always call us 215-396-9001. And speaking of the gimmick, my actually other gimmick as my 800 number, it's 800 law, what I practice 1917 is a Year of the Russian revolution. So it's 100 law 197 1-800-Law-1917 Nobody can ever forget it. Especially they came from the former Soviet Union countries.

Marc Bernstein20:34

So, yeah. And Marty Ray, Marina spells Kats K ATS. It's not the way people think.

Ray Loewe20:41

Yeah, like herding cats, right?


You know, when you go to the stores, and they ask you, you know, for your email or something, and you say, you know, I've got to go is that with a C, or with a K, I always say, I wish it was the C, but it's with a K.

Ray Loewe21:00

you know, Marc, chip and on this, but again, because we're running near the end of our time, so you've been tremendously successful. Marina, you started at 18, coming from another country, not speaking English, you got yourself through college, you got yourself a successful law firm, you're on the board of the school that you went to, and you're on a number of other boards. So you're active in a whole bunch of things. But where are you going to go in life? What what's important to you, and as one of the lucky people, I have a feeling you're going to design your own life to do more? What might those things be?

Marina Kats21:39

I will tell you the retirement is not in the cards, or at least not any cards anytime soon, I was talking to another very, very successful lawyer and he said, What else would I do to get as much enjoyment of doing what I'm doing. So obviously, the plan is to continue working, there is a great deal of enjoyment. And helping people especially in what I do personally, which is most of the time is personal injury. So you're basically able to give people obviously I can't get them their health back. That's not something, I always say to my clients, if I had the magic wand, I will try to get you back to your pre-accident condition. But I don't have that. So all I can do is make sure you're compensated for your injury. So going forward, your life is a little bit better. So that's, you know, a wonderful saying that what we do in my office, we change people lives on a daily basis, number one, number two, I think it's also fairness, you know, in my vocabulary, fairness and responsibility are two primary words. And I think the idea of being able to do a fairness meter in my life, is what keeps me happy at least. And I also, you know, when I meet with a client, I will give him an honest opinion, and I can afford, thank God because I'm successful, not to take the cases that I don't want to take and explain to the person why they shouldn't continue with the case. Because this is not the case that should be brought up. So that's a big plus in my life when I like some lawyers that really depend on each client's money for their livelihood. I do not. So that helps tremendously in being, I guess, you know, fair and being honest and being open and not worrying about tomorrow. You feel better today when you stop worrying about tomorrow.

Ray Loewe23:53

I think if you're under some great advice, and unfortunately, we're at the end of our time, Marc, do you have any closing comments, and we need to make them quick?

Marc Bernstein24:02

No, I mean, you said some great things. Marina, the only thing if you had one piece of advice for somebody that's struggling with where they're going, what would you say to them?

Marina Kats24:10

Work hard, and don't be afraid? It's great, great advise

Ray Loewe24:15

okay. And what a better, there's no better place to stop. So Marina, thanks for being one of the luckiest people in the world. Thanks for being here. And sharing with us, Marc thanks for introducing us to Marina. And we'll be back next week with another podcast and another one of the luckiest people in the world. So everybody, have a great week. And Taylor, sign us off.

Kris Parsons24:39

Thank you for listening to changing the rules, a weekly podcast about people who are living their best life and how you can figure out how to do that too. Join us with your lively host Ray Loewe, better known as the luckiest guy in the world.