Founded on friendship and built with a focus on family, Widerman Malek, PL has made quite a name for itself.
Some business brands just develop, with their operational style and approach coming together without a script or set of rules.
Such was the case with Widerman Malek, PL.
Scott Widerman and Mark Malek met in their second year of law school. Widerman was a full-time day student, while Malek attended at night. So, their chances of meeting weren’t great until Widerman decided to take a night class. And a friendship was born.
Following graduation, Widerman returned to his native Brevard County to start practicing law, mainly on land use and civil litigation. Malek remained in Orlando, working as a patent attorney. Often, they would get together for fun and also talk shop, as each grew more experienced in his profession.
“Scott and I had a relationship closer than most siblings,” said Malek.
Then one day, as Malek described, he called Widerman, and the conversation went something like this: “Hey, man. You want to start a firm together?” Malek asked.
Widerman’s response went along the lines of “Why not?”
During one of their many weekend family gatherings in Cocoa Beach, the friends decided to “give it a go.” The business began in October 2003, headquartered in Melbourne.
Today, Widerman Malek, PL is a law firm with national clients and extensive legal offerings — from appellate law, arbitration and copyrights to data security, eminent domain, government contracts and more. Initially, civil litigation and land use (Widerman) and intellectual property (Malek) were the specialties, but others were added as clients sought more assistance in what Malek called “slow and steady” growth. Now, there’s a second office in Orlando, opened five years ago, with a strategic alliance that includes Brazilian attorneys who work at the Orlando office.
Yet, not surprisingly, while the firm continues to thrive in the legal arena, which fairly can be labeled (at minimum) as “competitive,” the themes of “family” and “community” have emerged as the cornerstones. Naturally.
“We are a family- and community-oriented firm,” Malek asserted, leaving little doubt.
“Work is always going to be here,” he explained. “How we spend our time and our treasure are really the two things we have control over in our lives.”
That was the thinking from day one, Malek added, citing that both he and Widerman started the firm as parents of young children.
“Our focus was on ‘We sure would like to be present in the lives of our children’ and not be the typical 90-hour-a-week attorneys,” Malek noted. “We were focused on our families and the families of those who worked with us. And not making the workplace so stressful that you took that stressful nature home to your family.”
Malek goes further on his point: “What’s the use of making money [from overwork] if you can’t spend it?”
With many of the firm’s staffers also having children, the lobby features photos of the “WM Kids” — a collage of the employees’ children and grandchildren. “There are people here from the beginning. It’s been really, really fantastic to watch the kids grow and to see them graduate high school and go off to college,” Malek said.
A similar focus extends to the community, highlighted by The No Bad Days Foundation, established by the firm to help support children in the county who have medical disabilities but aren’t able to obtain life-enhancing medical devices and other necessities. The primary fundraiser is a kickball tournament held annually in early February. All funds collected from donations go directly to children. Notably, the foundation’s start date mirrors that of the firm back in October 2003.
Additional organizations include the Children’s Hunger Project, the United Way of Brevard, the March of Dimes, Junior Achievement of the Space Coast and the Scott Center for Autism Treatment at Florida Institute of Technology, among others.
“We’re raising our kids here. So, we need to make this community as good as we can. … It would be completely irresponsible if we did not take part in our own community,” Malek cited.
Malek even has recruited attorneys to join his firm based on their passion for community service. One example is Eric Hostetler, who moved from Jacksonville to Brevard in fall 2004 and spent years developing a résumé of local giving before joining the firm in 2013. Hostetler served on the board of directors for the United Way and was chair of the Emerging Leaders, a group of young professionals dedicated to volunteering and supporting the United Way and its agencies. Also, he’s currently president of the Melbourne Civic Theatre.
“This [firm] is a great place to work if you have the right mindset, and that mindset is the community and the family unit comes first,” Malek repeated for emphasis.
“We want to be known as a community partner.”