Since laws are the foundation of government, it’s no surprise that the legal profession is inextricably involved in countless governmental functions. As lawmakers draft legislation, they rely on advice from legal counsel. City and state governments employ thousands of attorneys to assist in implementing laws. Judges deploy legal expertise as they rule on violations of the law – and decide whether to uphold or overturn them. Running for office requires the assistance of campaign attorneys, while advocacy campaigns to change local, state or federal policies hinge on an in-depth understanding of the legal implications of a particular proposal. And in recent years, the election of prosecutors and the appointment of judges has become a more partisan endeavor aimed at shifting policy through the courts.
City & State’s Law Power 100 recognizes the most influential legal professionals in the world of New York politics and government. The list features high-profile elected officials, powerful prosecutors, high-ranking appointees, partners at prominent firms, defense attorneys, public defenders, legal scholars and others in the profession who advise or oversee governmental bodies, advocate for policy changes or argue cases before our highest courts.
Black women still have ground to gain in winning governorships and U.S. Senate seats in this country, but they’ve been breaking through in other races – and among the most prominent is state Attorney General Letitia James. James, who ultimately decided against challenging Gov. Kathy Hochul in a primary, has remained focused on her work as New York’s top legal officer, securing a guilty conviction against The Trump Organization on tax fraud charges late last year while also taking on gun distributors over ghost guns, pharmacy chains over access to abortion pills and questionable players in the cryptocurrency industry.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams brought charges against disgraced FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried as part of what he called “one of the biggest financial frauds in American history” – a high bar for the office that prosecuted Bernie Madoff. Other marquee cases being investigated by his Manhattan office include those against Donald J. Trump, Ghislaine Maxwell and Rudy Giuliani. Williams, the first Black man to lead the historic district created by George Washington, has pledged to increase diversity among the more than 200 assistant district attorneys.
In February, Williams teamed up with fellow U.S. Attorney Breon Peace, who oversees New York’s Eastern District, to announce a new federal voluntary self-disclosure policy that aims to incentivize companies to report criminal conduct. Peace, who chairs the U.S. Attorney General’s White Collar Fraud Subcommittee, tackles crimes in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island. His office convicted singer R. Kelly on sexual abuse charges and secured a guilty plea from Frank James following a mass shooting in a Brooklyn subway last April.
Trini Ross, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of New York, is also a trailblazer, becoming the first Black woman in her post. She and Williams were named to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland’s 12-member Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys. Ross, who prosecutes drug, gun and fraud crimes across 17 counties in Western New York, is also part of an anti-hate crimes initiative launched following a racially motivated mass shooting at a Buffalo grocery store last spring.
The U.S. attorney for New York’s Northern District is Carla Freedman, who brings cases in a sprawling 32-county region, with offices in Albany, Syracuse, Binghamton and Plattsburgh. The first woman to run the office, Freedman has cracked down on a nursing home scam, insurance fraud and illegal immigration, among other crimes.
In a standoff over the direction of the state Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, state Senate Democrats flexed their muscles. While the conference was ultimately forced to put the nomination of Hector LaSalle as chief judge to a full vote by the Senate, the full body blocked him – mirroring the same outcome in Manhattan Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal’s Judiciary Committee. Hoylman-Sigal has also questioned a top state court official’s rationale for a security detail for former state Chief Judge Janet DiFiore. A prolific lawmaker, the senator is now pushing for training for judges on the state’s bail reforms. The Assembly Judiciary Committee is chaired by Long Island Assembly Member Charles Lavine, who presided over a December hearing on the residency status of Lester Chang, a Brooklyn Republican who was ultimately seated in the Assembly.
New York’s highest court has been under the spotlight in recent months, as Gov. Kathy Hochul’s nominee for chief judge, Hector LaSalle, came under scrutiny and was ultimately blocked on the grounds that he – and the court as a whole – leaned too conservative for a blue state. There is now what some observers describe as a clear split on the court, with acting Chief Judge Anthony Cannataro, Michael Garcia and Madeline Singas making up a conservative bloc, Rowan Wilson and Jenny Rivera constituting a progressive faction, and Shirley Troutman – the most recent appointee – in the middle as a swing vote. All eyes are now on the Commission on Judicial Nomination, which will have to vet and submit a new batch of chief judge nominees for the governor to choose from – while knowing that the state Senate Democrats could once again block anyone not deemed progressive enough.
Brendan McGuire is the chief counsel to New York City Mayor Eric Adams, an influential role in which he serves as the mayor’s top legal adviser while also overseeing 11 offices, including the Office of Labor Relations, the Conflicts of Interest Board, the Office of Contract Services and the Commission on Human Rights. The former federal prosecutor, who served under then-U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, has made City Hall’s case on such issues as the right to shelter amid an influx of migrants into the city. He’s also behind an initiative to recruit top law firms to help bolster the city’s ranks of attorneys pro bono.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams named Sylvia Hinds-Radix, a former state appellate judge in Brooklyn, as the city’s corporation counsel in early 2022, a key role in the Adams administration. She leads the city’s 850-attorney Law Department, which represents the city, the mayor, the City Council and various agencies. She has sued to stop online ghost gun retailers from selling in New York City, defeated Con Edison’s challenge to its property tax bill and launched a new effort to target unlicensed marijuana sales in the city. She also has helped craft and defend the administration’s plan to remove homeless individuals with mental illnesses from the streets.
One of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s first appointments when she took office was to name Elizabeth Fine as her chief counsel. Fine came from the Empire State Development Corp., where she served as executive vice president. Fine helped Hochul defend her ultimately rejected pick for chief judge of the Court of Appeals, and was instrumental in vetting Hochul’s choice for lieutenant governor, Antonio Delgado, after her former second-in-command, Brian Benjamin, was accused of bribery.
District attorneys wield outsized power in New York, since they can choose the types of crimes they want to crack down on while also determining how aggressively to seek convictions or embrace progressive reforms that benefit defendants. Indeed, while laws are essential to the fabric of society, their enforcement depends on prosecutors. As elected officials, New York’s 62 district attorneys represent a diverse range of voters and stakeholders. And the priorities of the voters who elect them can vary widely, from county to county and even from borough to borough within New York City. Read more about the stances of the state's most influential district attorneys here.
When Twyla Carter left her job as a director of The Bail Project to lead The Legal Aid Society last August, she became the first Black woman and first Asian American to head the influential nonprofit. A public defender at heart, she is considered a leading expert on bail reform. The Legal Aid Society sounded the alarm recently about the staffing shortages in legal defense organizations for low-income people in New York City. She has implored President Joe Biden to help secure the release of an American former public defender held in a Venezuelan prison. Carter previously served as senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project.
Perhaps the most consequential legal ruling affecting New York over the past year was the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of the state’s long-standing law that had limited gun possession outside the home – and the attorneys behind the victory were Paul Clement and Erin Murphy. The pair subsequently left Kirkland & Ellis and formed their own boutique firm after Kirkland announced it would no longer represent gun rights groups. Clement, a former U.S. solicitor general, is a leading conservative appellate attorney, appearing before the U.S. Supreme Court on a number of issues, including the Second Amendment, redistricting and immigration. Murphy, former law clerk to Chief Justice John Roberts, is considered a conservative appellate legal star and is one of the few women to regularly argue before the nation’s highest court.
Troutman Pepper is an Atlanta-based law firm with offices in major cities across the country, including in New York City, where Avi Schick is based. Schick, a former deputy attorney general in New York and past chair of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, has been in the news over the past year as The New York Times reported on yeshivas he represented that secured hundreds of millions of dollars in public funding but reportedly failed to provide a secular education. His colleague Misha Tseytlin, who’s based in Wisconsin, regularly argues before the U.S. Supreme Court. Last year, he won a pivotal case before another high court – New York’s Court of Appeals – as he successfully overturned Democrats’ gerrymandered congressional maps, which paved the way for Republican gains in the state and a narrow GOP majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Stroock’s Jerry Goldfeder, Alan Klinger and Dina Kolker have positioned themselves as go-to attorneys in New York’s public arena. Jerry Goldfeder ranks as one of the state’s top election law experts, advising candidates and helming voting rights groups on a statewide and national basis. Alan Klinger leads the firm’s representation of public employee unions, representing the United Federation of Teachers, District Council 37 and the Council of Schools Supervisors and Administrators, among others. Dina Kolker’s practice focuses on representing public employee unions, including the New York City Municipal Labor Committee in dealings with the state and local governments.
Kramer Levin’s Barry Berke has represented some of New York’s most prominent political figures, including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was investigated but avoided campaign finance charges, and former Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin, who had bribery and fraud charges against him dismissed. Yet Berke, who chairs his firm’s litigation practice, is perhaps even more well known on the national stage, having assisted both impeachment proceedings against then-President Donald Trump. The firm is also known for its real estate practice, with Jeffrey Braun among its leading experts on land use and environmental aspects of major developments. The firm’s co-chair is Gary Naftalis, a leading corporate attorney, litigator and trial lawyer.
Pitta Bishop & Del Giorno has long been a political power player in New York. Founding members Vincent Pitta and Robert Bishop have positioned the firm as one of the top lobbying operations in New York City and in Albany, with Pitta, the managing member, and Bishop, who runs the Albany office, representing clients in a wide range of industries. Pitta’s son, Vito Pitta, was a key legal and political adviser to New York City Mayor Eric Adams during his campaign. All three are part of the affiliated Pitta LLP, a labor and employment law firm, while both Pittas are also with Pitta & Baione LLP, a 9/11 compensation firm.
Last year, Mylan Denerstein was asked to step in to continue monitoring the New York City Police Department’s compliance with stop-and-frisk reforms. Her first report determined that while the department had made strides, officers were underreporting the number of stops made. Denerstein, who has been a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher for over nine years in its litigation department, is defending cannabis company Ascend against accusations brought against it by rival MedMen in a disputed medical marijuana licensing deal with the state. She also serves on the state Commission on Judicial Nomination, which is now considering potential nominees to lead the state’s highest court.
Howard Fensterman has helped grow the politically influential law practice he co-founded in 2000 to a staff of more than 115 lawyers with six offices throughout the state. In November, Hofstra University named a collaborative study space as the Abrams Fensterman Lobby in honor of the firm’s contributions to its law school. Fensterman is opinionated on the issues and has written about forming what he calls a Crime Stoppers political bloc. His former colleague, Frank Carone, served as New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ chief of staff in 2022.
A former top judge in New York, Jonathan Lippman is now of counsel at Latham & Watkins, where he advises clients on state law and serves as a leader of their pro bono legal practice. After a contentious process that resulted in the state Senate rejecting Gov. Kathy Hochul’s first pick for chief judge of the Court of Appeals, Lippman said it was a bumpy road that ultimately played out as it should have. Lippman, who is chair of the commission to close Rikers Island, continues to support its decommissioning.
The New York State Trial Lawyers Association has long been one of the most powerful advocacy organizations in Albany, influencing state policymakers on a wide range of issues, including defending legislation protecting construction workers, pushing for a measure to allow families of victims of fatal tragedies to sue for emotional suffering and even assessing potential nominees to be chief judge of the state Court of Appeals. Two key players that run its political action committee, LawPAC, are Jeffrey Lichtman of Trolman Glaser Corley & Lichtman PC (who’s also a past president of NYSTLA) and Jeffrey Bloom of Gair Gair Conason Rubinowitz Bloom Hershenhorn Steigman & Mackauf.
Greenberg Traurig is one of New York’s top law firms directly involved with New York City and state politics and government, whether it’s lobbying on behalf of a range of industry players and interest groups or advising on land use matters in the influential real estate sector. Edward Wallace, a former New York City Council member and Legal Aid Society attorney, is now a go-to consultant on major real estate projects and government service providers. Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick, who was the first Latina appointed to New York’s highest court, has continued to be involved in public matters, chairing the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on the Judiciary during the de Blasio years and chairing the New York State Board of Law Examiners. She also spoke out unsuccessfully in support of Hector LaSalle’s nomination as chief judge of the state Court of Appeals. India Sneed, who previously worked at City Hall, specializes in government law and policy, election law and investigations.
For more than 20 years attorney Donna Lieberman has been executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, whose recent cases have included a claim of racial discrimination against the New York City school system and a lawsuit against the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision for denying an information request concerning accusations of abuse. Lieberman has also been outspoken against police access to Ring cameras as a surveillance tool, saying they are unreliable and lead to unfair racial profiling.
Yaakov M. Roth and Michael Dreeben, both top appellate attorneys in Washington, D.C., found themselves at the center of New York politics last year when they represented former Cuomo adviser Joe Percoco and Buffalo developer Louis Ciminelli, in their respective appeals following fraud convictions in the bombshell Buffalo Billion case. Roth has developed expertise in overturning public corruption verdicts, having successfully represented former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell in his case and former Chris Christie deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly in the Bridgegate case. Dreeben is no stranger to the U.S. Supreme Court either, arguing before the high court more than 100 times.
Recognized as a trial lawyer whose savvy courtroom demeanor and command of the law has garnered him a long list of awards and recognitions, Randy Mastro was lured from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher last summer after more than 20 years with the firm to become partner at King & Spalding. Mastro, a former New York City deputy mayor, has won high-profile cases for former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in the Bridgegate scandal and argued for McDonald’s when it fought New York City’s trans fat ban.
Once described by The Washington Post as “the most feared attorney of the #MeToo movement,” Debra Katz’s involvement in any case raises its visibility. Katz changed the trajectory of New York politics in 2018 through her representation of Michelle Manning Barish, one of the first women to come forward with allegations of abuse by former state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Katz, whose firm has offices in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., remains a high-profile player in New York, representing Charlotte Bennett, a former state aide who is suing former Gov. Andrew Cuomo over allegations of sexual harassment.
A top criminal defense lawyer at his eponymous firm, Benjamin Brafman has represented some of the most high-profile defendants to ever grace the tabloid press, including Harvey Weinstein, Sean Combs, Martin Shkreli and Michael Jackson – all famous for their accomplishments before they became infamous for their legal issues. Brafman insists that most of his clients are under-the-radar-types, all of whom deserve to have their constitutional rights defended in court.
As New York’s acting chief administrative judge, Tamiko Amaker is in charge of the day-to-day operations of the entire New York state judiciary system. Bail reform has become a contentious issue in the state, and Amaker is pushing back on the idea put forth by Gov. Kathy Hochul and state legislators that judges need even more training on the new legislation. She also testified that the proposed state budget will help get the courts back to pre-pandemic production levels with over 110,000 backlogged cases in the system. Amaker has come under scrutiny recently for her efforts to defend taxpayer-funded security for former state Chief Judge Janet DiFiore.
As a senior trial attorney in the Brooklyn district attorney's office, Arthur Aidala prosecuted his fair share of criminal cases, but for years he’s been on the other side of the fence as a criminal defense lawyer at Aidala Bertuna & Kamins. He’s known for his debonair style, whether as a commentator on Fox News, on his AM 970 radio show or at press conferences for big-name clients. Described by The New York Times as “the nice-guy lawyer for America’s tabloid villains,” he has defended Harvey Weinstein, Rudy Giuliani and Ghislaine Maxwell. His firm recently teamed up with Gotham Government Relations.
Last November, Barbara S. Jones, a former federal judge who is currently a partner in the New York law office of Bracewell, was picked to serve as federal monitor overseeing the Trump organization’s finances during the successful tax fraud case against the former president’s company. She has particular experience in this role, having been called upon to weigh in on a number of complex cases in the past, including arbitrating the NFL’s punishment of Ray Rice after the star running back was accused of domestic violence.
When big organizations need expert help with security or investigations, Guidepost Solutions’ Bart Schwartz can bring in a multidisciplinary team that has worked on everything from Super Bowl safety to anti-money-laundering efforts for a cryptocurrency company. The firm is also assisting the University of Michigan and the Southern Baptist Convention after both were rocked by sexual abuse scandals. Schwartz, a former assistant U.S. attorney, is the federal monitor overseeing the New York City Housing Authority as it fixes deep-rooted problems in its apartments.
Nationally respected attorneys and thought leaders, Brad Karp and Jeh Johnson’s influence extends beyond Paul Weiss’ Midtown offices. Karp, the firm’s chair, has made a mark as a social justice leader, including positioning Paul Weiss’ pro bono efforts in this area and co-authoring a Fortune op-ed last year calling on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate advertising practices by gun manufacturers. Karp also serves on the executive committee of the pro-business Partnership for New York City. Johnson, who served as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security in the Obama administration, leads the firm’s cybersecurity practice and serves on a number of prominent boards, including Lockheed Martin, U.S. Steel and Columbia University. A few years ago he oversaw a racial justice review of the state court system.
Jim Walden has taken on the mob and landed on Vladimir Putin’s travel ban list for representing a whistleblower in the Russian Olympic doping scandal. His boutique law firm has been on the rise since he went his own way in 2015, expanding upward and outward by snagging new digs in New York City while moving into other metros like Philadelphia. Walden recently represented activists in a suit that got the Assembly redistricting map thrown out, forcing them to be redrawn for the 2024 election cycle. Another key partner at the firm is Milton Williams Jr., a former federal prosecutor who co-chaired Andrew Cuomo’s Moreland Commission on Public Corruption and last summer was nominated by New York City Mayor Eric Adams to chair the Conflicts of Interest Board.
Deborah Archer wields her skills as a civil rights lawyer, educator and administrator for a number of different organizations. She is a law professor and director of the Civil Rights Clinic at New York University and a board member of the National Center for Law and Economic Justice. But she is most visible – and exerts the most influence – as president of the ACLU, where she travels around the country to speak about the organization’s work protecting rights and freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
Cozen O’Connor is a well-connected firm in New York political and governmental circles, thanks to veteran attorneys like Ken Fisher and Stuart Shorenstein. Fisher, a former member of the New York City Council, is an expert on real estate development, land use and other legal aspects of local government in the city. Stuart Shorenstein helped found the practice group Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies and has served as chair of its New York City and state practice. Shorenstein recently elevated Rose Christ and Katie Schwab to succeed him as co-chairs of the New York practice group.
Trailblazers for women in the law, Elizabeth Holtzman and Belinda Schwartz continue to make a mark on New York City. Holtzman, a former member of Congress, Brooklyn district attorney and city comptroller, has become a household name to many in recent years as an expert on presidential impeachment, honed from her time as a House Judiciary Committee member during Watergate. She also mounted a comeback bid for Congress in a crowded primary for an open seat ultimately won by Rep. Dan Goldman. Schwartz, one of the few women nationally to lead a commercial real estate law practice, is at the center of many of the city’s top land and real estate deals. Among Schwartz’s accomplishments was orchestrating one of the largest land swaps in Manhattan history.
The chair and managing partner of Davis Polk, Neil Barr has announced several new attorneys and an expansion in the past year. In January, Davis Polk announced the opening of a new European Union antitrust practice based out of Brussels. In opening the new office, Barr recruited two EU antitrust experts to the firm, part of a growth in the firm’s legal bench. On this side of the pond, Barr maintains an active civic life in New York – including serving on the Partnership for New York City’s executive board.
A powerhouse trio in real estate law, Jon Mechanic, Melanie Meyers and David Karnovsky have been involved in some of the most high-profile commercial real estate transactions in New York City. Mechanic, the firm’s real estate department chair, has represented multiple corporate headquarters transactions around the city. Meyers and Karnovsky are both former general counsels for the Department of City Planning, boosting the firm’s knowledge of the intricacies of the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure process. The firm landed a major hire last fall when Anita Laremont, the former chair of the New York City Planning Commission, came on as a partner in the real estate practice.
In his nearly 11-year tenure as dean and president of New York Law School, Anthony Crowell implemented innovative programs to shepherd the institution into the 21st century. A respected leader who formerly served as counsel to then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Crowell was just appointed to the board of the New York City Planning Commission and also chairs the review committee that vets appointees to the state’s Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government. He has also raised more than $25 million in the past 18 months to support programs for public interest law, women in the law and diversity, and was recently elected to the executive committee of the Association of American Law Schools.
When Boyd Johnson jumped ship from billionaire George Soros’s investment firm two years ago, he returned to WilmerHale to run its financial institutions and transactional practices; he previously led its white-collar defense practice group. Before that, Johnson spent time in public service as deputy U.S. attorney in Manhattan. After his stint as general counsel at Soros’s fund, he said he gained a new perspective on what it takes for WilmerHale to win (and earn) $1,000 an hour business from financial companies. The firm last year also brought on as partner Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York who made a legacy for himself securing a long list of convictions of New York politicians as a federal prosecutor. The firm also counts Brendan McGuire, chief counsel to New York City Mayor Eric Adams, among its alumni.
Michael Waldman is president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, a policy institute with a special focus on voting rights, money in politics, criminal justice reform and constitutional law – issues that seem more pressing than ever. Waldman, who served as chief speechwriter for then-President Bill Clinton, has argued for fixing the debt ceiling crisis by tying it to spending, and for the urgent need for police reform in the wake of the beating death of Tyre Nichols in Memphis.
The head of Skadden’s real estate practice, Neil Rock has been a go-to real estate attorney for government agencies involved in some of the most notable public infrastructure projects in New York in recent years. Rock represented the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in the redevelopment of John F. Kennedy International Airport and Empire State Development in the development of the new Moynihan Station. He has also worked on the development of Barclays Center, the renovation of Penn Station and the expansion of the Javits Center.
Sherry Levin Wallach and Richard C. Lewis lead New York state’s top lawyers’ group. Levin Wallach, the deputy executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Westchester County, has focused the bar association on issues related to mental health, cryptocurrency, criminal practice modernization, local public lawyering ethics and the U.S. territories. Her interest in the U.S. territories stems from her friendship with Stacey Plaskett, the U.S. Virgin Islands’ delegate to Congress. Lewis is an attorney at Hinman, Howard & Kattell and a community leader in Binghamton, having led Broome County’s Bar Association, Hillel Academy, Arena Board and Legal Assistance Corp.
Susan J. Kohlmann, a partner at Jenner & Block in the law firm’s content, media and entertainment practice, has won some notable cases, including a trademark dispute between a local Alabama business and producers of the MTV reality show “Floribama Shore.” Last year, she was elected president of the New York City Bar Association, which represents over 24,000 members. Kohlmann is also on the board of Legal Services NYC, a pro bono legal services provider for low-income people in New York City.
Known for her expertise in proxy wars, mergers and crisis management, Faiza Saeed is only the 16th presiding partner in Cravath, Swaine & Moore’s 200-year history – and the first woman in the role. Succumbing to market pressure, Saeed reassessed the company’s industry-setting pay structure to make it more competitive. This year, the firm successfully helped Disney defend itself in a proxy fight against an activist investor and opened an office in Washington, D.C. – only its second in the U.S.
A former high school basketball star who once played against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Buffalo-based attorney Terry Connors has had a number of slam dunk victories in the courtroom, winning high-profile cases and an award or two along the way. His boutique firm, Connors LLP, considers itself scrappy and tenacious. Connors is now going to bat for the families of victims in the racist Buffalo supermarket mass shooting, advocating for laws that allow for claims of pain and suffering by the relatives.
Michael Cardozo quietly retired from Proskauer Rose, but he hasn’t left New York’s public sphere. New York City’s longest-serving corporation counsel and an accomplished commercial litigator, Cardozo is now a commissioner on the newly revamped state Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government. Paul Salvatore is a well-known labor law attorney with a focus on New York City’s real estate and construction industries. Salvatore represents the Real Estate Board of New York and the Realty Advisory Board of Labor Relations.
Eric Katz and Miguelina Camilo are the top lawyers for the state legislative leadership in New York. Katz, a longtime Senate Democratic attorney, took over as Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins' top lawyer in late 2021, succeeding Shontell Smith. Camilo, a former Bronx commissioner on the New York City Board of Elections and past president of the Dominican Bar Association, took over as Speaker Carl Heastie’s top lawyer in September. She fell short in a high-profile primary fight against state Sen. Gustavo Rivera, despite earning the backing of the Bronx Democratic Party.
Paul DerOhannesian spent the first 22 years of his career in the Albany County District Attorney’s Office – including time with the Special Assault Unit – before he went into private practice, founding DerOhannesian & DerOhannesian with his father in 1979. A criminal defense attorney and sex crime expert, DerOhannesian, who is often called upon to comment on cases for the media, was on the defense team of convicted sex trafficker and NXIVM cult leader Keith Raniere.
Cyrus Vance Jr., the former three-term Manhattan district attorney who prosecuted high-profile cases against Harvey Weinstein and former President Donald Trump and helped bust underage porn rings in New York City, joined the global cybersecurity practice at Baker McKenzie last year. Since then, Vance has been growing the division, adding attorneys and pushing for more public-private partnerships to fight online attacks. Vance also helps clients keep up with rapidly changing rules governing cybersecurity.
Kevin Cross has served since 2015 as the managing partner and chair of Lippes Mathias, a Buffalo-based law firm that’s among the biggest in Western New York. Cross is a litigator who represents a wide range of clients, including businesses, nonprofits and political organizations, while also handling environmental matters. The firm also has a growing presence in Albany, where it recently recruited Karl Sleight, who once ran the state’s ethics commission and is an expert in casinos, health care and other policy areas. A well-known veteran of the firm is Dennis Vacco, the former state attorney general who now co-leads Lippes Mathias’ government and corporate investigations practice. Last year, the firm cracked the top 300 firms in the country by the number of attorneys, according to the National Law Journal.
Among the most well-known attorneys practicing today, David Boies founded Boies Schiller Flexner within days of leaving white-shoe law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore in 1997. He hit home runs with cases like NY Yankees v. Major League Baseball, United States v. Microsoft Corp. and Westmoreland v. CBS. He has also represented Harvey Weinstein and Theranos. He recently filed a civil suit against FTX and settled a sex scandal case against Prince Andrew.
Lisa Rivera spent 20 years at the New York Legal Assistance Group in a number of positions, including managing attorney, before being appointed president last year – the first Latina to hold the position. The nonprofit recently joined in a lawsuit against New York City for failing to process food stamp applications within the legal timeframe, leaving people without access to groceries. Rivera added her voice to calls to reopen Midtown Community Court, a specialized problem-solving court system. New York Legal Assistance Group also won a victory for immigration advocates when it sued to make public federal appeals to decisions made by immigration judges.
Windels Marx has attracted some big-name talent to its ranks, including Anthony Coscia, Matthew Daus and Sanjay Mody, all partners at the firm.
First nominated to the board of Amtrak by then-President Barack Obama, Coscia now serves as its chair. In November, Amtrak kicked off its $16 billion Gateway rail tunnel project to repair the existing tunnel between New York and New Jersey, and add a new two-track tunnel to ease congestion. Daus, the former chair of the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission, now leads the practice’s transportation group, advising clients on regulatory compliance, licensing and public policy. Mody co-founded the firm’s infrastructure development and finance group. Previously a senior adviser at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Mody counseled the board on development projects, including the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site.
A leading real estate attorney, Jeffrey Citron is recognized as an expert on negotiations for industrial revenue bond financing. Citron’s politically connected firm counts such notable figures as former Assembly Member Keith Wright, the chair of the Manhattan Democratic Party, and Sid Davidoff, who has held a number of governmental roles over the years. Citron, who has represented a number of industrial development agency boards, has served as Friars Club board member and as counsel to a group seeking to develop the Northeast’s first Museum of Civil Rights.
For more than 30 years, Sean Doolan has been representing health care providers, tech companies and insurance firms in Albany. When the pandemic hit, he focused on influencing lawmakers crafting legislation affecting nursing homes. His firm, which raised money for Gov. Kathy Hochul’s gubernatorial campaign, is also lobbying for a super PAC (whose members included embattled crypto exchange FTX) that opposes a proposed bill to place a moratorium on cryptocurrency mining in the state over energy usage concerns.
A common thread among the founding partners of the law offices of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP is their defense of individuals and groups against institutions, companies and government in civil rights and ethics cases. Richard Emery has a history of serving on integrity and reform committees for various New York state governors. Jonathan Abady started his career as an attorney with the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem. Matthew D. Brinckerhoff began his career in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York and worked for South Brooklyn Legal Services. Andrew G. Celli Jr. was previously chief of the Civil Rights Bureau in then-state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’s office, where he crafted a report on the New York City Police Department’s stop-and-frisk practices, questioning their effectiveness amid racial bias. The firm recently won a $5.5 million award for a Syracuse man wrongfully jailed for a 1981 rape after his conviction was overturned. In 2020, the firm brought on two new named partners – Earl Ward and Ilann Maazel. Ward, an accomplished trial attorney, is board chair for the Bronx Defenders and Housing Works. Maazel is known for winning #MeToo cases as well as representing clients in disability rights and wrongful conviction cases.
Civil rights lawyer Frederick K. Brewington handles cases in a number of different areas, including employment discrimination, affordable housing and voting rights. Brewington was lead counsel in a case challenging Hempstead’s at-large voting system, calling it discriminatory. The case was won in 1997, reversing the practice in the most populous town on Long Island. Last year, legislators offered a settlement to a Nassau County police officer Brewington is representing in a 10-year-old case against the department.
In early 2021, Connie Cahill was elected to lead Barclay Damon, a major upstate law firm with offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Boston, New Haven and Toronto. A top public finance expert, Cahill often advises on economic development projects and has worked on bond plans with the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York and the state Environmental Facilities Corp. Her firm also counts Assembly Minority Leader William Barclay among its partners.
In 1992, Michael Zetlin co-founded Zetlin & De Chiara to provide legal services to the construction industry throughout the design and development process. Zetlin and his firm are regularly recognized for their expertise in construction law. His company even advised contractors working on projects in Russia on how to proceed after the invasion of Ukraine. Zetlin, who once served as general counsel to the New York Building Congress, is an adjunct professor at Columbia University and co-editor of a book on New York construction law.
If it’s true that all politics is local, then Thomas Garry is the man you want to call for help winning elections and weighing in on contested races on Long Island. He has also advised the Biden and Clinton presidential campaigns and has defended former President Barack Obama. As managing partner for 165-year-old Harris Beach’s Long Island office, he’s involved in important development and zoning projects representing municipalities and serves as special counsel to towns and local agencies.
In January, David Patton was in the unenviable position of defending Sayfullo Saipov for a 2017 bike path attack that left eight dead. Patton’s organization, Federal Defenders of New York, ensures everyone in the Eastern District of New York and the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is afforded their right to representation when charged with a federal crime regardless of their ability to pay. Patton also teaches at New York University School of Law and at Gideon’s Promise, a nonprofit dedicated to training new public defenders.
Considered one of the foremost experts on the First Amendment, Victor Kovner has been in practice for 60 years helping documentarians, advertisers and others in media to navigate the nuances of free speech, including a vital part of the law that protects internet service providers from liability for the content created by their users. Kovner, who joined Davis Wright Tremaine LLP in 1998, helped establish the firm’s New York office. A pioneer in the industry, Kovner is also co-founder of the Media Law Resource Center, which provides tools for attorneys in communications.
A former journalist, Lourdes M. Rosado discovered her calling was to spotlight injustice within the law. Rosado spent more than seven years as chief of the Civil Rights Bureau in the state attorney general’s office before taking the reins at LatinoJustice PRLDEF. In addition to her advocacy for the diversification of the federal judiciary, she has consistently called for overturning 100-year-old U.S. Supreme Court decisions that limit the constitutional rights of residents living in U.S. territories like Puerto Rico.
McGregor Smyth is a natural choice to lead New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, an organization dedicated to advocacy and legal services for underserved and marginalized communities. Right after law school, Smyth joined The Bronx Defenders, a public defense organization where he was the founder and managing attorney of the civil action practice, for a 12-year stint. New York Lawyers for the Public Interest is currently involved in ongoing actions against New York City over its forced hospitalization of mentally ill people using police officers.
Karol V. Mason has a history of working to reform the legal system from the inside, including time spent leading the federal Office of Justice Programs during the Obama administration. As president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice since 2017, Mason works to produce a new generation of law professionals who put justice and diversity first. Last year, the school opened its first LGBTQ resource center, and 10 professors won grants to develop courses on race and ethnic studies.
Considered an expert on ethics and discipline, Robert H. Tembeckjian heads the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, an agency that judges the judges. Tembeckjian maintains that judges must be fair, impartial and courteous on the bench – or faith in the justice system will be lost. A recent commission inquiry into a Brooklyn judge’s racist and homophobic remarks led to her resignation. Tembeckjian has called for a system of checks on the federal judiciary similar to what exists on the state level.
Evan Krinick has been deeply involved in some of Long Island’s biggest legal issues since he joined Rivkin Radler in 1987. He defended the region’s public electrical utility after it took over the embattled private power company and dealt with the fallout from Superstorm Sandy. Krinick, who said artificial intelligence and analytics will allow attorneys to predict client needs instead of react to them, welcomed more than a dozen new attorneys and elected eight new partners to the firm in the last year.
Ali Najmi has been active in taxi issues across New York City, representing drivers who were assaulted by passengers and representing taxi drivers in issues to revamp the for-hire driver industry in the city. In 2019, Najmi was appointed by New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams to a task force to study the prices of city taxi medallions. An election attorney as well, Najmi has represented reform groups, including the New Kings Democrats, in high-profile cases against the Brooklyn Democratic Party.
Considered a leader in Western New York business and law, Kevin M. Hogan has been managing partner of Phillips Lytle LLP for six years, where he continues to bring his litigation and environmental law acumen to clients. He is helping the firm grow via expansion into Chicago – its first office outside New York – adding more than 26 attorneys to its slate last year alone. His firm oversaw the state-required environmental report for the new Buffalo Bills football stadium planned to start construction this year.
A pioneer in trying workplace sexual harassment and discrimination cases, Davida Perry’s work predates the #MeToo movement in empowering victims to speak out against abuse and misogyny. She worked with her father, who inspired her to take up the law, on a landmark case that established a precedent for sexual harassment cases based on victim testimony alone. She also represents former New York City school administrator Leslie Chislett in her suit accusing the city Department of Education and then-schools Chancellor Richard Carranza of discriminating against her.
A top land use attorney and a longtime political player in Westchester County, Mark Weingarten has been at the center of several projects in recent months. In February, Weingarten won a temporary permit for The Summit Club at Armonk to continue to operate as a golf course during a town review of a proposed 72-unit condo development. Last year, he worked on a development project in Yorktown to build 250 age-restricted apartments and a project to replace the White Plains Mall with a new mixed-use development.
Jason Lilien is a leading attorney in the nonprofit arena, representing organizations across the country and weighing on the issues they face. His practice counts a range of nonprofit organizations among its clients, including cultural institutions, health care providers and philanthropies as well as corporations with charitable arms. He previously served as chief of the state attorney general office’s Charities Bureau, a key regulator for New York nonprofits and helped draft the 2013 New York Nonprofit Revitalization Act. He has also assisted the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. and the 9/11 Memorial & Museum.
Center for Constitutional Rights Executive Director Vincent Warren’s expertise and experience on racial injustice stretches back to his time as a monitor for South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings to examine abuses committed during the apartheid period. He was also an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union and The Legal Aid Society. Warren has been a vocal opponent of New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ policies on policing. Last year, he received an honorary doctoral degree from Marymount Manhattan College.
Working out of Farrell Fritz’s Albany office, Mark Ustin is the firm’s resident health care policy expert. His long list of credentials includes serving as general counsel for the state Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century; as assistant counsel to former Gov. George Pataki; and as counsel to the state Senate Health Committee. He has written about the importance of social determinants like language as being just as important to health outcomes as insurance coverage.
A bankruptcy law professor at NYU School of Law, Troy McKenzie was chosen as the law school’s first Black dean last year. A graduate of the NYU School of Law, McKenzie was previously a law clerk for then-U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and worked in private practice before joining the law school’s faculty. He also spent two years during the Obama administration as a deputy assistant attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel. McKenzie has identified faculty recruitment and increasing student aid as immediate priorities.
Erica Buckley is a preeminent resource on legal matters when it comes to rules governing condos and co-ops in New York. Buckley often comments on legislation affecting the sector, like a new law allowing owners of smaller rental buildings to convert their properties or expiring tax incentives for multifamily construction in New York City. Buckley, who has been a partner at Nixon Peabody in its condos and co-ops division for almost six years, was once chief of the Real Estate Finance Bureau of the state attorney general’s office.
A top personal injury attorney focused on representing government agencies and private businesses, Claire Rush showed in recent months that she can play the Albany inside game. The president of the Defense Association of New York, Rush worked to get Gov. Kathy Hochul to veto the Grieving Families Act, arguing that the bill was rushed through the Legislature and lawmakers were ignoring the constitutional due process rights of those sued and needed more input from local governments in crafting a final bill.
Steve Cohen came to law after a successful career in publishing, and he has made waves in the profession. In December, Cohen announced a class-action lawsuit against New York City and its health insurance provider on behalf of 163,000 retired city workers who Cohen argued were overcharged in health insurance co-payments. Sara Haviva Mark, a former special counsel in the state attorney general’s office, centers her practice on issues related to health care equity, taking on multiple cases to expand access to health care.
Milton Tingling followed in his father’s footsteps to the bench: The elder Tingling was the founder of what would become the Metropolitan Black Bar Association. Milton Tingling, known to be a thoughtful and thorough judge, is the state’s first Black county clerk. Tingling’s job involves approving jury summonses and keeping court records. By default of his position, he’s a named defendant in a case to change the law that bars convicted felons from jury duty – something Tingling has said he supported in the past.
Since he joined Kostelanetz LLP over a decade ago, Claude M. Millman has established the law firm as a go-to representative for contractors with New York City and state government agencies and offices. Millman, who previously oversaw environmental and racketeering cases as an assistant U.S. attorney in New York’s Southern District and was a partner at Proskauer, also was a deputy commissioner of the Business Integrity Commission and led the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services.
Two of the top social justice attorneys in New York City are Arthur Schwartz and Laura D. Barbieri, making their impact felt at City Hall and at the old Tweed Courthouse. A well-known progressive advocate in Manhattan, Schwartz focuses his practice on labor and employment law, serving as counsel to several of New York City’s unions. Barbieri, a former state Charities Bureau chief, is an education law attorney. She was the lead attorney in a high-profile case against the East Ramapo Central School District and last year represented teachers and parents in a lawsuit that aimed unsuccessfully to overturn cuts to New York City’s education budget.
The first Ecuadorian American elected to the state Supreme Court, Carmen Velasquez presided over the association representing the judges of the state’s main trial court. Velasquez made news in January when she called on the state’s courts to move back to virtual proceedings, citing a rise in COVID-19 cases. A former civil court judge, Velasquez was previously an assistant district attorney in the Bronx and a deputy department advocate with New York City’s Department of Sanitation before becoming a judge.
After a 15-year career as a federal prosecutor, Glen G. McGorty went to Crowell & Moring’s White Collar and Regulatory Enforcement Group and its Financial Services Practice, litigating cases brought against clients in official investigations from the local to the international level. McGorty is the federal monitor on corruption for the New York City District Council of Carpenters. He is also on the federal monitoring team overseeing the United Auto Workers following corruption charges brought against the union that forced the first referendum election last year.
When federal prosecutor Moira Kim Penza first read about NXIVM in The New York Times in 2017, she began an investigation that ended with putting cult leader Keith Raniere behind bars for life. Six years later, she is a partner at boutique litigation firm Wilkinson Stekloff, where she represents a list of powerful clients that includes drugmaker Allergan, which settled an antitrust lawsuit. She also regularly comments in the media on major cases.
An election attorney for New York Republicans, John Ciampoli led the GOP charge in a court fight last year to overturn the state’s new absentee ballot laws, including provisions to allow anyone to claim a temporary illness in order to vote absentee due to coronavirus-related fears. Ciampoli, a former Nassau County attorney, is the longtime chief counsel to the campaign arm for state Senate Republicans and a former counsel to the Nassau University Medical Center’s board. He also notched a legal victory in getting Lester Chang seated in the Assembly despite residency questions.
Marc Landis manages almost every aspect of real estate transactions for clients of Phillips Nizer, including acquisitions, sales and foreclosures in multifamily and commercial real estate. His work takes him all over the globe representing the firm in the International Council of Shopping Centers, a trade organization of retail property owners. He’s also on the executive board of Ally Law, an international group of law firms. His firm’s successes include successfully defending rock icon Led Zeppelin in a copyright infringement case.
The former top cop on Rikers Island, Sarena Townsend was fired from her job as a deputy commissioner in the New York City Department of Correction shortly after the Adams administration took office last year. Townsend, who was named to the watchdog role by the city jail system’s federal monitor, has not curtailed her criticisms of the way Rikers is run, arguing that the jail staff unions wield too much power over Correction Department brass. Townsend has not been shy in her public criticism of the mayor, either.
Any aspiring judge in New York City should know Tracee Davis’ name. As judiciary committee chair for the New York City Bar Association, she leads the association’s review panel for those seeking city, state and federal judgeships, along with candidates for district attorney and U.S. attorney. A partner at Seyfarth Shaw, Davis is a commercial litigator and former court attorney in the commercial division of Manhattan Supreme Court. She previously chaired the Commercial & Federal Litigation Section of the New York State Bar Association.
As dean of the New York State Judicial Institute, Kathie E. Davidson leads training and continuing education programs for judges and court staff. Prior to becoming dean in 2021, Davidson oversaw the courts in the Hudson Valley, the first Black person to become an administrative judge outside of New York City. Now a state Supreme Court justice, Davidson was previously a longtime Westchester Family Court judge and has been active on committees addressing child welfare and racial and ethnic fairness in the courts.
A frequent TV presence over the last several years as Andrew Cuomo’s attorney, Rita Glavin has been a combative defender of the famously pugilistic former governor as he faced sexual harassment abuse allegations and other scandals. A former acting head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, Glavin is no stranger to tough cases and high-profile clients. She recently took on the case of a former court interpreter, Sergey Shestakov, who is charged with violating U.S. sanctions toward Russia. Glavin has been publicly vocal for Shestakov, saying her client is not aligned with the Kremlin.
Tom Stebbins leads the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, an association committed to changing the playing field in what members consider one of the most litigious states in the country. The alliance works to reform what it sees as problems with the civil justice system and predatory practices against litigants. Stebbins recently said Gov. Kathy Hochul was right to veto the Grieving Families Act, which would have allowed courts to consider the grief of families when determining payouts regardless of the deceased’s income-earning potential.
A litigator who has won billions in settlements for his clients, Muhammad U. Faridi is a partner at Patterson Belknap, where he excels at complicated commercial cases. Last year alone, Faridi won a $2 billion settlement in a trade secret lawsuit for a cloud computing company and another $1.84 billion stemming from the 2008 financial crisis. In February, Faridi was selected to serve on an NYPD oversight committee to regulate police policies investigating political activity – the first Muslim American appointed to the panel.
A noted scholar on courts and judicial politics, Vincent Bonventre has been widely quoted in recent months in the battle over the unsuccessful nomination of Hector LaSalle to be state chief judge. The author of New York Court Watcher and founder and director of the Center for Judicial Process, Bonventre is a frequent commentator on federal and state court rulings and practices, including the debate over ethics rules concerning U.S. Supreme Court justices and their families.
Dwayne Andrews has spent eight years at Patrick B. Jenkins & Associates’ well-connected lobbying shop in Albany, which he joined after stints at Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies and Blank Rome, at a private educational company and as a congressional staffer for then-Rep. Floyd Flake. At Patrick B. Jenkins & Associates, Andrews now serves as counsel while also assisting on policy matters. He also serves as the co-chair of the Legislative Committee of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association.
With his own law office focusing on real estate transactions, wills, trusts and probate, Carl Forbes Jr. is also of counsel to Hamilton Clarke LLP, a boutique New York City litigation firm. In 2022, Forbes, the current president of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association, said the annual theme of his administration is “Expanding our Reach” by broadening its education, outreach and legislative agendas. Until recently, Forbes was also an adjunct professor at the New York Law School.
James Aliaga, an associate at Calcaterra Pollack, has moved up the ranks of the Hispanic National Bar Association from Region II regional president representing the state to national vice president for regions and affiliates. The new Region II regional president is Patricia Rodriguez, a senior director at Ankura. Aliaga, a former assistant district attorney in Brooklyn, focuses his practice on commercial and securities litigation. Rodriguez is an advocate for diversity in the law, authoring multiple articles for American Bar Association publications on the subject.
A leading advocate for women in the law across the state, Deborah Rosenthal presides over the nation’s largest organization for female attorneys. During hearings last fall on the future of virtual court, Rosenthal, who owns Rosenthal, Attorneys at Law, in Great Neck, testified to court officials that virtual court has helped female attorneys achieve a better work-life balance and allows for clients to appear in court for many matters without the need to arrange child care or take time off from work.
William Ng, who practices on Long Island at Littler, where he represents employers in all matters concerning labor law, is the current president of the Asian American Bar Association of New York. The association counts over 1,500 members, including attorneys, judges, professors and law students. Ng has been a member of the organization for over 10 years and is a founding co-chair of its labor and employment law committee.
Anthony Perrotto has been involved in the LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York since 2015, starting as a legal clinic volunteer and joining the board in 2015. Perrotto became the association’s board president last year. A graduate of New York Law School and a former assistant district attorney in the Bronx, Perrotto is currently principal law clerk to state Supreme Court Justice David J. Kirschner in Queens. The organization works on advocacy and legal issues impacting the LGBTQ community along with running in-person and virtual legal clinics.
In providing legal aid to low-income transgender, gender-nonconforming and intersex people of color, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project helps to codify the rights of anyone to self-identify without harassment. In addition to making sure her organization is a safe space for all as director of client services, part of Stefanie Rivera’s job is to teach judges, court officers and lawyers how to respectfully work with transgender and nonbinary individuals. Rivera also helped found Fierce, an organization for LGBTQ youth of color.
Currently a labor relations manager overseeing investigations at clothing retailer Gap, Megha Jain is also president of the South Asian Bar Association of New York. The association applauded Jain for her distinction as part of the Adams administration's public engagement committee NYC Speaks that helps raise issues and proposed policy changes to help New Yorkers with housing, criminal justice, immigration, health and wellness and public safety. Jain, who had previous stops at Disney and Morgan Stanley, has written opinion pieces on how to improve diversity in law schools and close the pay gap for women in the legal industry.
Lejla Hadzic is the leader of the Muslim Bar Association of New York. A compliance counsel at Dow Jones, Hadzic previously served as an attorney at Hoguet Newman Regal & Kenney and, prior to that, at Clifford Chance. The association has been active in the past year on a number of fronts, including raising funds for earthquake relief in Turkey and Syria and filing an amicus brief in Walker v. Baldwin, a 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals religious freedom case.
Correction: An earlier version of this post misstated the Adams administration committee to which Megha Jain was appointed.
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