Your Civil Rights Are Precious and if Someone Violates Them
usually, the scales of justice won’t correct themselves on their own.
You need a lawyer who gives a damn, who chooses cases that can go all the way.
Gregory Antollino, Esq.
Tilting the scales of justice back towards citizens since 1993. Call 212-334-7397
I’M A REBEL AND NOT A SLAVE
I got off the track that lawyers often derail into: Working for a BigLaw firm. I didn’t fit in. I didn’t know how to play the game. I hated office politics, of which I wondered myself a victim. So, early in my career, I decided wanted to represent ordinary citizens with extraordinary claims. I realized that most important thing that I needed to do is to understand my client, and bring that understanding into action. There’s something I learned at Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyer’s College called Psychodrama: Practicing the client’s story told in action. One acts what happened, a epiphany occurs; roleplay helps the attorney and client as she or he stood there, when the underlying act occurs. That helps me, the client, judge and jury understand a case all the better.
The practice of law doesn’t have to be drab for the attorney, client, judge, or jury. Two historical giants said at different times, “Imagination is more important than knowledge,” and “the spirit of the law…keeps justice alive.”
Observations made by Albert Einstein and Earl Warren. Photo by Luigi Ciuffetelli.
I want to win now, but maybe I’ll get here someday.
The Law is about persuasion, and persuasion is an art. Those scales up there? They are a little tacky, hardly artistic. But studies show people are engaged by moving images and slower to move away from them. So that’s why they are there. The art of persuasion takes many forms. Now that I have your attention, please read:
You can see my results on my “victories” page. Once, a lawyer asked me how I got all these great cases. I told him that I just took cases that I cared about and worked them to the end. I love the law, but I admit I don’t think I was born a lawyer: I loved argument but people interest me and a psychologist is what I wanted to be, or an artist: an actor, writer. I also loved photography. Now, almost most of my life I have been a lawyer, but all of these other things are part of me help me in what I do. Psychology is reading people. My love of the arts gives me a sense of how to set a scene; writing and a complete lack of stage fright are why I win most trials. Jury verdicts are great and there is nothing better than having the conscience of the community validate you and my work and feel justice. I’ve had some big verdicts, and that’s great, but they take forever. They can be reduced, and I had a big one thrown out. So sometimes I prefer to compromise if the client is willing.
What motivates me is justice. I need to earn a living, but procuring justice allowed is what keeps me trudging along. Just to be clear: there are many wrongs that have no legal remedy. In other words, not all injustice can be corrected. I can’t take every case. It depends on your situation, the law, which changes all the time. Also, different judges disagree; sometimes one must pave the path. On September 26 I had the honor of arguing an appeal about an interpretation of federal discrimination law before 13 judges. You can read about in the New York Times. My name is at the very, very end, but this case is alive because I kept on fighting. The result is pending.
As I mentioned, I’m a graduate of The Trial Lawyer’s College in DuBois, Wyoming in 2003, founded by the greatest living trial lawyer, Gerry Spence. I learned from him that I have to be myself to win in the courtroom, and I found that pretty easy. But I am always learning how to improve my communication skills, and I also have taught several Continuing Legal Education sessions to lawyers and law students. Additionally, if you want to test your case in court, it is beneficial to you to hire not just the lawyer your buddy knows, but one who keeps up with the practice who has multiple jury verdicts and who also knows appellate rules and culture and has some experience in that realm.
Trials bring out my inner thesbian. Many lawyers won’t even say “thesbian,” let alone admit to being one. I’m talking about acting, and a trial is always a drama; in my last, I had to run three blocks to the Kinkos to get color copies as the jury was deliberating because of a minor error. In the end, we won. The police we were suing, and their lawyers, were pissed, but the jury made a careful decision because my client and I spoke to them honestly.
The final scene of a trial takes place on appeal. Many trial lawyers don’t know appellate review. People usually can’t afford appeals, so I limit my walks upstairs to appeal only when I am convinced I am right. Also, trials to verdict are rare – though they are a major reason I love what I do: the possibility the community will vindicate my client’s fight. You need a verdict, but you also need to sustain the result on appeal. Sometimes it’s best to settle!
I FIGHT FOR employee rights – wage and discrimination claims – and victims of police misconduct. I am experienced in New York criminal law as well, but I don’t compete with the many who are out there. I know federal civil procedure and especially federal civil rights law. To be blunt, I don’t take most cases that come to me. Instead, I’m casting a net for a really big fish. Just call me, tell me the facts, and I’ll know in a few minutes if there’s been an injustice. Or I might invite you in for a chat, which is almost always also free.
I rarely take cases that another lawyer has lost unless there’s a real issue that, if reversed on appeal, could change the result. Appeals are your last resort if your legal claim is so important that you want to take it as far as you can. Maybe, just maybe, yours is the case to change the law. I want that case, but I’ll know it when I see it.
To avoid appeals – and reduce the unpredictability of trial practice altogether – in 2016, I attended the Harvard Law School Program on Mediation, and offer to bring parties together in mediating disputes. I had previously represented many clients who successfully resolved disputes through mediation and I find it an effective method.
The techniques taught at Harvard, from which I received a certificate, were different than the common “shuttle diplomacy” techniques employed by many mediators, whereby the neutral moves in confidence from one side to the other arguing the other’s case to the opposing side. This method can work; it does work, but is it the best? I’m not sure. I welcome clients who want to settle disputes amicably for a reasonable fee. Disputes don’t have to be expensive or endless, and if I can assist two people to create an agreement with which they are both satisfied, then I’m happy. My fees are reasonable, but the process takes at least a half of a day. There are lots of mediators out there, alas, so this is but a small aspect of what I do.
Some Credentials and Accolades
I’ve been practicing since 1994, mostly in New York courts, federal and state. I graduated in 1993 from the extraordinary NYU School of Law, where I was a member of Law Review, selection to which was based on writing ability. After graduating NYU, I worked at a large law firm litigation department where I did meaningful pro bono work, including civil rights for artists, death-penalty defense and working for people with HIV. I think am the first civil-rights lawyer to have been born of that firm. The day I feel I became a lawyer was the day I walked away from “BigLaw,” as it is known. I turned to assisting the problems of ordinary citizens. Eventually, I found I could enjoy life and enjoy life in the law. Not all lawyers, can say that, especially the ones who commit….well I won’t go there. But it can be an intense, hellish job.
Honors, Awards, Speaking Engagements & Writings:
- Pro Bono Award, Large Law Firm, 1994, awarded to associates “billing” most hours for indigent clients;
- Award for Litigating for People with HIV, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, 1997;
- Panelist, “EEOC Amicus Litigation in the Courts of Appeals,”Lawline.com, Winter 2017;
- Letter, “Environment Has Turned Against Legal Malpractice Plaintiffs,”New York Law Journal, April 13, 2015;
- Panelist, “Opening Statements,” National Employment Lawyer’s Association, Fall 2014 Conference;
- Panelist, “Strategies in Obtaining Punitive Damages,” National Employment Lawyer’s Association, Winter 2015;
- Panelist, “Less Boring Direct,” National Employment Lawyer’s Association, Evening CLE, Spring 2015;
- Panelist, LGTBQ Rights Practice, Cardozo Law School, Spring 2014;
- Lecturer, Lawline.com “The Constitution: What’s Ethics Got to Do with It?”, Lawline.com, June 2015;
- Guest Commentator, CUNY Law School, Direct Examination, Winter 2017;
- Panelist, “Sexual Orientation Discrimination, NELA/NY Spring Conference 2017
- Panelist on Zarda v. Altitude Express argument, September 2017
I have been elected to “SuperLawyers,” multiple times, “Best Lawyers in America” and was Peer Reviewed “AV Preeminent” by Martindale-Hubbell. I speak about the meaning, or limits to the meaning, of these monikers, on my page “About Me”. My biggest public victories and some big cases where I won some battles but lost the wars are here.
Pepe, helping me through the day, 2012