Brainstorming: pushing the boundaries of thought with no bad consequences. Psychodrama: practicing the client's story told in action. Ideas, introspection and dramatic roleplay can grow into something great to help a judge and jury understand a case. A focus group can be a test drive for theories and themes: The ones you thought were great but stink; the ones that are great that you hadn't thought of. The practice of law doesn't have to be dull for the attorney or client. As two historical giants said at different times, "Imagination is more important than knowledge," and "it is the spirit of the law that keeps justice alive."
Observations made by Albert Einstein and Earl Warren, respectively. Photo by Luigi Ciuffetelli.
"My View from the Third Rail"
THE PRACTICE OF LAW is persuasion guided by rules and creativity; humor is allowed. I designed this site mostly on my own. (Perhaps you can tell.) What you see is basically me. I offer a few bells and whistles, but mostly facts and opinions, with links to back me up.
JURY VERDICTS ARE GREAT. There is nothing better than having the conscience of the community validate your work. I’ve had some biggies, but they can be reduced on appeal, thrown out, and take years to complete. Sometimes it is better to compromise. On the other hand, I crave a trial. I graduated from The Trial Lawyer’s College in 2003, and am always learning how to improve my communication skills by attending and teaching at Lawyers' Continuing Legal Education Programs - more than required by the state. Mind you, if you want to test your case in court, it is a significant benefit to hiring a lawyer with multiple jury verdicts who also knows appellate rules and culture. Trial outcomes can be affected by those rules, and many trial lawyers don't know them so well. I consider myself a trial lawyer, but by sheer number, I have perfected more appeals than completed trials to verdict - though some appeals are small and the number is coming close to even. (Perhaps I'm an appellate lawyer in the guise of a trial lawyer, or vice versa.) But people don't want to or just can't pay for winning appeals and meanwhile, trials to verdict are rare, though they are a major reason I love what I do - the possibility that the conscience of the community will vindicate my client's position. You need a verdict and a lawyer to sustain the result on appeal. Or settle!
I PRACTICE IN NEW YORK, in federal and state court. I am also admitted to the U.S. District Courts in Chicago and Connecticut. I argued to New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, and all judges ruled in my client’s favor. I'm a member of the U.S. Supreme Court Bar, where I’ve been counsel on two petitions for writs of certiorari - requests to be heard on national issues of law. My requests were denied, along with some 95% of the others.
I FIGHT FOR employee rights - wage and discrimination claims – and victims of police misconduct. When it is certainly right to do, I represent people harmed by their former lawyers’ egregious mistakes. I cherish appeals and am experienced in both the New York criminal and civil sides of that practice. But, to be blunt, I won't take a case that another lawyer has lost unless there's a real issue and I am paid. Appeals are your last resort if your legal claim is so important that you want to take it as far as you can, and if you can afford it. Maybe, just maybe, yours is the case to change the law. I want that case, but I'll know I (might) have it only when I see it.
To avoid my clients' appeals - and indeed litigation altogether - in 2016, I attended the Harvard Law School Program on Mediation, and have started trying to bring parties together in mediating disputes by assisting them in resolving and compromising their differences. 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, and has in many of my cases, but is it the best? Rather than an intellectual debate with the parties, one side after the other, and struggling to get a settlement that, perhaps, no one is thrilled with, the Harvard method teaches that (except in a case where the parties fear physical injury) to keep parties at one table in the attempt to come up with a resolution that better satisfies everyone. Grievances are aired: It's an important catharsis for someone who wants to sue or is being sued. The parties know their case best; the parties, their guards let down, in confidence, and with the ear of a mediator they trust are in the best position to find a solution that works with the assistance of an experienced third party. This method takes longer; but it is cheaper, faster and more peaceful to accept a solution than to agree to one with strongly veiled suggestions that "this is your last chance to settle and one of you is going to die by the sword" at trial. While such threats might carry some truth, you, and not just the mediator, should be part of the solution.
I've been practicing since 1994, mostly in New York courts, federal and state, though I am admitted to federal courts in Chicago and Connecticut. I graduated in 1993 from NYU Law School, where I was a member of Law Review, selection to which was based on grades and writing ability. After graduating (then passing the bar), I worked at a large firm litigation department where I did significant 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, and turned to solving the problems of ordinary citizens. That’s when I began to discover that I love what I do. Eventually, I found I could enjoy life and simultaneously enjoy being a lawyer. If I hadn't gotten off the track laid down for me and done my own thing, I doubt I'd be practicing law today.
Honors, Awards, Speaking Engagements & Writings:
I've been elected to "SuperLawyers," "Best Lawyers in America" and was Peer Reviewed "AV Preeminent" by Martindale. 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.
*I am proud of this award and will keep it here. It's on my desk, which is in the picture above. I used to keep the name of the Law Firm here because of the award, with the pretext that I wanted to advertise the award, not the firm. That was a convenient partial-truth. I'm so removed from the firm in my mind and physical presence that I cannot name it anymore, but I try to hold on to what I learned from the cases that won me the award.
Copyright 2016 Gregory Antollino, Esq.. All rights reserved.