The Best Bar None
Meet the members of Westchester and Fairfield Counties' legal dream teams.
The area’s top lawyers in 21 legal specialties
Everybody loves to knock lawyers.
The gentlemen of the bar are the butts of countless jokes (“Why won’t sharks attack lawyers?” “Professional courtesy.”) Until, of course, you need to revise your will, set up a business partnership, establish a trust for the grandkids, buy your dream house, or contest a tax audit. Facing these important life events, finding a lawyer you can trust to successfully navigate the legal maze is no laughing matter, it’s an absolute necessity.
But where to look? In Westchester alone there are some 8,990 lawyers (with more than 5,000 additional in Fairfield), according to local bar associations and attorney registration offices. Fortunately, we had help evaluating local legal eagles from Woodward/White Inc., the publishers of The Best Lawyers in America 2005-2006. The Aiken, SC-based company annually surveys some 17,000 attorneys nationwide, asking them what other lawyers they would recommend to a close friend or relative who needed counsel in various legal categories, ranging from bankruptcy and business litigation to trusts and estates and worker’s compensation. Here are their top picks in 21 categories.
Now for some fine print. No listing of this sort is absolutely definitive, and there are many fine lawyers whose names do not appear (surveys of this sort tend to reward visibility or popularity over sheer legal ability). Our listing is meant as a place to start as the search for appropriate legal counsel. Of course, consumers should contact their state bar for verification and information prior to securing the legal services of any attorney.
Our Legal Eagles
Bankruptcy and Creditor-Debtor Rights Law
Lawrence R. Reich
Reich, Reich & Reich, P.C.
The Northcourt Building
175 Main St., Suite 300, White Plains
College Attended: Franklin & Marshall College, 1962
Law School: NYU, 1965
Years in Practice: 39
Q: Why did you choose this area of law?
A: “It’s what my father did; I joined his practice in 1980. It’s a third generation firm as my kids—a son and a daughter—have joined as well. I enjoy my field because being a bankruptcy lawyer helps people in dramatic ways. They come in depressed about the future, anxious, and having a difficult time functioning in their every day personal and business lives. The process helps relieve their concerns by making them feel better about themselves. A ‘fresh start’ is worth a great deal.”
Per Hour Billing: $325 (negotiated flat fees for many cases)
Boies, Schiller & Flexner
333 Main St., Armonk
College Attended: University of Redlands (did not graduate). “I went to law school without ever graduating from college. In those days you could do that.”
Law School: Yale Law School, 1966
Years in Practice: 38
Per Hour Billing: $750
(See accompanying feature.)
Henry G. Miller
Clark, Gagliardi & Miller
Inns of Court Building
99 Court St., White Plains
College Attended: St John’s College, 1952
Law School: St. John’s Law School, 1959
Years in Practice: 45
Q: Why did you choose to become a lawyer?
A:“I’ve always been comfortable talking in front of people.”
Per Hour Billing: $450 or $500 (a majority of cases are on contingency basis)
Thomas H. Welby
Welby, Brady & Greenblatt
Westchester Financial Center
11 Martine Ave.
(914) 428-2100; www.wbgllp.com
College Attended: Manhattan College, 1971
Law School: Pace Law, 1985
Years in Practice: 19
Q: What would be your advice for someone going into the law profession?
A:“A person should work for a couple of years between college and law school. They’ll reference that real-life work experience as a lawyer. I have three engineering degrees, plus a business administration degree. I was an engineer and contractor for 17 years before becoming a lawyer. That experience is invaluable. Now I represent those that design or build residential, commercial, institutional projects.”
Per Hour Billing: $275 to $350
Corporate, M&A, and Securities Law
Danziger & Markhoff
Centroplex, Suite 900
123 Main St., White Plains (914) 948-1556
College Attended: Columbia College, 1960
Law School: Columbia Law School, 1963
Years in Practice: 41
Q: What do you like best about being a lawyer?
A:“I enjoy working with people and solving their problems. I do estate planning in addition to corporate law, aiding dysfunctional families with wills and businesses when the owner dies and one child is in the business and the other is not. My firm does a lot of pension and profit-sharing plans and partnership agreements for doctors, dentists, and law and accounting firms.
“Believe it or not, business breakups are usually tougher breaks than family ones. Neither is fun of course.”
Per Hour Billing: $375 per hour
Luis Andrew Penichet
140 Grand St., Suite 401
College Attended: Fordham University, 1976
Law School: Fordham Law, 1979
Years in Practice: 26
Q: What would you say to someone critical of criminal defenders?
A:“My function is to safeguard that every defendant receives due process and all his rights in the process. The same people who say, ‘How can you defend criminals?’, may one day require a criminal defender’s services. In fact, I find many vocal critics have family members that require the services of a criminal defense attorney.” (Luis Penichet also practices family law.)
Per Hour Billing: $400
Andrew A. Rubin
Mancuso, Rubin & Fufidio
One North Broadway, Suite 1502
White Plains (914) 761-9200
College Attended: University of Massachusetts at Amherst, 1970
Law School: Fordham Law, 1973
Years in Practice: 31
Q: You’ve been on both sides of the criminal justice system (1973 to 1988 DA office of Westchester County under Carl Vergari). Which do you find more interesting?
A:“Regardless of which side you’re working for, the object is to achieve justice. You’re just approaching the same issue from a different angle. As a prosecutor, however, you’re working for governmental bodies rather than individuals, so it’s a bit impersonal.
“Not all people charged with crimes are evil. Like many things in life, it’s not black-and-white but shades of gray. Some defendants are innocent, some overcharged, others are kids having done something stupid, some have mental incapacities. Defense attorneys must look out for these people. The bill of rights was written to protect individuals from the government; a defense attorney intercedes between the government and the individual.
“People don’t appreciate those rights until they or someone close to them needs a defense attorney.”
Per Hour Billing: A flat rate depending upon individual facts and circumstances of case and complexity of charges.
Joel H. Sachs
Keane & Beane
445 Hamilton Ave.
College Attended: Cornell University, 1963
Law School: University of Pennsylvania, 1966; Master’s in Law, NYU Law, 1970
Years in Practice: 38
Q: What is significant about environmental law?
A:“Environmental law intersects with almost all facets of the law—there are numerous environmental regulations at every level that have to be complied to. In Westchester County, there are lots of organizations that express diligent interest regarding development and its impact on the environment—that keeps lawyers like me busy. We’ve been busy, in fact, since April 1, 1970, the first Earth Day, when public awareness of the environment really got underway.” (Joel Sachs is also an adjunct professor at Pace Law School, town attorney of Bedford, and special attorney of Sleepy Hollow.)
Per Hour Billing: $350 to $400
Family Law (a.k.a. Matrimonial Law)
Goldschmidt & Genovese, LLP
570 Taxter Rd. , Elmsford
College Attended: SUNY Buffalo, 1975
Law School: Brooklyn Law, 1981; LLM in Taxation, NYU Law, 1982
Years in Practice: 22
Q: What is one of your recent memorable cases?
A:“Of all the types of cases I handle, custody is most emotionally charged and therefore usually the most difficult. I had one custody case where I represented a parent who prevailed in a proceeding seeking full custody of his children. In the appellate process, the decision was affirmed. It was an emotionally charged trial that resulted in a transfer of custody in the children’s best interest. It was significant because the children’s emotional development and relationship with both parents would be better served with the change of custody. One benefit of practicing matrimonial law is the emotional reward of knowing one has affected children’s lives in a positive manner.”
Per Hour Billing: $350
Joel C. Bender
Bender, Jenson Brennan, & Silverstein
120 Bloomingdale Rd., Suite 104
College Attended: Cornell University, 1961
Law School: NYU Law, 1964
Years in Practice: 40
Q: Why did you choose family law?
A:“Originally I pursued a law degree to improve my chances in the business world, but I gave law a try and liked it. I first tried general law and sports law, but family law got me into the courtroom. There’s a certain energy and expertise required to handle it. I’ve run three marathons, but trying a case is more taxing than any of them.”
Per Hour Billing: $500
Henry S. Berman
Berman, Bavero, Frucco & Gouz
123 Main St., Suite 1700
College Attended: Queens College, 1964
Law School: St. John’s Law, 1967; Master’s in Law, NYU Law, 1968
Years in Practice: 37
Q: What’s the toughest aspect of family law?
A: “You’re dealing with economic issues within an overlay of emotion, fear, and uncertainty where both sides may not want the same thing, e.g., one wants divorce, the other doesn’t. Sometimes clients will do things that make them feel good but are not necessarily the right thing to do. A lawyer needs patience—we become mini psychiatrists.
“I deal with it by not taking my job home. I learned a long time ago my client’s problem is just that—it’s not mine. My wife is a partner, and in the car on the way home we may discuss cases, but, once we get home, we stop talking about our work.”
Per Hour Billing: $395
Peter O. Bodnar
Bodnar & Milone
140 Grand St. , White Plains (914) 997-2500
College Attended: NYU, 1966
Law School: Fordham Law, 1970
Years in Practice: 34 years
Q: What are the best and worst aspects of practicing family law?
A:“The best and worst things are related, if not one and the same. I sometimes have to deal with bitterly contested custody litigation where, in the heat of battle, people tend to forget that their children’s interests should be paramount. But the best thing is, in those negative conditions, a family lawyer has the opportunity to provide a meaningful level of assistance and make things better. It’s truly a challenging part of the job.”
Per Hour Billing: $425
Marino & Weiss PC
162 Grand St., White Plains
College Attended: Georgetown University, 1978
Law School: Georgetown Law, 1981
Years in Practice: 23 total; 15 family law
Q: What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
A: “There are three things actually. One: Once in a while, people reconcile, and it’s nice to see people work out their problems. I don’t get paid of course, but it’s still nice.
“Two: I like it when people are smart about the divorce proceedings and aren’t nasty, and they think ahead to college graduations, births of grandchildren and the like.
“Three: When children are in a dangerous situation and their health and safety are being compromised, it’s extremely gratifying to be able to accomplish the mission of putting them in a safe environment.”
Per Hour Billing: $400 to $425 (approximate)
James G. Eberz
Meiselman, Denlea, Packman, Carton & Eberz
1311 Mamaroneck Ave.
College Attended: Marquette University, 1965
Law School: Fordham Law School, 1968
Years in Practice: 36
Q: What would surprise people about healthcare law?
A: “Most people aren’t aware of and don’t appreciate the tremendous complexity of the current regulatory environment. Since the age of regulation began in the 1970s with the Federal Stark Law, the system of healthcare in this country has become quite complex and makes for a daunting task for lawyers like me. Yet I enjoy taking a complex plan and making it work for a client in a simple way.”
Per Hour Billing: $325 to $475 (unless on contingency basis)
Labor and Employment Law
Patrick L. Vaccaro
One North Bdwy., 15th Floor
Undergrad: NYU, 1961
Law School: NYU Law, 1964, Master’s in Labor Law (LLM), NYU, 1969
Years in Practice: 38
Q: What case are you most proud of?
A: “In the late 1960s and mid 1970s, I represented school districts throughout New York State and New Jersey, helping to develop contracts between the districts and their teachers and support staff. It was a pioneering time, as it was the first time municipalities had to deal with unionized employees. Negoti-ating first contracts is especially vital as it establishes a foundation for years to come. If you give away too much, it’s hard to fix.”
Per Hour Billing: $400
Legal Malpractice Law
David J. Meiselman
Meiselman, Denlea, Packman, Carton & Eberz
1311 Mamaroneck Ave.
College Attended: Brooklyn College, 1970
Law School: NYU Law,