The 2021 Law Power 100

The leading legal professionals in New York politics and government.

Letitia James

Letitia James Emil Cohen/New York City Council Office

In the legal profession, being evaluated is a fundamental part of the job. To enter the field, aspiring attorneys must take the LSAT to get into law school, pass their classes and stand for the bar exam. Once they land a job, their professional success is easy enough to measure: How many cases do they win? How often are their clients acquitted? How many hours are they billing? If that’s not enough, countless lists identify the best attorneys and the biggest or most prestigious law firms. 

City & State’s Law Power 100 is a little different. While it includes a number of award-winning litigators and partners at top white-collar firms, it’s based on who’s having an impact in New York’s political and government spheres. The list features prominent public officials, top legal advisers and powerful prosecutors at the local, state and federal level. It highlights trailblazing civil rights attorneys, public interest lawyers, advocates for poor and homeless people, and leaders of the #MeToo movement. It includes law school deans, bar association presidents, public defenders, and legally trained advocates and experts shaping key policies in New York. And it puts a spotlight on a few former (and future?) elected officials in the legal field – as well as the individuals who could take down the governor and a certain ex-president.

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1. Letitia James

State Attorney General

Letitia James
Letitia James ( Celeste Sloman )

Attorney General Letitia James is no stranger to a fight. After waging battles with the Trump administration, New York’s top legal officer – and the first woman of color to hold statewide office – is keeping her attention trained on the former president’s questionable real estate ventures, while also taking on Facebook, Google, the New York City Police Department and the National Rifle Association. This year, her office issued a damning report on New York’s undercount of nursing home deaths due to COVID-19, and she appointed two independent attorneys to investigate allegations of sexual harassment against Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a former ally who she might be well positioned to replace at some point in the future.

2. Janet DiFiore

Chief Judge, New York State Court of Appeals

Janet DiFiore
NY Court of Appeals

Following a decadeslong tenure in the Westchester Court system as a judge, justice and district attorney, Janet DiFiore was nominated as chief judge of the state Court of Appeals and the State of New York in 2015. This year, DiFiore navigated the state’s court system through the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, which halted or delayed many cases while some proceedings went forward online. She also commissioned a report documenting institutional racism in the judiciary. 

3. Darcel Clark, Eric Gonzalez, Melinda Katz, Michael McMahon & Cy Vance

District Attorneys, Bronx; Brooklyn; Queens; Staten Island; Manhattan 

Bronx DA Darcel Clark
lev radin/Shutterstock
Eric Gonzalez
Brooklyn District Attorney's Office
Melinda Katz
Lynn Savarese
Michael McMahon
Richmond County District Attorney's Office
Cy Vance
Manhattan D.A.'s Office

New York City’s district attorneys are among the most powerful elected officials in the five boroughs, with wide latitude to decide which types of crimes to pursue – and which to avoid. 

In the Bronx, the establishment-backed prosecutor Darcel Clark is currently serving a second term after running unopposed in 2019. She dismissed hundreds of curfew summonses from a night of protesting the police killing of George Floyd, but more than 50 prosecutors in her office responded with a call for her to do more to combat police violence. She has also taken recent steps to diversify her staff. 

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, who is now running unopposed for a second four-year term, has a reputation as a reformer. After adjusting his office to the pandemic last year, in the first month of 2021 he released his plan to vacate over 200 warrants related to prostitution and co-hosted a gun buyback event that got 48 firearms off the street. In the summer of last year, he published a report on wrongful convictions in Brooklyn. 

In Queens, Melinda Katz is the first new district attorney in nearly 30 years. She took office last year after a hard-fought primary battle with newcomer Tiffany Cabán, stepping into a role that has a history of overlooked and covered-up misconduct. While making adjustments due to the pandemic, Katz focused on investigating potential wrongful convictions and reducing prosecution of low-level, nonviolent offenses.

On Staten Island, the former New York City council member and U.S. representative Michael McMahon has served as district attorney since his election in 2016. Recognizing that Staten Island is the epicenter of the heroin and prescription drug crisis, he made the crisis a central focus for his administration. In 2019, he expanded his HOPE program, which focuses on getting low-level drug offenders into treatment instead of jail. 

In Manhattan, the home of what is traditionally the most high-profile prosecutor’s office, Cy Vance is in a unique position. He is not running for reelection this year, but his investigation of former President Donald Trump’s business dealings is moving along. Last year, Vance won a landmark ruling affirming that presidents are not immune from the criminal process. Vance issued subpoenas and questioned witnesses in regards to Trump’s business dealings and The Trump Organization, and in February the U.S. Supreme Court sided with Vance: The tax returns and other documents he sought were finally turned over. 

4. James Johnson

Corporation Counsel of New York City

In just 16 months on the job as New York City’s corporation counsel, James Johnson is already making waves, most recently for cutting ties between New York City and The Trump Organization and criticizing the NYPD for its handling of Black Lives Matter protesters this summer. Johnson, a former assistant U.S. attorney, Brennan Center for Justice board chair and candidate for governor of New Jersey, now oversees a staff of nearly 1,000 lawyers and around 900 support professionals.

5. Jerry Nadler

Chair, House Judiciary Committee

Jerrold Nadler
U.S. House of Representatives Photography

Rep. Jerry Nadler played a crucial role in both of former President Donald Trump’s impeachments – in a more high-profile capacity the first time around, when he was an impeachment manager, but also the second time in his capacity as chair of the House Judiciary Committee. While Trump was acquitted both times, the veteran Manhattan Congress member did go viral for bringing a Zabar’s bag into the second impeachment hearing with a babka and a copy of the U.S. Constitution.

6. Audrey Strauss & Seth DuCharme

U.S. Attorney; Acting U.S. Attorney, Southern District of New York; Eastern District of New York

These top federal prosecutors in New York may be on borrowed time, but they’re continuing to pursue politically explosive cases. Audrey Strauss became U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York only after Donald Trump tried to oust her boss, then instead fired him – and she dropped the “acting” designation thanks to a rare appointment by federal judges in her jurisdiction. Through it all, Strauss has continued pursuing high-level investigations into Trump allies. In the neighboring Eastern District, acting U.S. Attorney Seth DuCharme is in the early stages of an investigation into the Cuomo administration’s questionable handling of nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic. 

7. Elizabeth Garvey

Acting Counsel to Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Over the past year, many New Yorkers – and other observers across the country – have gotten used to seeing Elizabeth Garvey at Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s daily COVID-19 briefings. A former state Senate Republican staffer, Garvey has acted as a frequent stand-in for Cuomo answering pandemic-related questions, including about polling sites in red zones and the logistics of reopening schools. Garvey, who also handles critical budget and policy issues, has been a key adviser to the governor in recent weeks as he grapples with a growing number of sexual harassment claims against him. 

8. Joon Kim & Anne Clark

Lead Attorneys, Attorney General's Investigation into Gov. Andrew Cuomo

As a growing number of women accuse Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment, the governor insists he won’t resign – but depending on what Joon Kim and Anne Clark turn up, he may find that he has no other choice. This month, state Attorney General Letitia James appointed the two attorneys to lead an independent investigation into the allegations against Cuomo. Kim, a partner at Cleary Gottlieb, is familiar with the governor from his time as a former federal prosecutor, having been directly involved in investigations into Cuomo’s Moreland Commission and Cuomo’s confidant Joe Percoco. Clark, an employment law attorney and partner at Vladeck, Raskin & Clark, specializes in representing employees in sexual harassment and discrimination cases – which is relevant given that most of the allegations against Cuomo have been lodged by former staffers.

9. Jonathan Lippman

Of Counsel, Latham & Watkins

Jonathan Lippman
Latham & Watkins LLP

Former state Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, who presided over New York’s highest court and oversaw the state’s vast court system for nearly seven years, has since emerged as a leading proponent for closing the Rikers Island jail complex. As the head of the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, he has called on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to continue the reduction of the use of jail by instead “bolstering programs that provide supportive and transitional housing.” 

10. Jerry Goldfeder, Alan Klinger & Dina Kolker

Special Counsel; Co-Managing Partner; Partner, Stroock & Stroock & Lavan

Jerry Goldfeder
Alan Klinger
Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP
Dina Kolker
Gittings Legal

Jerry Goldfeder is one of the most prominent attorneys in New York’s political sphere, as a leading election lawyer, frequent commentator, educator and author of “Goldfeder’s Modern Election Law.” Goldfeder chaired the New York State Bar Association’s task force that advised attorneys and journalists on the 2020 presidential election. Alan Klinger is the co-managing partner of the firm and also chairs its government affairs and regulatory practice. Along with Dina Kolker, Klinger also represents powerful public sector unions, such as the United Federation of Teachers and the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association. 

11. Janet Sabel

Attorney-in-Chief and CEO, The Legal Aid Society

Janet Sabel
Spencer Lee Gallop

Janet Sabel and The Legal Aid Society spent the past year fighting for the rights of New Yorkers as the coronavirus pandemic raged on. The social justice legal organization filed a lawsuit against the state on behalf of low-income families facing eviction, tried to force New York City to provide separate hotel rooms to homeless New Yorkers during the pandemic, and won a policy victory with the passage of state legislation ending the “walking while trans” ban.

12. Roberta Kaplan

Partner, Kaplan Hecker & Fink

Sylvie Rosokoff

Roberta Kaplan has taken on a new title this year as the self-described “go-to person to sue” former President Donald Trump, representing both E. Jean Carroll and Mary Trump in their legal battles against the former president. While running her own firm, she’s also found time to take on white supremacy and sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. No stranger to the courtroom, Kaplan’s innovative legal strategy is one for the history books.

13. Donna Lieberman

Executive Director, New York Civil Liberties Union

Donna Lieberman
Jena Cumbo

As the coronavirus pandemic worsened, Donna Lieberman and the New York Civil Liberties Union called on officials to release prisoners to stem the spread of the virus and take steps to protect front-line workers. The NYCLU, which has more than 185,000 members and eight offices around the state, also filed a lawsuit against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s vaccination plan for omitting prisoners and sued the Rochester Police Department for withholding police misconduct records.

14. Mylan Denerstein & Randy Mastro

Partners, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher

Mylan Denerstein
Gibson Dunn
Randy Mastro
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP

These two attorneys are at the same firm, but one’s an ally of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the other’s an adversary. Mylan Denerstein, who was named one of New York City Bar’s three 2020 diversity and inclusion champions, served as counsel to the governor and was also a key staffer when Cuomo was state attorney general. At Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, she co-chairs the Public Policy Practice Group. Randy Mastro, a distinguished litigator who was deputy mayor for operations under Rudy Giuliani, co-chairs the firm’s Litigation Practice Group. Last year, Mastro won a U.S. Supreme Court ruling preventing Cuomo from enforcing fixed-capacity restrictions at houses of worship in pandemic hot zones. 

15. Sandra Doorley

President, District Attorneys Association of the State of New York

Sandra Dooley
Faye Vitagliano

Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley last summer took the reins at the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York, an association that has defended stricter measures in the debate over criminal justice reform in recent years. Doorley vowed to create a workgroup on racial inequities and implicit bias. As district attorney, she announced an indictment of Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren on campaign fraud charges last fall.

16. Barry Berke, Jeffrey Braun & Gary Naftalis

Partner; Counsel; Partner, Kramer Levin

Barry Berke
David Beyda Studio, NYC
Jeffrey Braun
David Beyda Studio, NYC
Gary Naftalis
David Beyda Studio, NYC

Talk about high-powered attorneys. Barry Berke, who is Kramer Levin’s litigation co-chair in New York, was a top legal adviser to the U.S. House of Representatives in both Senate impeachment trials of Donald Trump and helped New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio emerge from several criminal investigations unscathed. Jeffrey Braun has defended several high-profile land use approvals in New York and helped develop a law on conceptual environmental reviews in the state Court of Appeals. Gary Naftalis, the firm’s co-chair and litigation co-chair, handles sensitive matters and is known across the country as a leading trial lawyer and litigator.

17. Benjamin Brafman

Owner, Brafman & Associates

Benjamin Brafman
Benjamin Brafman

When celebrities need a lawyer, they often turn to Benjamin Brafman. Brafman has represented Jay-Z (who wrote him into a song), New York art dealer Helly Nahmad (recently pardoned by Donald Trump), notorious “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli, Plaxico Burress (who caught the Super Bowl-winning touchdown for the Giants in 2008), and, temporarily, the disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein. Known for delivering a good show in the courtroom, Brafman’s one of New York’s best trial attorneys. 

18. Frank Carone

Executive Partner, Abrams Fensterman

Frank Carone
Daniel J. Marino/Marino Photography

Frank Carone may be Brooklyn’s most politically connected attorney. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries named Carone his campaign co-chair in 2020, and Mayor Bill de Blasio has been a recipient of his generous donations. Carone, who has also made the most of his position as a legal adviser to the Brooklyn Democratic Party, brought a case against ranked-choice voting on behalf of a group of New York City Council members and community groups on the grounds that it would hurt people of color. 

19. Jeffrey A. Lichtman & Jeffrey Bloom

Co-Chairs, LawPAC

Jeffrey Bloom
Jeffrey Bloom

Jeffrey Lichtman and Jeffrey Bloom are co-chairs of LawPAC, the influential New York State Trial Lawyers Association’s political action committee, which has donated to both Democratic and Republican campaigns over the years. Lichtman is a senior partner at the personal injury law firm Trolman Glaser Corley & Lichtman, while Bloom is a partner at Gair Gair Conason, where he specializes in medical malpractice and personal injury cases. 

20. Maya Wiley

New York City Mayoral Candidate

Maya Wiley
Celeste Sloman

Maya Wiley left her job at MSNBC this past summer to enter a crowded contest to become New York City’s next mayor. She served as counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio and chaired the Civilian Complaint Review Board for about a year before shifting full-time focus to working as a professor and senior vice president for social justice at The New School. While she’s still trailing the frontrunners, Wiley would be the city’s first female mayor if she wins.

21. Edward Wallace & Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick

Co-Chair, New York Office; Of Counsel, Greenberg Traurig

Edward Wallace navigates the interplay between law, politics and real estate as deftly as anyone in New York City. The politically connected attorney has represented such heavyweights as Amazon, Columbia University and JCDecaux North America, and his office perennially ranks as one of the top lobbyists in the city. Wallace also served as a member-at-large of the New York City Council and as chief of staff to the New York City Council president. His colleague, Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick, served for nearly two decades on the state Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court. Since 2013, when she joined Greenberg Traurig as of counsel for the firm’s New York litigation and appellate practices, she has been named chair of the New York City Mayor’s Advisory Committee on the Judiciary, co-chair of the New York State Justice Task Force on wrongful convictions and chair of the State Board of Law Examiners, which administers the bar exam.

22. Debra Katz

Founding Partner, Katz, Marshall & Banks

When Charlotte Bennett, a 25-year-old former state aide, came forward with allegations of sexual harassment against Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York’s most powerful politician, she turned to Debra Katz to help level the playing field. Katz, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney, made a name for herself by representing Dr. Christine Blasey Ford during the confirmation hearings for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh – and remains a leading #MeToo crusader. 

23. Elkan Abramowitz

Partner, Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has lost some clout in the past few weeks, but his decision to hire Elkan Abramowitz in the worst stretch of his tenure speaks to the white-collar criminal defense attorney’s reputation as an effective advocate. While Abramowitz initially stated he would assist Cuomo in response to sexual harassment claims, he later clarified that he was only brought on to deal with a probe into the administration’s reporting of nursing home deaths.

24. Brad Karp

Chair, Paul Weiss 

Brad Karp has served since 2008 as chair of Paul Weiss, one of New York City’s oldest and largest law firms. Karp, who started at the firm as a summer associate, is now recognized as a leading litigator and corporate adviser. Among the attorneys at his firm are Mark Pomerantz, who’s assisting Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s probe of Donald Trump’s business dealings, and Jeh Johnson, the former U.S. homeland security secretary who recently issued a report on racial bias in New York’s judiciary. 

25. Deborah Archer

National Board President, ACLU

Deborah Archer
NYU Photo Bureau

In February, the civil rights attorney and law professor Deborah Archer became the first Black person in the history of the American Civil Liberties Union to be elected president of its board. Archer, who has served on the ACLU’s board since 2009, will put renewed focus on racial injustice, voting rights and a rollback of Trump’s immigration policies. She is also the director of the Civil Rights Clinic at New York University School of Law.

26. Bart Schwartz

Founder and Chair, Guidepost Solutions

Bart Schwartz
Guidepost Solutions

Bart Schwartz was selected in 2019 to be the federal monitor over the New York City Housing Authority. In that role, he oversees the city’s public housing agency, which was already struggling when the coronavirus pandemic exacerbated its woeful fiscal situation. Schwartz, who is also the founder and chair of Guidepost Solutions, previously led the Criminal Division of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

27. Vincent Pitta & Robert Bishop

Partners, Pitta Bishop

Vincent F. Pitta
Ali Garber

As founding members of their firm, Vincent Pitta and Robert Bishop have spent nearly three decades together building a reputation for what they call “effective, client-centered advocacy.” Together, their expertise allows them to litigate across a number of labor, employment, legislative and government relations matters. Pitta manages the firm from the New York City office while Bishop handles the Albany office, providing coverage across both the city and state. 

28. Elizabeth Holtzman & Belinda Schwartz

Counsel; Partner, Herrick Feinstein

After more than two decades in government, including as a trailblazing member of Congress, New York City’s comptroller and the district attorney of Brooklyn, Elizabeth Holtzman is now the co-chair of Herrick Feinstein’s government relations group. Her colleague Belinda Schwartz chairs the firm’s real estate department, making her one of the only women in the country to chair a major commercial real estate practice. She has helped many of her real estate clients navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, which shook up the industry.

29. Jim Walden

Partner, Walden Macht & Haran

Jim Walden
Walden Macht & Haran

He started with six lawyers and now he’s here – with 42 attorneys and a growing footprint. Jim Walden, who co-founded Walden Macht & Haran in 2015 after nearly a decade at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, recently added office space in New York and opened a Philadelphia office. After battling what he suspects was COVID-19 last spring, the former federal prosecutor jumped right back into his high-profile cases, including representing Christopher Krebs, a high-up cybersecurity official suing the Trump campaign for threatening statements. 

30. Paul Shechtman

Partner, Bracewell 

Paul Shechtman is a prolific attorney whose career is marked by civic engagement. Shechtman previously was counsel to the Manhattan district attorney and director of criminal justice under Gov. George Pataki. Last year, he took on as a client Urooj Rahman, an attorney facing federal charges for allegedly lobbing a Molotov cocktail during a Black Lives Matter protest. He was also appointed to the new Commission to Reimagine the Future of New York’s Courts last summer. 

31. Scott Karson & T. Andrew Brown

President; President-elect, New York State Bar Association

Scott M. Karson
Timothy Rabb & Northern Photo
T. Andrew Brown
T. Andrew Brown

In June, Scott Karson became president of the New York State Bar Association, an organization dating back to the 19th century that today has over 70,000 members. Karson, a partner at Long Island’s Lamb & Barnosky, has recommended that required COVID-19 inoculation be considered, deployed pro bono attorneys to help New Yorkers who needed help during the pandemic and launched inquiry that could result in Rudy Guiliani’s expulsion from NYSBA. This coming summer, Karson will be succeeded by T. Andrew Brown, who has held numerous high-level jobs in Rochester and Monroe County and temporarily led the state Board of Regents. Brown, managing partner at Brown Hutchinson in Rochester, has spoken out against bias and racial inequities inside the courtroom and out.

32. David Karnovsky, Jonathan Mechanic & Melanie Meyers

Partners, Fried Frank

David Karnovsky
Fried Frank

David Karnovsky, Jonathan Mechanic and Melanie Meyers have decades of experience in New York real estate. With clients like Tishman Speyer and Extell Development Company, their practice at Fried Frank focuses on land use, zoning, real estate development and environmental review. Karnovsky previously served as general counsel to the New York City Department of City Planning and special counsel and policy adviser to New York City’s Deputy Mayor for Operations, while Meyers also worked for the New York City Department of City Planning. Mechanic, who joined the firm in 1978, chairs its real estate department. 

33. Kenneth Fisher & Stuart Shorenstein

Members, Cozen O'Connor

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Stuart Shorenstein and Kenneth Fisher have both been recognized for their accomplishments during careers spanning decades. There is a wealth of expertise across multiple fields between the two lawyers, including land use, communications law, government relations and real estate. Shorenstein, who helped the nonprofit Manhattan Community Access Corporation win a First Amendment case before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2019, is the co-founder of Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies, a lobbying arm. Fisher, a former member of the New York City Council, is deeply knowledgeable regarding both the city’s land use processes and the political factors at play.

34. Gillian Lester

Dean, Columbia Law School

Before becoming dean of Columbia Law School, New York’s top-rated law school, Gillian Lester made a name for herself as a leading authority on employment law and policy. She is a board member at the Legal Aid Society of New York and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia. Following recent criticism about Columbia’s handling of students’ mental health issues, Lester committed to making structural changes that would help alleviate students’ stress and anxiety. 

35. Trevor Morrison

Dean, NYU School of Law

Trevor Morrison is known for his expertise in constitutional law, the federal courts and the executive branch. Formerly a law clerk to the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Morrison joined the faculty of Columbia Law School in 2008 and later served as associate counsel to President Barack Obama. Morrison, who’s also the Eric M. and Laurie B. Roth professor of law at NYU, was named dean in 2013. 

36. Michael Waldman

President, Brennan Center for Justice

Michael Waldman
Brennan Center for Justice/Lisa Vosper

As leader of the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan law and policy institute at NYU School of Law, Michael Waldman advocates for policy changes to address such timely matters as voting rights, money in politics, and criminal justice reform. Waldman, a constitutional lawyer and author who has led the center since 2005, blasted Donald Trump last fall for posing a threat to democracy, but noted that “throughout American history, abuse is often, but not always, followed by reform.”

37. Sheila Boston

President, New York City Bar Association

Sheila Boston
Arnold & Porter

Sheila Boston, a longtime advocate for diversity and inclusion in the legal world, broke a glass ceiling when she became the first Black woman to be installed as president of the New York City Bar Association. As a partner at Arnold & Porter, Boston is well versed in "battle of the experts" litigation and was previously appointed to serve on New York's First Department Judicial Screening Committee.

38. Mary Jo White

Partner, Debevoise & Plimpton

Mary Jo White is best known for having led the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and with that experience as well as her tenure as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, she’s now one of the country’s leading securities attorneys. A senior chair of Debevoise & Plimpton, White has represented Purdue Pharma’s Sackler family, which reached a major settlement with the U.S. Justice Department in a closely watched legal battle over its role in the opioid epidemic.

39. Michael Cardozo, Bettina Plevan & Paul Salvatore

Partners, Proskauer

Michael Cardozo
Proskauer Rose LLP
Bettina Plevan
Proskauer Rose LLP
Paul Salvatore
Proskauer Rose LLP

Already this year, Proskauer has been recognized as a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality” and made the “Best Law Firms” list by U.S. News Media Group. Partner Michael Cardozo, New York City’s corporation counsel during the Bloomberg years, is known for representing city agencies as well as major sports leagues, and chaired a state commission that recently recommended against pay raises for state lawmakers and judges. Another partner, labor and employment attorney Bettina Plevan, helped Charter defend itself against allegations of age and gender discrimination from a group of female NY1 anchors, reaching an undisclosed settlement late last year. And Proskauer partner Paul Salvatore is a heavyweight in the real estate industry, having served such clients as the Real Estate Board of New York and The Related Cos.

40. Neil Barr

Managing Partner, Davis Polk

Neil Barr
Neil Barr

Neil Barr in 2019 was elected the managing partner of Davis Polk, one of New York City’s largest firms with offices around the world. Barr, who previously led the firm’s tax department for five years, advises companies, executives and corporate boards on a wide range of matters. Barr has been named a “Tax MVP of the Year” twice by Law360, and Davis Polk frequently ranks as a go-to firm in a number of areas.

41. Eric Friedman

Executive Partner, Skadden Arps

Since Eric Friedman became executive partner of Skadden Arps in 2009, his firm, which is one of New York City’s biggest, has gained recognition for its expertise and activity in mergers and acquisitions. This past year, Friedman headed the launch of the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance, a collaboration between firms committed to addressing systemic racism in the law. He was awarded the 2020 Servant of Justice Award by New York’s Legal Aid Society.

42. Robert Giuffra Jr.

Partner, Sullivan & Cromwell

Robert J. Giuffra
Giuffra-Sullivan & Cromwell

At the beginning of the year, Sullivan & Cromwell promoted veteran litigator Robert Giuffra to serve as a vice chair of the firm, one of the largest in New York, along with corporate lawyer Scott Miller. On top of handling securities and white-collar defense, product liability and employment litigation matters, Giuffra also helps to secure legal services funding for low-income New Yorkers. In December, Giuffra was part of a team representing Goldman Sachs before the U.S. Supreme Court. 

43. Faiza Saeed

Presiding Partner, Cravath, Swaine & Moore

Faiza Saeed

As the presiding partner of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, Faiza Saeed stands out as one of relatively few women to lead one of New York’s most prestigious law firms. Saeed, who in 2017 became the first woman to lead Cravath, was recently deemed a “top dealmaker” by The Hollywood Reporter. Saeed famously represented Disney in its acquisition of 21st Century Fox, worked on the shutdown of the new streaming service Quibi, and advised Time Warner when it invested in Hulu. 

44. Juan Cartagena

President and General Counsel, LatinoJustice PRLDEF

Juan Cartagena is coming up on his 10-year anniversary as president and general counsel of LatinoJustice, a Latinx civil and voting rights organization that is based in New York but whose scope stretches beyond the state’s borders. Cartagena, who previously spent two decades at the Community Service Society, is a public speaker, columnist and professor who is an advocate for equality and nondiscrimination, Puerto Rican and Latino rights, and addressing community impacts of mass incarceration.

45. Barry Wolf 

Executive Partner, Weil, Gotshal & Manges

Barry Wolf is the longtime leader of Weil, Gotshal & Manges, one of New York’s biggest law firms. An expert in private equity law, he is Weil’s executive partner and is chair of the firm’s management committee. Chambers USA once called him an “absolute star, with searing intelligence,” and he is sought after for both commercial and tax advice and has been honored for his diversity and inclusion efforts and promoting training at Weil. 

46. William Dougherty 

Partner, Simpson Thacher

Since becoming a partner at Simpson Thacher in 1995, William Dougherty has held multiple leadership positions, including being elected to the executive committee in 2008 and overseeing the daily operations of the firm as co-administrative partner from 2009 to 2012. He worked at the firm’s Tokyo and London offices before returning to New York, where he focuses on mergers and acquisitions and corporate finance transactions, and serves as executive committee chair.

47. Gerald Lefcourt

President, Gerald B. Lefcourt, P.C.

Over a career spanning four decades, Gerald Lefcourt has represented Abbie Hoffman, Black Panther Party members, former Assembly Speaker Mel Miller and former Brooklyn Democratic Party boss Vito Lopez. He’s also worked with individuals involved in some of the biggest legal controversies, including representing indicted Rudy Giuliani associate Andrey Kukushkin and securing Jeffrey Epstein’s now-infamous nonprosecution deal in Florida. He serves on the Magistrate Selection Committee of the Southern District of New York and founded the New York Criminal Bar Association.

48. Terrence Connors 

Founding Partner, Connors

Whenever a legal case makes news in Western New York, there’s a good chance Terrence Connors is playing defense. Connors, who founded his eponymous firms in 1986, has in recent years made headlines while representing the Diocese of Buffalo, getting two local police officers who were accused of using excessive force against teenagers acquitted, negotiating the breakup of the law firm Cellino & Barnes, and keeping a tanning salon open despite the coronavirus pandemic. 

49. David Boies & Harlan Levy

Chair and Managing Partner; Partner, Boies Schiller Flexner

David Boies is used to being in the press, whether it was for bringing an antitrust case against Microsoft as a Department of Justice counsel, representing Al Gore in the 2000 Florida presidential vote count, winning a key battle in the fight to legalize same-sex marriage or his representation of Harvey Weinstein. Boies, who founded Boies Schiller Flexner in 1997, brought on Harlan Levy in 2000. Levy, who left the firm to serve for nearly five years as New York’s chief deputy attorney general in 2011, secured approval for Centene’s acquisition of Fidelis Care and helped New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s top fundraiser navigate several investigations. 

50. Kapil Longani

Counsel to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio

As counsel to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Kapil Longani’s responsibilities include advising the mayor on legal matters, providing input on legal aspects of policy and administrative matters, and developing and advancing policy proposals by working across government agencies. This year, a new responsibility added to Longani’s plate was helping the mayor navigate the legal response to the issues New Yorkers confronted during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly referred to Barry Wolf as a litigator. 

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