In his Novanglus Essays No. 7, John Adams referred to “a government of laws, and not of men.” Ever since, that lofty aspiration has served as the foundation of personal and professional conduct in the United States. And while domestic affairs may not always work out exactly the way we’d like them to, this guiding principle, as many scholars would tell you, has been at the very core of our historic success as a nation and as a society.
The embodiment of this tenet has always resided in our jurists, especially our lawyers — and when you run across a really good one, you have found something worth its weight in gold.
It is for this reason we have once again devoted a portion of our fall issue to celebrating the very best local exemplars of this venerable vocation, as determined by BL Rankings, LLC, publishers of The Best Lawyers in America©, the preeminent peer-reviewed referral guide to the legal profession in the United States. In 2020, no fewer than 90 Westchester-based attorneys made the grade, comprising 48 discrete areas of specialization. So, the next time you need an expert advocate on your side, this feature may just be your Get out of Jail Free card.
What do you think you might have been if not a lawyer?
Had I not become an attorney, I would probably have become a teacher. My father was a physicist who taught at the university level despite having a full career in government and business. His advice was to acquire a professional skill and then go to teaching when you have valuable experience from which to draw. I enjoy teaching but have yet to make that career choice.
—John L.A. Lyddane, Dorf & Nelson LLP
What would you like to see your legal colleagues doing more of than they’re doing now?
Pro bono work. It is sometimes said we have too many lawyers, but we really have too few. Many, perhaps most, people cannot afford the legal assistance they need. Even small and medium-sized businesses have difficulty paying market rates for lawyers. Since I started practicing law, billing rates for firms like mine have gone up 300% after adjusting for inflation. The result is that lawyers enjoy attractive compensation, but another result is that the price of justice is often higher than people can pay. The more profitable a lawyer’s practice is, the more the lawyer should give back to the community…by providing legal services on a pro bono or discounted basis to clients that could not otherwise afford to retain them.
—David Boies, Boies Schiller Flexner LLP
What is your most effective strategy for coping with the stress of your job?
First, be prepared; preparation always reduces stress. Second, represent clients who recognize your sincere desire to help them solve their issues, because appreciative clients will give you a sense of satisfaction. Third, join a firm with great attorneys and staff, because great coworkers become like family who help you succeed, celebrate good times, and support you when you are faced with life’s challenges.
—Joseph A. Saccomano Jr., Jackson Lewis P.C.
Do you anticipate a spate of lawsuits arising from COVID-19? If so, what kind?
Yes. There will be many disputes arising out of both who lost his/her job and who is brought back to work and who is requested to return to work but fears for their personal safety. There will also be many contractual disputes regarding raises and promotions that were lost or jobs that were terminated, leaving uncertainty, damages, and disrupted careers.
—Ruth D. Raisfeld, Ruth D. Raisfeld P.C.
What was your favorite case?
I represented a daughter who was concerned that her sister had taken financial advantage of her mother. Luckily, guardianship litigation was avoided, as the mother, the sister, and my client all retained counsel, and we negotiated a settlement that restored my client’s rightful share of the mother’s estate and implemented estate and Medicaid planning strategies that protected the mother’s assets from future long-term-care costs. I continued to provide legal assistance to my client as her mother’s condition deteriorated and after her death. The client and I remain in touch, and she retained me to do her own planning.I receive “I love my lawyer” messages from her every year.She is one of my favorite people, and I think the feeling is mutual.
—Frances Pantaleo, Bleakley Platt & Schmidt LLP
Do you anticipate a spate of lawsuits arising from COVID-19? If so, what kind?
Absolutely. We anticipate a wave of contract and commercial real estate litigation as businesses seek to get out of or enforce their obligations under agreements and leases. We also predict a slew of insurance coverage disputes as business owners attempt to get reimbursed under their business interruption policies. No one has ever interpreted how this coverage applies to a pandemic with a government-ordered shutdown, so both insurers and insureds will be looking for judicial guidance. Finally, the wave of bankruptcy filings, which have already begun, will continue and will keep bankruptcy and litigation attorneys busy for years to come.
—Russell Yankwitt, Yankwitt LLP
Methodology for Best Lawyers®
Methodology for Best Lawyers® This list is excerpted from the 2020 edition of The Best Lawyers in America©, the pre-eminent referral guide to the legal profession in the United States. Published since 1983, Best Lawyers lists attorneys in 146 specialties, representing all 50 states, who have been chosen through an exhaustive survey in which thousands of the nation’s top lawyers confidentially evaluate their professional peers. The 2020 edition of Best Lawyers is based on 8.3 million evaluations of lawyers by other lawyers.
The method used to compile Best Lawyers remains unchanged since the first edition was compiled almost 40 years ago. Lawyers are chosen for inclusion based solely on the vote of their peers. Listings cannot be bought, and no purchase is required to be included. In this regard, Best Lawyers remains the gold standard of reliability and integrity in lawyer ratings.
The nomination pool for the 2020 edition consisted of all lawyers whose names appeared in the previous edition of Best Lawyers, lawyers who were nominated since the previous survey, and new nominees solicited from listed attorneys. In general, lawyers were asked to vote only on nominees in their own specialty in their own jurisdiction. Lawyers in closely related specialties were asked to vote across specialties, as were lawyers in smaller jurisdictions. Where specialties are national or international in nature, lawyers were asked to vote nationally as well as locally. Voting lawyers were also given an opportunity to offer more detailed comments on nominees. Each year, half of the voting pool receives fax or email ballots; the other half is polled by phone.
Voting lawyers were provided this general guideline for determining if a nominee should be listed among “the best”: “If you had a close friend or relative who needed a real estate lawyer (for example), and you could not handle the case yourself, to whom would you refer them?” All votes and comments were solicited with a guarantee of confidentiality— a critical factor in the viability and validity of Best Lawyers’ surveys. To ensure the rigor of the selection process, lawyers were urged to use only their highest standards when voting, and to evaluate each nominee based only on his or her individual merits. The additional comments were used to make more accurate comparisons between voting patterns and weight votes accordingly. Best Lawyers uses various methodological tools to identify and correct for anomalies in both the nomination and voting process.
Ultimately, of course, a lawyer’s inclusion is based on the subjective judgments of his or her fellow attorneys. While it is true that the lists may at times disproportionately reward visibility or popularity, the breadth of the survey, the candor of the respondents, and the sophistication of the polling methodology largely correct for any biases. For all these reasons, Best Lawyers lists continue to represent the most reliable, accurate and useful guide to the best lawyers in the United States available anywhere.
Disclaimer and Copyright
Disclaimer and Copyright BL Rankings, LLC d/b/a Best Lawyers and Co., LLC has used its best efforts in assembling material for this list but does not warrant that the information contained herein is complete or accurate, and does not assume, and hereby disclaims, any liability to any person for any loss or damage caused by errors or omissions herein whether such errors or omissions result from negligence, accident, or any other cause. All listed attorneys have been verified as being members in good standing with their respective state bar associations as of July 1, 2019, where that information is publicly available. Consumers should contact their state bar association for verification and additional information prior to securing legal services of any attorney.
Copyright 2020 by BL Rankings, LLC d/b/a Best Lawyers and Co., LLC, Augusta, GA All rights reserved. This list, or parts thereof, must not be reproduced in any form without permission. No commercial use of this list may be made without permission of BL Rankings, LLC d/b/a Best Lawyers and Co., LLC No fees may be charged, directly or indirectly, for the use of this list without permission. “The Best Lawyers in America” and “Best Lawyers” are registered trademarks of BL Rankings, LLC d/b/a Best Lawyers and Co., LLC.