New York is the capital of the legal industry. The state has the greatest number of lawyers per 1,000 residents in the country, and a high demand for legal services. Many of the country’s largest and most prestigious law firms – with practices spanning the globe – are based in Manhattan. Many of the nation’s most high-profile federal cases land in New York City. And that’s to say nothing of the local and state legal developments that attract national attention, such as the investigations into former President Donald Trump by state Attorney General Letitia James and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
City & State’s 2022 Law Power 100 takes an in-depth look at the legal professionals who aren’t simply influential in their field, but powerful in New York’s governmental landscape. This year’s list includes district attorneys, federal prosecutors, white-collar defense attorneys, public interest lawyers, law school deans and bar association leaders who have shaped New York politics and government.
State Attorney General Letitia James’ civil investigation into former President Donald Trump’s family business heated up at the start of the year, as her office has sought to question him and his children as his legal team filed its own lawsuit to stop the probe. The Trump case is just one of many for James – she also commissioned the report substantiating multiple accusations of sexual harassment leveled against former Gov. Andrew Cuomo and taken opioid manufacturers to task over the opioid epidemic.
Janet DiFiore helms New York’s highest court and manages the state’s vast court system. That position has come with many challenges throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, including overseeing the transition from in-person to virtual proceedings. DiFiore has also led new efforts to reimagine the court system, tapping numerous legal experts to find solutions to reduce racial disparities in New York courts, improve technology and address other operational issues.
Alvin Bragg won one of the most heated races in New York City last year, beating out seven other candidates vying to become Manhattan district attorney in the Democratic primary. He is now the first Black person to serve as the borough’s district attorney, taking over high-profile cases like a major investigation into former President Donald Trump’s family business. Soon after taking office, Bragg committed to reducing racial disparities in the criminal justice system by directing staff to stop prosecuting some low-level crimes like subway fare evasion.
Having spent six years as Brooklyn district attorney, it was reported that Eric Gonzalez had an eye on higher office last year. Rumors swirled that he would run for Letitia James’ position as state attorney general when she was preparing to jump into the gubernatorial race. But her decision to seek reelection instead slowed any momentum for potential challengers. Last April, Gonzalez asked the courts to dismiss 90 convictions based on the testimony of a former New York City Police Department narcotics detective who was indicted for perjury.
Serving as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York means handling some of the country’s most headline-worthy federal cases. And Damian Williams, who took over the powerful position in October, has wasted no time in doing so. His office succeeded in prosecuting Ghislaine Maxwell on charges related to sex trafficking at the start of the year. The first Black person to head the 232-year-old office, Williams also created a new civil rights unit within its criminal division.
Elizabeth Fine was among the first top officials to join Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration after she took office in August. Previously executive vice president and general counsel of the Empire State Development Corp., Fine, a longtime public servant, now plays a vital role in advising the governor. She has also worked in the U.S. Justice Department and served as counsel to then-U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno.
When New York City Mayor Eric Adams took office last month, he tapped Sylvia Hinds-Radix and Brendan McGuire to hold key legal positions within the city government. Formerly an appellate judge in Brooklyn, Hinds-Radix has been tasked with overseeing the city Law Department as corporation counsel for the city. McGuire is serving as Adams’ chief counsel after working as a partner at WilmerHale and as a federal prosecutor.
Melinda Katz became the district attorney for Queens in 2020 after narrowly winning a closely watched primary race. Once in office, Katz created a conviction integrity unit and has since moved to expunge 60 convictions that relied on testimony from three former New York City police officers who later committed crimes. Along with Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, she visited Rikers Island last year amid rising concerns about the jail’s poor conditions.
Breon S. Peace earned a reputation as a white-collar civil litigator with a strong interest in pro bono work focused on criminal justice, civil rights and other issues. This was exemplified by him leading a legal team in 2016 that successfully pushed for the exoneration of a man wrongly convicted of rape and murder. That experience fueled his nomination as U.S. attorney for New York’s Eastern District, where he heads the team handling federal cases in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island.
Last year, Carla B. Freedman became the first female prosecutor confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of New York, which encompasses large swaths of Northern and Central New York. President Joe Biden nominated the Syracuse-based prosecutor to the position last August. She most recently worked in the Syracuse office of the Northern District of New York, serving as head of its narcotics division.
Trini E. Ross spent more than 23 years as a prosecutor in Buffalo before making history as the first Black woman to serve as U.S. attorney for the Western District of New York last year. She took on the position last October and now oversees the prosecution of federal criminal cases across Western New York. Last month, she told Spectrum News that reducing violent crimes, particularly those involving firearms, would be a priority for her.
Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark has made prosecuting gun violence a top priority over the past year. Last fall, she called on state lawmakers to change the Raise the Age law so 16- and 17-year-olds possessing guns could be sent to criminal court rather than family court. Clark has served as the borough’s top prosecutor since 2016, after a stint as a judge in the state Supreme Court Appellate Division.
Janet Sabel leads one of New York’s most prominent legal nonprofits serving and advocating for low-income New Yorkers. Throughout the past year, The Legal Aid Society has pushed state leaders to provide continued rent relief to tenants and called on government officials to reduce jail and prison populations, especially amid rising COVID-19 cases. Before leading the organization, Sabel served as chief deputy attorney general in the state attorney general’s office.
Jerry Goldfeder has long been one of New York’s top election lawyers, as evidenced by a career representing prominent political candidates and elected officials at the local, state and federal levels. Alan Klinger, Stroock’s co-managing partner, manages the firm’s representation of public sector unions and employee benefits funds and has also been at the forefront of shaping workplace health and safety protocols. The United Federation of Teachers and the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association number among the unions to whom he provides outside counsel. Dina Kolker also represents many public sector unions in New York City, including the New York City Council legislative staffers’ union.
One of the biggest stories in New York politics last year was then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to resign after the release of a scathing report that substantiated sexual harassment accusations a number of women made against him. That report, overseen by state Attorney General Letitia James, featured extensive research and analysis co-led by Joon Kim and Anne Clark. Kim’s experience as a former acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Clark’s history as an expert litigator handling employment and discrimination cases, led James to choose them for the task.
After stepping down as New York state’s chief judge, Jonathan Lippman headed to Latham & Watkins LLP, where he advises clients on New York state law. He has also emerged as a prominent leader for criminal justice reform in New York City, successfully spearheading efforts to close the jail complex on Rikers Island. Last November, Lippman also called on New York officials to do more to reduce the jail’s population amid reports of poor conditions there.
Donna Lieberman has spent two decades leading the New York Civil Liberties Union in its efforts to protect New Yorkers’ civil rights and civil liberties. Under her leadership, the NYCLU has taken several police departments to court for withholding officer misconduct records from the public and has continued to advocate for changes in New York’s policing practices. She and the NYCLU have also come out in support of ending solitary confinement and the state’s Less is More Act.
The Trump Organization already faces legal scrutiny from the Manhattan district attorney and the state attorney general’s office. Last year, Westchester County District Attorney Mimi Rocah joined the list of New York prosecutors eying the former president’s family business practices. Rocah also made national headlines in January when she reported that law enforcement officials “missed opportunities” when investigating multimillionaire Robert Durst regarding the disappearance of his first wife in 1982.
Pitta LLP boasts an extensive client list, representing major unions in New York such as the Detectives’ Endowment Association and the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council. New York City Mayor Eric Adams also numbers among the law firm’s clients: He hired Pitta LLP as a political and legal consultant for his campaign. Such success can be credited to the firm’s leaders, Vincent Pitta, Robert Bishop and Vito Pitta. The powerhouse trio also holds top positions at the affiliated lobbying firm Pitta Bishop & Del Giorno LLC.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams has a formidably close-knit inner circle – and the law firm Abrams Fensterman is certainly part of that fabric. Adams tapped the firm for support during his mayoral campaign and selected its longtime partner, Frank Carone, to join his administration in a key role as his chief of staff. That relationship is certainly a boon for managing partner Howard Fensterman, who has been working to expand Abrams Fensterman’s clout across the state.
These two powerhouse attorneys bring different sets of expertise to Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. Having served as counsel to the governor and executive deputy attorney general, Mylan Denerstein has a keen understanding of public policy and investigations. That experience landed her in the position of serving as an independent monitor overseeing racial disparities and reform efforts at the New York City Police Department. Randy Mastro, a government veteran who worked in the Giuliani administration, is a top litigator at the firm. Recently, he has represented a group of landlords opposing New York’s eviction moratorium.
As one of the country’s biggest law firms, Greenberg Traurig wields plenty of political clout in New York. And that’s certainly true for Edward Wallace, who advises companies with business before local and state governments. The high-powered attorney has guided Columbia University, Extell’s Riverside Center and other institutions through development projects in New York City. The law firm also employs Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick, a veteran judge who has served in New York’s highest court. That experience led Chief Judge Janet DiFiore to appoint her as co-chair of the New York State Justice Task Force, which examines wrongful convictions. An associate at Greenberg Traurig, India Sneed focuses on government relations. Sneed took various ballot challenges during primary elections in the state and has guided campaigns in New York City’s local elections.
In 2017, The New Yorker described Benjamin Brafman as “the last of the big-time defense attorneys.” He continues to earn that sobriquet, given that he regularly takes on high-profile cases representing celebrities such as Jay-Z and Sean Combs. Brafman also doesn’t shy away from controversy, having taken on “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli and Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein as clients – and that’s just a small sample of the influential clients Brafman has represented throughout his career.
Not many attorneys can say they led an impeachment trial against a U.S. president. Barry Berke, an influential trial attorney at Kramer Levin, can. And it’s only one of several high-profile cases he’s handled, having represented former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio through criminal investigations and CBS Corp. in a dispute with its former CEO Leslie Moonves. Gary P. Naftalis, the firm’s co-chair, is a heavy-hitting trial attorney who’s defended plenty of top corporations and business executives such as Kenneth Langone. Jeffrey L. Braun brings plenty of real estate expertise to Kramer Levin, having guided a wide range of clients through land use and environmental-use disputes in New York.
Debra S. Katz has a well-earned reputation for handling major cases related to sexual harassment and employment law. Throughout the past year, she used that expertise to fight on behalf of Charlotte Bennett, a former state aide who accused then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment. And as Cuomo’s legal team continues to fight back against allegations after his resignation, Katz continues to fervently defend her client and has indicated she has a client accusing the ex-governor’s brother, former CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, of sexual misconduct.
The New York State Trial Lawyers Association, which represents 3,500 trial attorneys across the state, also manages an influential political action committee, LawPAC. Its operations are overseen by co-chairs Jeffrey A. Lichtman, a senior partner and trial attorney at Trolman Glaser Corley & Lichtman, and Jeffrey Bloom, a partner at Gair, Gair, Conason, Rubinowitz, Bloom, Hershenhorn, Steigman & Mackauf. In the past year, LawPAC has contributed $68,700 to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s campaign.
This past year was an eventful one in Rochester politics. The city’s mayor, Lovely Warren, agreed to resign as part of a plea deal with Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley, resolving cases against Warren related to campaign finance violations and gun and child endangerment charges. In addition to her role as Monroe County’s top prosecutor, Doorley also served as president of the District Attorneys Association of New York until last June.
While some New York City prosecutors have embraced being called progressive reformers, Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon has eschewed that descriptor. Having spent six years as district attorney, McMahon has made combating the opioid crisis on Staten Island a priority. His office has partnered with local health care providers to operate diversion and outreach programs as alternatives to incarceration for people dealing with substance misuse.
The “red wave” that swept Long Island during last fall’s local elections helped propel Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly and Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond A. Tierney into office. A longtime prosecutor, Donnelly has pledged to lobby state lawmakers to change the state’s bail law and reforms to discovery. Tierney has also had an eye on getting the bail reform law repealed and bringing back a unit to the district attorney’s office focused on prosecuting gangs.
When state Chief Judge Janet DiFiore began efforts to address racism and bias in the court system, she tapped Jeh Johnson to conduct a thorough review of its policies and practices. Johnson led the creation of that 2020 report, which outlined racial disparities and other areas for improvement in New York’s court system. Johnson was the U.S. secretary of homeland security from 2013 to 2017 before returning to Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, where he had served as a partner since 1993. Paul, Weiss is led by its longtime chair, Brad Karp, who’s known for his representation of corporate and financial institutions.
The District Attorneys Association of the State of New York advocates on behalf of district attorneys in each of New York’s 62 counties at a time when Albany is laser-focused on criminal justice reform. Its work is led by Washington County District Attorney J. Anthony Jordan, who became the association’s president in June. This year, Jordan will push both for state lawmakers to revise the bail reform law to allow judges to consider the danger defendants may pose and for them to create a new statewide pretrial services agency.
Deborah Archer had an extensive career supporting civil rights and civil liberties before becoming the American Civil Liberties Union’s first Black president last year. She serves as New York University School of Law’s director of its Civil Rights Clinic and co-faculty director of its Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law. Under her leadership, the union has outlined a plan to fight systemic racism by pushing for expanded voting rights, fair housing and other priorities. She previously chaired the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board.
Bart Schwartz handles the difficult task of making sure the New York City Housing Authority maintains safe and quality conditions for its hundreds of thousands of tenants. Schwartz has served as the federal monitor for the agency since 2019, bringing with him experience as a former chief of the Criminal Division of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
Elizabeth Holtzman has more than two decades of experience in government, having served as a member of Congress, Brooklyn’s district attorney and New York City comptroller. That makes her a valuable asset to Herrick, Feinstein, where she serves as co-chair of its government relations group. The firm turns to Belinda Schwartz for commercial real estate matters, including guiding developers, owners and other clients through tough negotiations and transactions. Schwartz has advised on major projects in New York City, including the Empire Stores complex in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s dealings in Ukraine remain a top story in U.S. politics. Barbara S. Jones, a retired federal judge and partner at Bracewell, will play a key role in identifying relevant materials for an ongoing criminal investigation into Giuliani – who, ironically, used to be a shareholder at Bracewell. Paul Shechtman, a former federal prosecutor and state official under former Gov. George Pataki, is also a major power player in New York. He represented Melissa DeRosa, who served as a top aide to then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo, during investigations into the Cuomo administration this past year.
Since co-founding Walden Macht & Haran in 2015, Jim Walden has taken on cases of significance at the local, national and international levels. He has led a class-action lawsuit against the New York City Department of Education for failing to protect students from bullying and represented public housing tenants in a lawsuit against the New York City Housing Authority for poor housing conditions. Walden also represents Grigory Rodchenkov, a Russian whistleblower who helped inspire legislation in the United States criminalizing doping schemes in international sporting events.
The New York State Bar Association advocates on behalf of legal professionals across the state, advancing the policy priorities to Albany and Washington, D.C. Its advocacy and education efforts are spearheaded by T. Andrew Brown, founder and managing partner of Brown Hutchinson and former corporation counsel for Rochester. He has served as the association’s president since last June. Sherry Levin Wallach, deputy executive director of The Legal Aid Society of Westchester County, will take over as president later this year.
Kenneth Fisher is a go-to expert in real estate and land use in New York City. His experience serving in the New York City Council makes him a strong ally for clients with business before local government. Fisher has advised an affiliate of SUNY Downstate Medical Center amid the closure of Long Island College Hospital and has represented Lincoln Equities Group on a 2,400-unit development in Queens. Stuart Shorenstein heads up much of the firm’s government relations efforts, helping companies, nonprofits, colleges and other clients advance their priorities on local, state and federal levels.
These three attorneys bring extensive real estate expertise to Fried Frank. Jonathan Mechanic heads the real estate department at the law firm, advising major developers, investors and owners in commercial real estate transactions. Recently, Mechanic has been handling projects such as Vornado Realty Trust’s Penn District development. Melanie Meyers and David Karnovsky have the benefit of both having served as general counsel to the New York City Department of City Planning – government experience that no doubt helps these high-powered attorneys get clients’ projects off the ground.
Former Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. is back in the private sector after more than 10 years in elected office. Now a partner at Baker McKenzie, Vance serves as global chair of the firm’s cyber and data security practice, where he works to protect clients from those risks and other international threats. The veteran prosecutor worked on numerous high-profile cases during his time as district attorney, including the sexual assault case against former Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein and an ongoing probe of former President Donald Trump’s business practices.
Michael Waldman leads an institute focused on protecting democracy, researching and advocating for voting rights, election security, campaign finance reform and other issues. Since taking the reins at the Brennan Center for Justice in 2005, Waldman has called on Congress to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to expand and protect voting rights. He also spearheaded the center’s lawsuit against Texas for laws limiting voting access last year.
The New York City Bar Association, led by Sheila S. Boston, represents more than 25,000 lawyers and law students, advocating for policies supported by legal professionals. Some of its advocacy priorities at the state level for 2022 include pushing for an overhaul to the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics and expanding tenants’ access to legal representation during eviction proceedings. When not working on the association’s behalf, Boston is a partner at Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams nominated Jocelyn Strauber to lead the city Department of Investigation last year, and at the end of February, the former federal prosecutor assumed the post, in which she oversees a wide range of investigations related to municipal corruption. She previously was at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and headed the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York’s unit dedicated to investigating terrorism and the narcotics trade.
Having previously served as corporation counsel for New York City, Michael A. Cardozo is well equipped to navigate New York’s courts. New York City agencies and national sports leagues are among the institutions that have relied on Cardozo’s legal expertise. He also helped draft an amicus brief on behalf of the Coalition for the Homeless last year regarding a case before the New York Court of Appeals. Paul Salvatore has a focus on labor and employment law, having advised on collective bargaining agreements in New York’s real estate and construction industries. He has represented clients such as the Real Estate Board of New York and Related Companies.
In the past year, Faiza Saeed has spearheaded an overhaul of the pay system at Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP that now calculates partners’ compensation based on performance in addition to seniority. It’s a significant shift for the storied law firm and one made with the goal of attracting and retaining top talent. Having served as the firm’s presiding partner since 2017, Saeed is a powerhouse attorney who has advised on many major deals, including Disney’s 2018 $85 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox.
New Yorkers have seen a lot of Rita Glavin since she took on then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo as a client last year in the wake of several women coming forward with sexual harassment allegations against him. Cuomo has largely eschewed the limelight since his resignation, deferring to Glavin to defend him in the public eye. Glavin, a veteran federal prosecutor, has faced criticism for her aggressive attempts to undermine the credibility of the women accusing Cuomo of misconduct. She was also recently hired to defend Allen Weisselberg, the former Trump Organization chief financial officer, against fraud charges.
Trial attorney Terrence Connors has been a fixture in Western New York’s legal sphere since founding his law firm in 1986. Connors has long counseled the Diocese of Buffalo, including representing it during a major sexual abuse scandal. Recently, the defense lawyer has also represented acting state Supreme Court Judge Mark Grisanti amid a state agency investigation into his confrontation with Buffalo police officers.
The Assembly tasked Davis Polk with leading its impeachment investigation into then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year. That politically fraught task fell to three top attorneys in the firm’s white-collar defense and investigations practice: Angela Burgess, Greg Andres and Martine Beamon. While that impeachment report came out after Cuomo’s resignation, it provided additional key information about his alleged sexual misconduct, his use of state resources while writing his book and other controversies – and would have served as the basis for removing the governor from office had he sought to stay in office.
Paul DerOhannesian is one of the top defense attorneys in the Capital Region and has represented notable clients in the area, including Keith Raniere, who led the NXIVM cult based near Albany, in a trial that made international headlines. Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney also turned to DerOhannesian for effective legal assistance as the race for the 22nd Congressional District resulted in a tight recount following the 2020 election.
This defense attorney doesn’t shy away from high-profile cases and controversy. Throughout his 50-year legal career, Gerald B. Lefcourt has represented a slew of politicians, celebrities and other prominent figures, including members of the Black Panther Party, actor Russell Crowe and late Assembly Member Vito Lopez. More recently, Lefcourt defended Andrey Kukushkin, who – alongside former Rudy Giuliani ally Lev Parnas – was convicted on campaign finance charges last year.
Lourdes M. Rosado took over the reins at LatinoJustice PRLDEF last year, bringing with her experience as program director at the New York Civil Liberties Union and chief of the Civil Rights Bureau of the New York state Attorney General’s Office. Under her leadership, the organization continues to advocate on behalf of Latinos in New York and nationwide. LatinoJustice PRLDEF has been actively monitoring the redistricting process in the state and backed a recently passed New York City law expanding voting rights for noncitizen New Yorkers.
Nearly 90,000 New Yorkers turned to the New York Legal Assistance Group for legal services and support between July 2019 and June 2020. Beth Goldman, who previously headed the New York City Department of Finance and worked as a federal prosecutor, oversees the organization’s legal work on behalf of low-income residents and its broader advocacy efforts. NYLAG has also led representation for many yellow taxicab medallion owners seeking financial relief from New York City.
Carrie Cohen is no stranger to New York’s political landscape. Previously, as assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, she secured the first convictions of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Her work since becoming a partner at Morrison & Foerster included defending former Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren last year when she faced campaign finance charges.
Throughout his legal career, David Boies has been at the forefront of high-stakes litigation. That remains true in 2022: Boies is representing several women who have come forward with sexual abuse allegations against the late Jeffrey Epstein and his associates. That includes Virginia Giuffre, who just settled a lawsuit against Prince Andrew. Boies also returned to the U.S. Supreme Court for the first time in a decade this year – albeit remotely – in a case about ownership of a Nazi-looted painting.
Longtime public defender David Patton has spent more than a decade as head of Federal Defenders of New York, which represents New Yorkers facing criminal charges in federal court. He leveraged his position over the past year to highlight the unsafe conditions at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn after his organization’s clients sounded the alarm over areas of concern like limited water access, staff shortages and electrical problems.
Karol V. Mason’s wide-ranging legal career has included serving as U.S. assistant attorney general during the Obama administration and as head of the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs. That expertise guides her leadership at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, which educates more than 15,000 students in law, policing, social work and other areas. Under her leadership, the school has partnered with New York City officials to study the efficacy of its anti-gun violence initiatives.
New Yorkers seeking an expert in First Amendment law often turn to Victor Kovner for help. As senior counsel at Davis Wright Tremaine, Kovner has represented New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority in a lawsuit related to advertising in the subways and buses and has advised the Times Square Alliance. Throughout his more than 50 years in the legal world, he has also served as the corporation counsel of New York City and chair of the state Commission on Judicial Conduct.
Matthew Diller helms one of New York’s most renowned law schools, serving as dean of Fordham School of Law since 2015, after previously leading Cardozo School of Law. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Diller has worked to prepare students for the realities of virtual litigation and remote work. “We must counter these far-reaching changes to the legal industry with meaningful and lasting adjustments of our own,” he wrote in the New York Law Journal along with Joseph Landau, the school’s associate dean for academic affairs.
As a former New York state attorney general, Dennis Vacco is a formidable lawyer to have on your side. Much of Vacco’s focus at Lippes Mathias is on governmental investigations and helping clients comply with state and federal law. During the past year, Vacco has represented a group of security guards at state-run health care institutions opposed to New York’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate and two retired Buffalo bishops facing a lawsuit alleging that they protected priests accused of child sex abuse.
Anthony Crowell is in his 10th year leading the New York Law School, which educates about 1,100 students each year. Under his direction, the school launched three new institutes this past year dedicated to police reform, criminal justice and educational equity. New York City Mayor Eric Adams also selected Crowell to co-lead a team on his transition committee advising on appointments to his administration.
New York City’s primary elections kept Ali Najmi busy last year. An attorney focused on criminal defense and election law, Najmi also advised several candidates in ballot disputes and other campaign issues in the past year. In 2020, he successfully helped two local political candidates whose professional first names didn’t match their legal ones get back on the ballot. Before starting his private practice, Najmi served as a legislative director in the New York City Council.
Michael S. Zetlin’s dual expertise in engineering and law has fueled his path to becoming one of the country’s top construction attorneys. The New York City-based lawyer has had a hand in advising numerous major projects in New York and beyond, including construction related to airports, roadways, sports facilities and commercial buildings. In addition to his work at Zetlin & De Chiara LLP, he is general counsel to both the New York Building Congress and the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
Davida Perry has played a major role in landmark cases shaping employment law. Not only did she have a hand in the establishment of the New York City Human Rights Law, but she also took on one of the first discrimination cases under that very law. With more than 30 years of experience as an attorney, Perry remains one of the city’s go-to lawyers for workers facing sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination in the workplace.
The Center for Constitutional Rights uses litigation and advocacy to fight for civil rights and justice both in New York and on the national level. Vincent Warren oversees those efforts, which have included successfully opposing the New York City Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy and challenging the federal government’s treatment of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. In 2020, the organization countered police unions’ efforts to roll back the repeal of Section 50-a.
In 2015, New York City agreed to have a federal monitor oversee safety on Rikers Island, which included restricting the use of force and the installation of new surveillance cameras. Those reforms resulted from a class-action lawsuit in which Jonathan S. Abady served as co-lead counsel, one of numerous notable cases he has taken on against New York City regarding excessive force and wrongful deaths in the city’s jail complex.
Melanie Leslie has served as dean of Cardozo Law School since 2015, holding the distinction of being the first woman and Cardozo alumna to do so. During that time, Leslie has overseen initiatives regarding blockchain, real estate and increasing diversity in innovators obtaining patents, as well as advancing education in art and entertainment law. She is an accomplished legal scholar in areas such as trusts and estates and nonprofit governance.
With more than 25 years of experience practicing law, Jeffrey Citron serves as the co-managing partner at Davidoff Hutcher & Citron. He helms the firm’s real estate law practice, advising companies aiming to secure financing and funding for capital projects, and he has served as counsel to trustees of industrial development agencies. Citron also manages key functions at the firm, which is known for its lobbying and government affairs work.
Sean M. Doolan heads Hinman Straub, an Albany-based law firm, with a keen eye for government relations. The high-powered attorney brings more than 30 years of experience to his work advising clients with business before state government. Health care providers, insurers and tech companies are among the clients that have sought out Doolan’s counsel on legislative, regulatory and strategic matters. His firm is perennially ranked among the top 20 lobbyists in Albany as well.
Thomas J. Garry is an influential attorney on Long Island, delivering expertise in economic development and government to his clients. He served as New York state counsel for Joe Biden’s successful 2020 presidential campaign and has advised local institutions like Catholic Health Services of Long Island on its development projects. Karl J. Sleight, who, like Garry, is a member at Harris Beach, has a broad range of experience serving as counsel to casinos and gambling businesses and navigating governmental ethics inquiries. Sleight also has helped clients launch cannabis businesses in New York – an even more valuable skill set now that recreational marijuana is legal in the state.
Kevin M. Hogan, who has served as managing partner of the law firm Phillips Lytle LLP since 2017, is among the leading attorneys in Western New York. His firm is one of the biggest in Buffalo and also has offices across New York and in Washington, D.C., and Canada. Hogan specializes in environmental law, including regulatory compliance and litigation, and frequently handles matters before the Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Evan H. Krinick is a formidable force in Long Island’s legal community. As managing partner at Rivkin Radler, Krinick has overseen the continued expansion of what is already Long Island’s largest law firm, opening new offices and managing a team of 200 attorneys. He also represents major local institutions, such as Bethpage Federal Credit Union. Having served as outside counsel to the Long Island Power Authority for more than 20 years, Krinick assisted with litigation and negotiation associated with Tropical Storm Isaias in 2020.
Milton Tingling is a veteran of New York’s judicial system, having first taken the bench in 1996 and ultimately spending 13 years as a New York Supreme Court justice. One of the most high-profile decisions he made during his tenure was ruling against then-New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s ban on soda. Though he retired in 2014, Tingling remains active as New York County clerk and as an advocate for fighting systemic racism in the courts.
The state Commission on Judicial Conduct plays a vital role in the state’s judicial system, annually reviewing about 2,000 complaints about ethical misconduct regarding the state’s judges and justices. As administrator and counsel for the agency, Robert H. Tembeckjian oversees its investigations into those complaints and the appropriate punishments for judges who have acted unethically. Tembeckjian brings with him more than four decades of experience working in various capacities within the commission.
Queens Supreme Court Justice Carmen Velasquez has served as president of the Association of Supreme Court Justices since last year – the first Latina to fill the role. Since then, she has been an advocate for judges around the state during the pandemic. Amid a spike in COVID-19 cases resulting from the omicron variant, she called for court proceedings to continue virtually. Velasquez has also supported state-level legislation to allow judges over 70 a simpler path to staying on the bench until retirement.
Hospitals, community health centers, nursing homes and pharmaceutical companies are among the many health care institutions that turn to Mark Ustin for representation. The Albany-based attorney and lobbyist assists clients trying to navigate complex regulatory and policy issues in New York, often representing them before state government. Now a partner at Farrell Fritz, Ustin has also served as a partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips and as assistant counsel to former Gov. George Pataki.
Since joining CUNY School of Law as a faculty member in 2019, Eduardo R.C. Capulong has become the interim dean for New York City’s only publicly funded law school. Capulong, who has long been focused on public interest law and social justice, previously served as a law professor at the University of Montana and other schools. Before that, he worked as a litigator and community organizer for nonprofits like the Northern California Coalition for Immigrant Rights and the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence.
Moira Penza has some impressive experience under her belt stemming from her time as a federal prosecutor, which included playing a major role in securing a conviction for Keith Raniere, head of the NXIVM cult. Now a partner at Wilkinson Stekloff, Penza continues to handle tough cases in the private sector. In the past year, she has represented tobacco company Altria in litigation regarding its investment in Juul.
Erica F. Buckley’s experience heading the real estate finance bureau of the New York attorney general’s office gives her key insight into the regulatory and investigative issues that matter most to her clients. As a partner at Nixon Peabody, Buckley advises New York’s top developers on complex real estate transactions and represents them before state government agencies. She also helps clients facing investigations by the attorney general’s office.
Clarissa M. Rodriguez chairs the state Workers’ Compensation Board, which is responsible for workers’ compensation and other benefits. During her time leading the agency, Rodriguez has worked to launch New York’s paid family leave law and other legislative reforms. Last year, the agency partnered with the New York State Bar Association to launch a new legal assistance project that helps injured workers get free legal services. Previously, Rodriguez served as a litigator at the Legal Aid Society.
Terri Adler is a force to be reckoned with in New York City’s commercial real estate space. As managing partner at Duval & Stachenfeld, she has led a major real estate practice group and guided clients through complex corporate real estate transactions. Adler co-founded Duval & Stachenfeld, initially as an associate, in 1997. Almost 25 years later, she plays a key role leading the firm, which employs about 40 attorneys.
Craig Boise numbers among the higher education leaders reimagining teaching even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, as evidenced by his instituting the country’s first hybrid J.D. program for students at Syracuse University College of Law. In addition to his experience as a tax lawyer at Cleary Gottlieb – and his past work as a police officer and classical pianist – he has had an extensive career in academia, serving as dean of Cleveland State University’s Cleveland-Marshall College of Law and holding faculty positions at other schools.
Michael T. Cahill has helmed the 121-year-old Brooklyn Law School since 2019. Before returning to lead the institution – he spent 13 years there as a faculty member – Cahill served as co-dean at Rutgers Law School from 2016 to 2019. New York City Mayor Eric Adams selected Cahill, whose main focus is criminal law, to serve on his legal transition team last year. He’s also the school’s Joseph Crea dean.
Jason Lilien’s previous work as head of the state attorney general’s charities bureau makes him a valuable expert in nonprofit law at Loeb & Loeb. While at the attorney general’s office, Lilien authored the Nonprofit Revitalization Act of 2013, which instituted major new reforms for the sector in New York. As co-chair of the firm’s tax-exempt organizations practice, he helps clients navigate laws and regulations affecting charitable giving, corporate governance, fundraising and other issues.
The Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York represents female legal professionals from every corner of the state and advocates for legislative changes in Albany that promote equality for women. Dawn Reid-Green serves as president of the association, in addition to her work as a top attorney at New York City Transit. Deborah Rosenthal, owner of Rosenthal, Attorneys at Law, will take over as head of the association next.
A veteran of New York City government, Claude M. Millman heads up Kostelanetz & Fink’s government procurement and contracting practice. Companies such as Aetna and IBM, as well as nonprofits and government officials, have relied on Millman’s counsel. He recently took on a pro bono case on behalf of the Human Services Council aiming to strike down new labor legislation affecting nonprofits. New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ chief of staff Frank Carone also retained Millman as an attorney to help with divesting his assets.
As a partner at Windels Marx, Sanjay Mody advises clients on issues related to infrastructure, real estate and government. Developers, government agencies and infrastructure funds number among the entities that have consulted Mody for counsel. He previously served as senior adviser to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s chair, offering input and insight into major projects such as rebuilding the World Trade Center site.
Anta Cissé-Green has made it a priority to reduce barriers faced by Black attorneys and to fight systemic racism in the legal profession. She has served as president of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association since 2020, leading one of New York’s largest organizations for Black legal professionals. In addition to heading the association, Cissé-Green works as senior vice chancellor for legal affairs and general counsel at the State University of New York.
More than 1,500 attorneys, judges, law students and academics are members of the Asian American Bar Association of New York, which aims to improve the practice of law and to support Asian American legal professionals. Its current president is Terrence Shen, a partner at Kramer Levin focused on finance and securities transactions as well as mergers and acquisitions. William Ng, an expert in labor and employment law at Littler Mendelson’s Long Island office, will take over as head of the association after him.
As co-chair of Phillips Nizer’s real estate practice, Marc Landis helps clients with everything from affordable housing development to real estate financing transactions. In addition to his work at the firm, Landis is active in New York’s political sphere. He is a Democratic Party district leader and a member of the New York State Democratic Committee. He also was a delegate to the 2020 Democratic National Convention.
In his two years as dean, Horace Anderson Jr. has focused on strengthening its offering of legal programs, including initiatives like the launch of the Pace Access to Justice Project and the Haub Sustainable Business Law Hub. Anderson also led the expansion of Pace’s part-time law degree program to include evening and weekend options. He has been a faculty member at Pace since 2004, with expertise in intellectual property, internet privacy and communications law.
Glen G. McGorty is a veteran federal prosecutor with extensive experience working in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the U.S. Department of Justice. That background makes him a formidable trial lawyer at Crowell & Moring, where he represents corporations and people dealing with criminal and regulatory matters. He also supports clients facing government investigations, including those led by agencies such as the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Carl Hum serves as general counsel and senior vice president of the influential Real Estate Board of New York, overseeing the association’s litigation, lobbying and other work. Hum has been with the organization since 2015 and has played a key role advocating for its policy priorities related to construction, building codes and sustainability. Before joining the Real Estate Board of New York, he led advocacy at Asian Americans Advancing Justice in Washington, D.C.
The Sylvia Rivera Law Project plays an important role in delivering legal services to low-income transgender and gender-nonconforming people and advocating for their needs. Having served as the organization’s director of client services since 2015, Stefanie Rivera supports clients with everything from attending court with them to language translation. She also trains judges, lawyers and other legal professionals to treat transgender and gender-nonconforming clients respectfully.
Tracee E. Davis guides corporate clients through business disputes, advocating for them and protecting them from litigation. Before joining Seyfarth, she spent seven years as an attorney in the commercial division of the state court system. Davis also chairs the influential judiciary committee of the New York City Bar Association, which evaluates candidates for judicial office in New York City’s state and federal courts.
Dwayne Andrews serves as senior vice president and general counsel at one of Albany’s most influential lobbying firms, where he puts his extensive experience working in both the law and government to work. Andrews previously worked as a partner in the government relations practice at both Cozen O’Connor and Blank Rome, two major law firms in New York, and spent five years as an aide on Capitol Hill. Andrews also serves as co-chair for the legislative committee of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association.
Robert Bookman has been a staunch ally of New York’s hospitality industry throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Bookman, a partner at Pesetsky & Bookman, serves as counsel to the New York City Hospitality Alliance – and with Gov. Kathy Hochul leading the way to permanently legalizing to-go alcoholic drinks at restaurants this year, it should be a busy 2022 for him. Previously, Bookman served as counsel to the then-New York City Department of Consumer Affairs.
When Hemalee J. Patel joined the New York City Board of Elections a year ago, she was viewed as a qualified and popular choice to join a body that’s often criticized as incompetent. The first South Asian woman in the post, the Brooklyn-based Patel previously served as a special referee in the Richmond County Supreme Court and as a state court law clerk. Last summer, she made federal and state criminal referrals regarding potential fraud involving absentee ballots cast for then-New York City Council candidate Marko Kepi.
The Hispanic National Bar Association represents more than 67,000 legal professionals in the United States, helping advance the careers of attorneys, judges and law students and advocating for reforms that help Hispanic people across the country. James Aliaga serves as president of the association’s New York chapter. Also an associate at Calcaterra Pollack, Aliaga handles everything from litigating securities fraud class actions to representing clients pursuing lawsuits under New York’s Child Victims Act.
The LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York is one of the first of its kind in the country. Under the leadership of Shain Filcher, the association provides its members with professional development support and advocates for policies that help LGBTQ New Yorkers. In addition to serving as the organization’s board president, Filcher is also a staff attorney at Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, offering representation to LGBTQ people on issues like housing and workplace discrimination.
Natalia Martín and Karla Sanchez founded the Cafecito Network in 2006 to provide Latinas and Hispanic women in the legal profession with a space for professional development and support. The informal network now boasts more than 1,050 members who work as attorneys, judges and students, among other positions. Martín most recently worked as director of diversity and inclusion at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, while Sanchez previously served as executive deputy attorney general for economic justice in the New York state attorney general’s office.
Tom Stebbins has a vision for a less litigious New York. As head of the business-backed Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, Stebbins leads advocacy for lawsuit reform efforts in Albany. Going into 2022, some of those priorities include pushing for regulation for lenders providing loans to people pursuing lawsuits and for changes to interest rates used to evaluate judgment awards. Stebbins, who has been with the organization since 2011, previously served as project manager for Horizon Wind Energy.
Doralyn De Dios was the 2020-2021 president of the Dominican Bar Association, an organization dedicated to helping Dominican Americans in the legal profession succeed in their careers. In addition to heading the association, she worked as an assistant district attorney in the Brooklyn district attorney’s office and was board director of the Association of Black Women Attorneys. She now leads her own firm, De Dios Law, where she focuses on criminal defense and immigration.
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified Jeffrey A. Lichtman as a criminal defense attorney.
NEXT STORY: The 2022 New York City Power 100