Look for this feature in the upcoming edition of Trial Briefs, exclusively for NCAJ members.
By Amber Nimocks
Hanging around outside an RV on a sunny autumn afternoon, Matt Gambale and his law partners look dressed for a day off – plaid shirts and jeans, Sperry Topsider loafers, no socks. But it’s not casual Friday, it’s pro bono Tuesday. The partners of Osborn Gambale Beckley & Budd PLLC are offering free legal answers for anyone who approaches their mobile office, which today is the RV bearing the firm parked in a busy midtown Raleigh parking lot.
The mobile office and the regular pro bono days, which they do about eight times a month, are part of the new firm’s business plan.
The partners do no client intake on pro bono days. They answer gateway questions for people who aren’t sure what kind of legal representation they might need. They advise folks on how they might handle misdemeanor cases. And if it seems appropriate, they recommend hiring an attorney – but not necessarily one from their firm.
The RV affords the firm a physical presence in neighborhoods where brick-and-mortar law offices are scarce or non-existent. People who might be intimidated by gold-plated firm names and sleek office furniture feel less wary about talking to a couple of guys sitting around in camp chairs. And Gambale and his partners feel like they’re practicing law as they intended to.
Gambale earned his BA in history from the University of Virginia and his law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law, as did his law partners. He has practiced for eight years and focuses on criminal defense, DUI/DWI defense and traffic tickets and insurance disputes. He lives in Raleigh with his cat Dorian, near his parents who are retired in Apex.
Osborn Gambale Beckley & Budd PLLC, Raleigh
Education: University of Virginia, B.A. in history, University of Virginia School of Law, J.D.
Practice areas: Criminal defense, DUI/DWI and traffic tickets, insurance disputes
Years practicing: Eight
Hometown: Alexandria, Virginia
Current residence: Raleigh
Family: Cat, Dorian; Parents retired in Apex; Sister is a physician in Indianapolis.
You began your legal career in insurance defense. Why did you decide to become a plaintiff’s lawyer?
There wasn’t a single moment, really. It was just an accumulated sense of distance from the community and lack of purpose. I feel like I’m part of something more important now that I’m representing regular people, in the same community where I live.
Tell us about one of your most memorable cases, one that made you feel proud to practice law.
Recently I helped an individual get his drivers’ license restored through a motion to remit costs and fines, which had been hanging over him for years. It was not a big case in the grand scheme of things and it did not require much work or extraordinary ability on my part. But it was a big case to him, and I’ll never forget how happy he was with me and the result. I certainly never got that measure of gratitude from an insurance client.
Was there a someone in your life who inspired you to pursue a career in the law? Tell us about them.
My father was an assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia while I was growing up. He has a very strong sense of justice, and he taught me a great deal about how to tell good judgment from bad when it comes to ethics and fairness in the law.
What career accomplishments are you most proud of so far?
Being in a position to start my own firm with three outstanding partners is a real point of pride. It’s not something I think I could have done earlier in my career, to add the challenge of managing a business without the experience and confidence to handle myself on the practice side.
Osborn, Gambale, Beckley & Budd Pro Bono Profile
Pro bono hours logged since launching in April of 2019: 1,230
Pro bono clients helped: 730
Pop-up clinics held: 54
Cost to refurbish second-hand RV: $65,000
How do you maintain work-life balance in a profession that demands so much of your time?
It’s all about setting good habits, and making sure to set aside part of each day for exercise, family, and friends.
Describe a perfect day away from the office.
I love to walk around a park or a street festival, and be outside as much as possible. In our profession we spend so much time indoors.
What advice would you give a lawyer who just passed the bar this year?
Unless you’re absolutely sure what practice area you want to do, and it’s the only reason you became a lawyer and you can’t imagine doing anything else, keep an open mind. I never expected to work at all in criminal defense when I first passed the bar. Now, I’m really enjoying it. I think a lot of the burnout in our profession comes from lawyers being dead set on a practice area that’s just not right for them, and they suffer as a result. Try some different things before you give up on yourself or the professional altogether.
How long have you been a member of NCAJ? What moved you to join? How has your membership helped your practice so far?
I joined the day I was eligible, upon quitting my last insurance defense job to start my current firm. It’s common knowledge among members of the defense bar that NCAJ is an extraordinary resource and there’s really no good analogue for it on the other side. The listservs have been invaluable even in the short time that I’ve been a member. There are some of the most formidable lawyers in the state who regularly respond on there, and to have access to even just a little of their wisdom is a great benefit to me and my clients.