Marc Zell, a prominent lawyer based in Jerusalem, has had a diverse and fascinating career journey.

From his early days studying linguistics and dreaming of becoming a palaeontologist to his current role as a litigator and commercial lawyer, Marc has left his mark on the legal world – and elsewhere.

Early life and education

Born and raised in Washington DC, Marc had an early obsession for languages and science. While he initially aspired to be an archaeologist and palaeontologist, his path took a different turn when he studied linguistics and developed a proficiency in nine modern languages – and in the sciences.

It was only after his ambition to become a rabbi was thwarted (due to opposition from his parents and fiancée) that he decided to pursue a legal career, which blended his diverse interests and knowledge. “The diversity of work that one can work with as a lawyer allows me to deal with all kinds of subject matters from science and technology to art to domestic relations,” he says. “This diversity has helped to keep me fascinated in the law ever since.”

Marc studied at the University of Maryland and qualified as a lawyer in 1977. He first joined a large law firm in DC, before opening his own practice in DC and Virginia.

Moving to Israel

But by then Marc was a father – he has eight children – and he decided to move to Israel: “I wanted to go to Israel for my children and to give them a better quality of life.”

It is not a move he has regretted. He adapted to Israeli culture quickly and embraced the opportunities in the country: “You meet everyone here, every day is exciting.”

After moving, in 1986 he founded his own firm, Zell, Aron & Co, in Jerusalem: “We’re a small boutique practice focused on litigation with US and Federal Court and transactional work on all continents.”

“We like to operate on the cutting edge of the law, particularly the tech, IT and biotech space, focusing on dispute resolution mainly in Israel.”

There is no shortage of work either – Israel is sometimes referred to as the ‘startup nation.’ Over the years, his firm has been associated with numerous tech startups, handling mergers and acquisitions, tech transfers and investment stages ranging from angel funding to IPOs. His experience in Israel and the US allows his firm to navigate the intricacies of international transactions. “Israel is a cauldron for entrepreneurs and creativity,” he says. “I’ve been associated with a lot of them over the years and it’s exciting to be involved with.”

Global reach

With Jerusalem as its base, Zell, Aron & Co has established connections with clients and legal professionals around the world. The firm’s global network allows them to handle international cases and transactions effectively.

Marc emphasizes the importance of having local counsel in the countries they work with, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of local laws and customs. This was one of the main reasons why he joined IR Global. He says

the network is especially useful for referring work to other lawyers: “For instance, if we need a local counsel in the countries we’re dealing with, then it is ideal. We worked with a lawyer in Belgium we connected with through IR Global on a recent case we won, and they did a great job for us.”

“I joined this organisation not to receive business but to get it out to people who I can trust in different counties, and that’s what it does.”

Of course, Marc’s linguistic background and proficiency in various languages has been an asset throughout his career. Being able to communicate effectively with clients and colleagues from different backgrounds enhances his ability to navigate diverse legal landscapes. His fluency in multiple languages enables him to understand the nuances of international disputes and ensures that his clients receive comprehensive representation.

In addition to his work in commercial law, Marc has been involved in constitutional litigation, both in Israel and the US. With his expertise in this area, he has tackled complex cases, including a landmark lawsuit involving the Republic of Hungary and the Holocaust. He has also defended the constitutional rights of individuals seeking to renounce their US citizenship.

Embracing the arts and cultural heritage

Marc’s interests extend way beyond the legal realm. He is a strong advocate for the arts and cultural heritage, combining his legal expertise with his passion for fine art and archaeology. He has worked with major auction houses, handling copyright law cases related to renowned artists like Marc Chagall.

Additionally, going back to his love of history, he has been involved in archaeological excavations, including a project focused on King David’s era. “It’s almost like you a dig a hole anywhere in Israel and you have a major archaeological find,” he laughs. “Roman times are relatively recent – there is a lot of ancient history here.”

Personal life

Outside his legal career, Marc leads a remarkably varied life. He is actively involved in politics, serving as the Chairman of the US Republican Party in Israel: “Recently, I appeared live on Israeli TV talking about US President Joe Biden.”

Marc also has a passion for the arts, and he has taken to acting in recent years, with notable performances in productions such as ‘Soul Doctor.’ “I acted in high school and sang at Princeton, but I didn’t come back to acting again until 2006,” he says, adding that he is really enjoying treading the boards again.

Along with his eight children, Marc has 21 grandchildren and his home life is never dull. While his career takes him around the world, he values quality time with his family and cherishes the moments he spends with his loved ones. His ability to juggle multiple responsibilities demonstrates his dedication to both his professional and personal spheres. “I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire,” he laughs.

While he may be 70 years old, he has no plans to slow down – he is enjoying work and life too much for that!