Mathew Rosengart Finds Work Balance
By Michael Ventre
The nexus of law and entertainment in the life of attorney Mathew Rosengart can best be illustrated by a snapshot in time at his wedding in 2006, when guests David Souter and Sean Penn were introduced to each other. “America’s greatest Supreme Court Justice,” went Rosengart’s intro, “meet America’s greatest actor.”
Rosengart, who clerked for Souter when the former Supreme Court Justice served on the New Hampshire Supreme Court, has maintained a close friendship with him ever since. Penn is a client of Rosengart’s wife, Mara Buxbaum, president of ID Public Relations. By all accounts, a good time was had by everyone, although Souter—a ravenous reader and proud workaholic, but hardly a film buff—was not as well-versed in Penn’s accomplishments as Penn was in his.
In legal circles, little explanation is needed when it comes to Rosengart’s career. An ardent admirer of Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird, he has managed to create his own inspiring story about a man fiercely dedicated to the law, only set mostly on the East and West Coasts rather than in a small Alabama town.
He served as a federal prosecutor at the United States Department of Justice for approximately 10 years before moving into private practice. Today he splits his time between the New York and Los Angeles offices of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips (where he is a partner), a firm that handles business and entertainment litigation. He also taught at the law schools of both Pepperdine and Fordham Universities. “I moved out here a couple of years ago because my wife was knee-deep in the entertainment business,” says Rosengart, who lives in Brentwood. “Although my background was as a prosecutor, I was a huge consumer of entertainment. To me, the idea of combining entertainment with litigation is a perfect match.”
Rosengart’s caseload is unique and diverse. One minute he is handling a matter involving Credit Suisse out of the New York office, the next he’s sitting at his LA desk, chatting with Robin Williams or working on something for HBO. In between, he and his wife fit in a few sets of tennis, or he serves as a media expert on issues involving steroids and other high-profile cases.
Despite the enviable place he finds himself in, he hasn’t lost his sense of appreciation for the road he traveled—particularly the stops at Souter’s office and the Justice Department. “Justice Souter saw in me somebody who he believed would be a great trial lawyer and litigator,” he says. “That’s really why I went to the Justice Department. I love being a lawyer now, but the Justice Department was the perfect place to realize my goal of filling a public interest. It’s an honor to work there, and it’s incredibly rewarding.”
Each year, no matter how dense his appointment book may be, Rosengart pencils in time in August for him and a colleague to visit Souter—who co-officiated at his wedding—in New Hampshire, where the three outdoors-loving legal eagles go hiking. “He beats us up the mountain,” Rosengart says with a laugh. Perhaps that’s the only setback in his law career he’ll happily accept.
PHOTOGRAPH BY SARI GOODFRIEND