Wayne Law alum brings ferocity to court to defend clients

From Wayne Law

Criminal defense attorney Neil Rockind has found his calling standing up for the underdog.

A 1993 alumnus of Wayne State University Law School, Rockind has turned his inborn capacity for verbal combat into an award-winning career going to trial to stick up for “the little guy.” He founded Rockind Law in Southfield in 2000.

Over the years, he’s handled a number of high-profile cases, including defending personal injury attorney Geoffrey Feiger against a Michigan attorney general’s investigation. But for any client, big or small, Rockind studies and researches tirelessly and brings to the courtroom the fierce, forceful flair that has earned him his nickname – “The Rockweiler.”

“Over the last several years, I have studied the methods of police officers in extracting confessions and admissions from accused,” Rockind said. “If anyone would label me an expert at anything, I’d like it to be challenging interrogations and confessions as coerced or false.”

In 2014, he participated in a scientific forensics course by the American Chemical Society, which educated attorneys on the use of blood testing instruments and the science behind forensics chromatography that allows the FBI and other authorities to analyze chemicals, such as drugs or alcohol, present in blood.  At the time, only about 200 attorneys in the nation had completed this coursework.  The laboratory work qualified him to explain the science of gas chromatography in DUI ethanol-based cases.

For Rockind, it’s about having the expertise to be unsurpassed in his work for the clients he defends.

“The best part is saving a client and his or her family from conviction, jail, etc.,” Rockind said. “Making a difference in someone’s life on that level is profoundly satisfying. Unfortunately, getting those results leads to the most challenging part – the commitment of time it takes to prevail. I love my family, but my career and my determination to be the best has taken me away from them more than I would have preferred.”

He started his legal career as an assistant prosecuting attorney in the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office and handled hundreds of criminal cases, moving on to become a special prosecutor.

“I joined the prosecutor’s office out of law school for trial experience,” Rockind said. “While I enjoyed my tenure in the office, it was never in my bones or DNA. I began to feel and sympathize for the accused. The more defense attorneys I grew close to, the more I respected their willingness to stand up to authority and stick up for ‘the little guy.’ As the grandson of Holocaust survivors, I can relate to David much more so than Goliath. I like to stand with the Davids against the Goliaths.”

So, in 1997, he followed his instincts and became a criminal defense trial lawyer.

“I love the fact that being a trial lawyer is, in part, an art,” said Rockind, who lives with his wife and three children in Bloomfield Hills. “Not everyone can do it, and you can’t just will yourself to become one. I wanted to be a trial lawyer – period. But then, once exposed to the criminal law, I knew that I had found my calling. My first ‘not guilty’ verdict still resonates with me to this day.”

He’s taken on a host of defense cases, and many are memorable to him. One such case involved an Albanian immigrant accused of being the head of a major cocaine trafficking ring.
“To us, he was just an old man in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people,” Rockind said. “The case was tried for weeks with competing narratives – the state trying to use the evidence to show that he was a co-conspirator and me trying to show that he was an immigrant just trying to make a better life for his family and was surrounded by some bad actors.”
The client was acquitted.

“Still another case was my defense of a member of the military at Selfridge Air Base who was accused by a base employee of sexual assault,” Rockind said. “His acquittal, based purely on my cross examination of the complainant, saved his career.”

Rockind has always known that his own career would be in a courtroom.

“From a young age, people patted me on the head and said, ‘This one is going to be a lawyer,’ ’’ Rockind said.

He earned a degree in general studies at the University of Michigan and went right on to Wayne Law. Today, he speaks often to groups and to media as an expert about legal issues and cases and trial tactics.

Among his many awards are being named one of the Top 50 Lawyers in Michigan by Super Lawyers and among the Top 10 Criminal Defense Lawyers, as well as being named as a top trial lawyer by many other publications. He was named among the nation’s top 1 percent of lawyers by the National Association for Distinguished Counsel, and, in 2015, Michigan Lawyers Weekly named him a Leader in the Law.

Rockind also serves on the Regional Advisory Board of the Anti-Defamation League and has served on the Board of Directors for the Friends of the Israeli Defense Force – Michigan Chapter, as well as being involved in other charitable organizations. He recently joined the Holocaust Museum membership in West Bloomfield with a plan to invest more time with that organization.

He’s a contributing author to the Institute of Continuing Legal Education commentary and the practice tips section of the Michigan Standard Jury Instructions book.

On the rare occasions when he’s down and not feeling the whole “Rockweiler” thing, another encounter always comes along to enflame the fiery passion once again.

“Challenge a client of mine, a member of my staff or me with something that I think is unfair, all I see is red,” Rockind said. “Also, if a friend is in a fight, I won’t hesitate to jump in – no questions asked.”


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