The 2019 Law Power 50 continued: 6-50

A close up of the statue of justice
Graphic illustration by Alex Law

The 2019 Law Power 50 continued: 6-50

The 50 most powerful people in New York politics working in law.
May 13, 2016
6. Edward Wallace
Co-chairman, New York City Office
Greenberg Traurig

One of the lobbyists hired to defend Amazon’s planned headquarters in Long Island City last year, the former New York City councilman is a New York staple. He began his career at The Legal Aid Society before serving as City Council member at large in Manhattan and as chief of staff to New York City Council President Carol Bellamy. Wallace has represented New York’s elite schools, including New York University, Fordham and his alma mater, Columbia.

7. Randy Mastro
Gibson Dunn

Remember the suspenders-sporting deputy mayor? For five years during the 1990s, Randy Mastro served as the voice of then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s administration, going to bat for the mayor over budget matters and calming the waters by talking with reporters. Tasked with combating organized crime in the city, Mastro at one point needed personal bodyguards for himself and his family. Now a partner at Gibson Dunn, he is considered one of the nation’s top litigators.

8. Vincent Pitta & Robert Bishop
Pitta Bishop

With Vincent Pitta in New York City and Robert Bishop in Albany, Pitta Bishop covers a wide range of labor, employment, legislative and government relations matters – including representing clients before New York City government and the state Legislature. The two attorneys, who have worked together for more than 30 years, started an affiliated consulting firm whose clients include the Vera Institute of Justice, the Transport Workers Union and the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association.

9. Mary Jo White
Debevoise & Plimpton

Mary Jo White made headlines for leading the investigation of then-CBS Chairman and CEO Les Moonves, who was accused of sexual harassment by six women. But White has long been a big name in the New York legal community, having previously served as chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. During her tenure at the SEC, the commission established measures that led to greater accountability.

10. Jeffrey Braun
Kramer Levin

We can thank Jeffrey Braun for helping create a new law on conceptual environmental reviews in New York’s highest court. As a litigator with Kramer Levin, he has successfully defended land use approvals for numerous New York institutions, including Columbia University, the Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art. 

11. Bart Schwartz
Guidepost Solutions

Bart Schwartz was recently selected by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson to oversee the long-troubled New York City Housing Authority. A go-to attorney often called upon to sort out “thorny situations,” according to The New York Times, Schwartz has his work cut out of him as he prepares to deal with potentially dangerous living conditions in the city’s public housing.

12. Elizabeth Holtzman
Co-chair, Government Relations Group
Herrick Feinstein

Elizabeth Holtzman is accustomed to shattering glass ceilings. She was the first woman elected district attorney in Brooklyn and the first and only woman elected comptroller of New York City. She joined Herrick Feinstein after 22 years in government, including four terms as a congresswoman representing New York’s 16th Congressional District. She played a significant role investigating the Watergate scandal as a member of the House Judiciary Committee.

13. Paul Shechtman

The veteran attorney recently made headlines for representing a real estate developer accused of bid-rigging economic development contracts in the Buffalo Billion case. Paul Shechtman has served as counsel to Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau and director of criminal justice for New York state under Gov. George Pataki, who later tapped him to overhaul the agencies that pursue Medicaid fraud. Shechtman also represented Pataki in a case that gave the governor broad budgetary powers.

14. David Oddo & Rebecca Wood
President; Legislative Director
New York State Trial Lawyers Association

As the president and legislative director, respectively, of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, David Oddo and Rebecca Wood are working to further the organization’s mission to “promote a safer and healthier society” and ensure “access to the civil justice system by those who are wrongfully injured.” When sworn in, Oddo promised the organization would continue to be a “strong voice for victims, patients and consumers who are too often exploited by powerful special interests.”

15. Roger Juan Maldonado
Smith, Gambrell & Russell

When Roger Juan Maldonado became the 68th president of the New York City Bar Association in 2018, he made it his top priority to continue protecting “the interests of the vulnerable and to preserve the basic rights of all.” Prior to becoming president, Maldonado chaired multiple task forces at the association and served as the vice president and member of its executive committee. He focused on copyright and contractual rights during his 35-year legal career.

16. Belinda Schwartz
Herrick Feinstein

Belinda Schwartz, chair of one of the largest commercial real estate law practices in New York City, believes that there is “never a dull moment in the real estate industry.” This is likely why she always finds more work to do, and why she is consistently ranked as one of the city’s leading real estate lawyers. She’s earned this title by advising on some of the city’s biggest development projects.

17. David Karnovsky
Fried Frank

The former general counsel to the New York City Department of City Planning, David Karnovsky is now a partner at Fried Frank and focuses on land use, zoning and real estate development. He has worked on a number of high-profile zoning and land use matters in the city, including the recent dispute surrounding the iconic sign atop the Jehovah’s Witnesses Watchtower building complex in Brooklyn Heights.

18. Lisa Marrello & Jonathan Bing
Office Managing Principal; Principal
Jackson Lewis

Talk about impressive resumes. The co-leaders of Jackson Lewis’ government relations practice group have plenty of experience to draw from as they advise clients on legislative policy and cutting through red tape. Lisa Marrello was assistant legislative representative for New York City under then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani, while former Assemblyman Jonathan Bing served at the request of Gov. Andrew Cuomo as the special deputy superintendent in charge of the New York Liquidation Bureau.

19. Paul DerOhannesian II
DerOhannesian & DerOhannesian

Before joining the Albany law practice founded by his father, Paul DerOhannesian II took a job with the Albany County district attorney’s office and spent the next 22 years heading the special assault unit. He has represented New York politicians, including former Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney during her tight 2018 race against Democrat Anthony Brindisi. DerOhannesian is currently representing Keith Raniere, the accused leader of the sex cult Nxivm, in Brooklyn federal court.

20. Frank Carone
Executive Partner
Abrams Fensterman

A friend of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and counsel to the Brooklyn Democratic Party for nearly 10 years, Frank Carone has donated money to de Blasio’s political action committee. Appointed to New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg and reappointed by de Blasio, Carone helped create a commission focusing on ride-hailing services and driverless vehicles. He recently came under scrutiny for reportedly orchestrating a controversial land deal involving the city. He is also president-elect of the Brooklyn Bar Association.

21. Mylan Denerstein
Gibson Dunn

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s chief counsel and principal legal adviser, and one of his longest-serving aides, Mylan Denerstein was known not only for her loyalty to the governor but also for her ability to challenge him. She is credited with crafting the language in the 2011 same-sex marriage legislation that allowed it to survive legal challenges, and she helped with many gender equity issues. She now handles a broad range of litigation at Gibson Dunn.

22. Jim Walden
Walden Macht & Haran

“If there is magic in the law, Jim Walden has found it,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio once said of Jim Walden. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, too, offered praise. Yet Walden – considered a thought leader in the legal world – has sued both elected officials on separate occasions. He began his career at the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of New York, where he broke up a human trafficking ring and helped dismantle the infamous Five Families.

23. Janet Sabel
Attorney-in-Chief and CEO
The Legal Aid Society

For 25 years, Janet Sabel worked her way through a number of top positions and high-profile cases at The Legal Aid Society and the state attorney general's office – including a significant antitrust case involving the sale of drugs for Alzheimer’s disease. In 2011, she joined the state attorney general’s office, serving as executive deputy attorney general for social justice and as chief deputy. She is now back at The Legal Aid Society as attorney-in-chief and CEO.

24. Paul Salvatore
Proskauer Rose

An expert on labor and employment law, Paul Salvatore handles collective bargaining agreements for New York’s multiemployer organizations and contractors. Several years ago, he negotiated a labor agreement for Hudson Yards – the largest private real estate development in U.S. history. In 2010, National Law Review selected Salvatore as one of “The Decade’s Most Influential Lawyers.” He served on Proskauer Rose’s executive committee and is a legal columnist for Human Resource Executive Magazine.

25. Terrence Connors

Frequently ranked as the top lawyer in upstate New York, Terrence Connors likely earns this distinction due to his involvement in the most significant legal battles in Western New York. His work in both civil litigation and as a criminal defense lawyer sets him apart from other lawyers in Buffalo. Fun fact: While attending high school in Queens, he played basketball against Lew Alcindor, who would go on to become an NBA legend.

26. Alan Klinger & Jeffrey Keitelman
Co-managing partners
Stroock & Stroock & Lavan

This powerhouse duo has civil litigation and real estate transactions covered. Alan Klinger has forged a reputation as a successful litigator representing public sector unions and employee benefit funds, and Jeffrey Keitelman is the top lawyer on projects like the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s redevelopment of the World Trade Center site. No doubt the two nationally ranked attorneys helped Stroock land on U.S. News and World Report’s list of leading law firms.

27. Gerald Lefcourt
Criminal defense lawyer
Gerald B. Lefcourt P.C.

Gerald Lefcourt once described himself as “always an activist.” From the beginning of his career, he earned a reputation for being a justice-driven champion of anti-establishment clients, which included Abbie Hoffman, a member of the anti-war activist group known as the Chicago Eight, and members of the Black Panthers. He has also been a member of numerous governmental committees and currently serves on the Magistrate Selection Committee of the Southern District of New York.

28. Peter Zimroth
Director, Center on Civil Justice
NYU School of Law

The veteran trial lawyer and litigator was appointed as an independent monitor overseeing the NYPD’s efforts to reform its use of stop and frisk after courts ruled the practice was unconstitutional. Before joining the NYU School of Law as a professor, Peter Zimroth was corporation counsel to New York City, where he headed a department of more than 500 lawyers, providing counsel on all things New York – including employment issues, health care, law enforcement, transportation and education.

29. Bettina Plevan
Proskauer Rose

Growing up on Long Island, Bettina Plevan worked in her family’s department store. The job taught her how to deal with people effectively, and Plevan discovered that skill translated well to attorney-client relationships. Since joining Proskauer Rose more than four decades ago, she has come to be known for her expertise on sexual harassment and civil rights issues. Plevan previously served as president of the New York City Bar Association.

30. Victor Kovner
Davis Wright Tremaine

A longtime Democratic donor, Victor Kovner has contributed to the campaigns of Vincent Gentile, Charles Schumer and Jerrold Nadler as well as to the New York State Democratic Committee. Kovner is a recognized expert on First Amendment law – representing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Times Square Alliance, among other clients – and a go-to adviser to media outlets seeking prepublication review. Earlier in his career he served as lawyer and adviser to then-Mayor David Dinkins.

31. Susan Necheles
Hafetz & Necheles

Recently hired by Seagram’s heiress Clare Bronfman – who has pleaded guilty in the Nxvim sex cult case – Susan Necheles (reportedly no longer on the case) is a seasoned trial lawyer specializing in white collar crime, health care fraud, securities fraud, perjury and charges of sexual misconduct. She previously served as assistant district attorney in Brooklyn and was recognized as an outstanding criminal practitioner by the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

32. Richard Briffault
Columbia Law School

An expert on corruption and conflict of interest, Richard Briffault recently weighed in on possible charter amendments before the 2019 Charter Revision Commission. He was a member of New York state’s Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption and currently chairs the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board. As a consultant to the city’s Charter Commission in the 1980s, he played a role in establishing new agencies that aim to ensure an ethical government.

33. Carrie Cohen
Morrison & Foerster

Carrie Cohen has been hired to lead the New York City Council’s prosecution of Barry Grodenchik, a Queens councilman accused of sexual harassment. The former federal state prosecutor, who has a background investigating corruption and fraud with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, also prosecuted the corruption case against former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. She co-authored the landmark report, “If Not Now, When?: Achieving Equality for Women Attorneys in the Courtroom and in ADR.”

34. Michael Cardozo
Proskauer Rose

As New York City’s longest-tenured chief lawyer, serving under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Michael Cardozo oversaw the administration’s 700 lawyers and handled significant litigation on city regulations, real estate and personal injury lawsuits. In 2014, Cardozo returned to Proskauer Rose, where he had worked earlier in his career litigating on behalf of the NBA, the NHL and other sports leagues. He is a former president of the New York City Bar Association.

35. Deirdre von Dornum
Federal Defenders for the Eastern District of New York

Deirdre von Dornum recently called out prison officials for the lack of electricity and adequate heat at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. “Psychologically, the lack of lighting just felt devastating,” she told The Wall Street Journal. She previously criticized the federal prison’s living conditions for pregnant inmates. A former clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, von Dornum has served as a pro bono litigator with the Capital Defenders of New York.

36. Tim Wu
Columbia Law School

Ever used the term “net neutrality”? You’re honoring the work of Tim Wu, a prolific Columbia University professor who coined the term in a 2003 paper titled “Network Neutrality, Broadband Discrimination” – which led to the passage of a federal net neutrality measure. In 2015, he joined state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office as senior enforcement counsel and special advisor handling technology, internet policy and legal issues. He is a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times.

37. Nicole Bellina
Stoll, Glickman & Bellina

Known as a skilled negotiator dedicated to representing victims of police brutality, prison inmates and others accused of crimes, civil rights defense attorney Nicole Bellina has earned a reputation for success in cases considered impossible to win. She began her career with the Prisoner’s Rights Project and worked at The Legal Aid Society before landing at Stoll, Glickman and Bellina.

38. Davida Perry
Schwartz Perry & Heller

New Yorkers who have been victims of workplace discrimination can turn to Davida Perry, who has spent more than 30 years fighting for the rights of employees. Perry and her firm have had a large impact on the shaping of employment and discrimination law in New York. She helped create New York City’s Human Rights Law, which protects individuals from discrimination at work as well as in public places, housing and other areas.

39. Michael Zetlin
Senior Partner
Zetlin & De Chiara

Zetlin & De Chiara was founded on the belief that the legal industry needed a law firm that understood the design and construction process. Since 1992, Michael Zetlin has been helping clients (including developers, corporations and large institutional owners) make their construction dreams reality. He also serves as general counsel to the New York Building Congress and the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and is an adjunct professor at Columbia University.

40. Harlan Levy
Boies Schiller Flexner

As top deputy to then-state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Harlan Levy played a key role in several significant investigations. Schneiderman praised him as one of the “best legal minds” in the state. In 2015, he rejoined Boies Schiller Flexner, where he specializes in government and business litigation and white collar criminal defense. His 1996 book, “And the Blood Cried Out,” draws on his time as a homicide prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

41. Joe Canovas
Special Counsel
New York State AFL-CIO

Joe Canovas works to advance social and economic justice at the New York State AFL-CIO, which represents 3,000 public sector, private sector and building trades unions statewide and is the largest state federation in the country. The AFL-CIO’s legislative priorities for 2019 include improving public transportation, amending the property tax cap, properly funding public schools, protecting access to health care and enacting the state DREAM Act.

42. Jonathan Abady
Founding Partner
Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady

Keep your eye on Jonathan Abady. The top-rated civil rights attorney represented Rikers Island inmates in brutality cases against correction officers, and – in a separate case involving Rikers – secured a $5.75 million settlement in a lawsuit stemming from the death of a mentally ill inmate. But he doesn’t stop at civil rights: Abady also has experience litigating commercial and corporate disputes, and has represented clients including Penguin Putnam and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.

43. Karl Sleight
Harris Beach

Driving around Saratoga County, you can recognize Karl Sleight thanks to his “SP” license plate, a type of license plate given by the Saratoga County clerk to a select group of government employees and elected officials. While serving as executive director of the New York State Ethics Commission, Sleight investigated high-ranking officials and private sector establishments that worked with the government. He also served as counsel during both of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Moreland Commission investigations.

44. Ed Zimmerman
Lowenstein Sandler

Though being named one of the nation’s top 22 lawyers in startups and emerging companies by legal research firm Chambers USA is significant in and of itself, the bigger honor may be that Ed Zimmerman was the only New York lawyer to make the list. The co-founder of Lowenstein Sandler’s tech group – who is also an expert on wine – Zimmerman has been called “one of the best venture capital lawyers in the country.”

45. Henry “Hank” Gutman
Retired Partner
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett

A former campaign treasurer to Mayor Bill de Blasio, Henry “Hank” Gutman has been recognized for his efforts to revitalize Brooklyn. Now retired and serving as chairman of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Gutman has been involved in ongoing efforts to build and improve Brooklyn Bridge Park. Fun fact: Gutman and his wife lived in Truman Capote’s old house in Brooklyn Heights for 26 years before putting it on the market in 2017.

46. Terri Adler
Managing Partner
Duval & Stachenfeld

As chair of her firm’s real estate department, Terri Adler oversees one of New York City’s largest practice groups dedicated to the industry, and she has earned a reputation as an expert in national and international real estate. Adler developed Duval & Stachenfeld’s women’s initiative and mentors and assists young female attorneys within the firm and outside of it. She speaks frequently about gender equality in both the legal and real estate communities.

47. Erica Buckley
Nixon Peabody

Have questions about the Martin Act, New York’s blue sky law that governs securities fraud? Ask Erica Buckley. She is the former chief of the real estate finance bureau in the state attorney general’s office, where she oversaw staff charged with the review of securities filings. Now at Nixon Peabody leading the firm’s practice advising cooperative and condominium boards, Buckley helps clients navigate a range of issues related to government regulation, investments and real estate securities.

48. Stuart Lichten
Founding Partner
Lichten & Bright

Since 1990, labor and employment attorney Stuart Lichten has successfully represented unions and many employees mistreated on the job. He often represents union members facing criminal charges arising from a situation at work. In addition to practicing labor law, Lichten advises and represents political candidates in election law and has litigated election law disputes before the state Board of Elections. Earlier in his career, he worked at The Legal Aid Society.

49. John Cordo
Cordo & Co.

If you enjoy Resorts World Casino New York City at Aqueduct Racetrack, you can thank John Cordo, the influential Albany lawyer who played a key role in bringing the project to fruition. The founder of Cordo & Co. also helped secure a living wage for home health care workers in New York City. Earlier in his career, he served as special counsel to the Republican state Senate majority, where he helped implement and develop labor and pension policy.

50. Sanford Rubenstein
Senior Partner
Rubenstein & Rynecki

For the past 40 years, Sanford Rubenstein has made a name for himself as much for his handling of high-profile cases as for his collection of double-breasted suits. Often featured on the cover of tabloids, Rubenstein represented plaintiffs in some of New York City’s biggest police brutality cases – including Sean Bell, who was fatally shot by police, and Abner Louima, who was tortured with a broken broomstick while in police custody.

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