Q&A Topic: Trial and Litigation
Russell M. Yankwitt, Partner
Q. What’s the advantage of using an experienced trial lawyer for a contract dispute or civil litigation?
A. Trial lawyers achieve better settlements. Our singular focus is always on obtaining the best outcome for our clients. Although approximately 98% of all cases filed in New York settle before trial—and thus very few attorneys have any actual trial experience — our lawyers try cases year after year. As experienced trial lawyers, we are uniquely positioned to identify the optimum point at which to resolve a matter and we tirelessly pursue the most favorable settlement possible. Our confidence also means that we are not afraid to ask for settlements if that best serves the client’s interests. When we settle a case, it is a win for our client. At the same time, because we are always trial-ready, we do not make empty threats and other attorneys know it: When we send a demand letter or file a complaint, everyone knows we are ready to fight for our clients through trial. Then, for the cases that do not settle, our phenomenal team is ready to fight aggressively at trial. We tried six cases in 2017, more than most firms try in a decade. Our reputation as successful, client-centered trial lawyers shows in our referral sources: 90% of our new clients are referrals from satisfied clients whose cases we have resolved either through trial or a successful settlement.
Q. Many people think the only thing lawyers care about is money and view lawyers as unethical. What’s your take on that?
A. If you win, we do cartwheels (and one of my attorneys literally did cartwheels in our office); if you lose, we cry. We make ourselves available to our clients 24/7 and that client-driven approach means we care deeply about our clients and achieving the best results for them. We also know that a law firm trades on its reputation. Unfortunately, there are a small number of attorneys out there who take a flexible approach to ethics and they paint the rest of us in a negative light. At Yankwitt LLP, we constantly emphasize to our attorneys and staff that there is a huge difference between aggressive and unethical. We are aggressive trial lawyers but we never cross the line to unethical. Staying on the “right” side of the line is non-negotiable.
Q. How do you charge for your services?
A. Yankwitt LLP offers New York City trained and seasoned litigators at Westchester prices. Our attorneys cut their teeth at elite, national firms, the United States Attorneys’ Offices in Manhattan, or both, but we charge a fraction of New York City legal rates. We are able to do this because we have a streamlined management structure, we staff our cases leanly and we work as efficiently as possible to achieve the best outcomes for our clients. Further, because we are in Westchester, our overhead is lower and we pass those savings along to our clients.
Because we are client-driven, we will also work with our clients to construct mutually agreeable fee arrangements whenever possible. So if a client has a certain budget, we can cap fees at a mutually agreed upon number. We can also explore contingency fees (we get paid if our client wins a case), blended fees (reduced fee and if our client wins, we get a kicker), consultation fees (if a case goes to litigation, a higher retainer is negotiated), and fixed fees. We charge as little as possible, and treat our clients like family. I give my clients the same advice that I would give my brother and just like I would answer the phone if he called me in the middle of the night, we are accessible to our clients 24/7.
Q. What advice do you give to all your clients?
Litigation is a marathon not a sprint. Before you file a complaint it is best to consult with a knowledgeable lawyer because once you do file, things can become very emotional. For example, we handle a lot of business divorce cases. Small businesses are often formed by friends or family, and then a dispute arises and the relationship is destroyed. To successfully navigate this, look for a lawyer who’s flexible and experienced. You need a lawyer who knows when to be a bulldog and when to be a psychologist. At Yankwitt LLP, we work tirelessly to achieve the best outcome for our clients, be it through settlement or through trial.
About Yankwitt LLP
Yankwitt LLP is an elite trial and litigation firm located in White Plains, New York. We handle a full range of commercial disputes, including contract disputes, shareholder disputes and business fraud, employment litigation, accounting malpractice and premises liability. We also have a robust government investigations practice, with a focus on health care fraud. We try cases in both federal and state courts, in arbitration and at mediation. We also serve as general counsel for several White Plains, New York City, and national businesses. Our lawyers are prominent members of the Westchester and New York City Bar Associations, who utilize their broad experience and expertise to produce exceptional outcomes for our clients. All of our senior New York lawyers are former federal law clerks or prosecutors, or both, two of the most competitive and prestigious jobs for young lawyers.
Russell Yankwitt has been recognized as a New York Metro Super Lawyer every year since 2011, and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from America’s Top 100 Attorneys. He graduated J.D. cum laude from Cornell Law School, was the founding member and first chairperson of the Federal Bar Council’s Westchester Committee, and remains active in leadership positions in the Federal Bar Council. He is admitted to the Bar in New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
All Yankwitt LLP partners were named to the 2016 Super Lawyers and to the Rising Stars Lists in the practice area of Business Litigation, for the fourth year in a row. Fewer than five percent of all lawyers in New York receive the Super Lawyers honor, which ranks outstanding lawyers who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The Lawyering and Parenting Committee of the Westchester Women's Bar Association (WWBA) selected Yankwitt LLP as the 2016 winner of the WWBA Family Friendly Employer Award in recognition of our strong commitment to balancing work and family: This commitment results in high employee morale and is demonstrated in our ability to attract and maintain high-quality lawyers and staff.
For a free consultation, call (914) 686-1500.
White Plains Office: 140 Grand Street, Suite 705, White Plains, NY 10601
Fax: (914) 801-5930