Joseph R. Bjarnson is a Partner with the Firm and a member of the Firm's Litigation Group and Energy, Environment, and Resources Practice Group. Since joining the Firm in 2012, Mr. Bjarnson has earned a reputation as a hardworking attorney, with an ability to work on a variety of complex matters in different practice areas. Joe has also made significant contributions to his community and devoted countless hours to pro bono causes.
What was your background before joining the Firm?
Before joining Sahn Ward, I worked for a large New York City law firm as a corporate litigation associate. My practice concentrated on complex commercial litigation involving healthcare, banking, finance and insurance. After working in New York City for a few years, I decided to transition to a firm on Long Island, where my family was living. My work with the Firm also provides me more of an opportunity to have direct contact with clients to better assist with their particular matters.
What areas do you practice in?
I practice primarily in the areas of commercial litigation, zoning and land use. I have significant experience working with non-profit institutions to achieve their land use and litigation objectives. In addition, I work with one of the Firm's Partners, Miriam Villani, who leads the Firm's Energy, Environment, and Resources Practice Group.
What is the key to success in handling complex and substantial matters?
Having a comprehensive understanding and knowledge of our clients' overall institutional goals and objectives is important in achieving a successful outcome. In working with our clients in the healthcare industry, I have found that having an understanding of the advancements in the industry and the means for providing groundbreaking care have been vital to accomplishing our clients' goals. Having such an understanding, whether it is in land use or litigation matters, has allowed us to successfully work with individuals at the highest municipal and administrative levels, as well as attorneys at other firms. This is gratifying work because, when the project is completed, we have accomplished a result that will help people with their healthcare needs.
What particular trends or themes do you see in connection with large institutional clients?
Particularly in the healthcare sector, we are seeing significant advancements and improvements in the way healthcare services are provided to the community. These advancements have resulted in, among other things, new medical centers, new specialized laboratories, and expansion of existing facilities that require unique and substantial regulatory and zoning approvals.
Tell us about your pro bono work that you were recognized for.
After I joined the Firm, I served as the Firm's lead counsel in David et. al. v. Signal International, LLC, et. al., a lawsuit filed in Federal Court in the Eastern District of Louisiana. In 2015, the Firm's co-counsel and I obtained a $14 million federal jury verdict on behalf of five Indian nationals who filed the lawsuit against a marine fabrication company, with which they worked, and other defendants. The case involved claims of human trafficking, forced labor, racketeering and civil rights violations. As a result of our hard work, the trial team was honored with the Trial Lawyer of the Year award in 2015 by the Public Justice Foundation. This was a case that was very important to me and the Firm. There are still too many companies out there that take advantage of indigent and transient workers.
LIBN Publisher Joe Giametta and Firm Partner Elaine Colavito.
Elaine Colavito, a Partner with the Firm, was honored by Long Island Business News as one of the Top 50 Women in Business at a special ceremony that was held on October 18 at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury. This is the second year in a row that Ms. Colavito has received this award.
Firm Partner Elaine Colavito (second from right) is joined by (left to right) Firm Partner Robert Abiuso, Firm Associate Joshua D. Brookstein, and Firm Partner Ralph Branciforte.
The Top 50 Women in Business program has recognized Long Island's top women professionals for business acumen, mentoring and community involvement. The event honors the most influential women in business, government and the not-for-profit field.
Joshua D. Brookstein, an Associate with the Firm, will receive the Leadership in Law Award from Long Island Business News in a special ceremony that will take place on Thursday, November 15 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury.
The Leadership in Law award recognizes attorneys who exemplify the following traits — experience, dedication, hard work, skill, tenacity, compassion and excellence — and is dedicated to those individuals whose leadership, both in the legal profession and in the community, has had a positive impact on Long Island. Recipients of this award demonstrate outstanding achievements, involvement in their profession, support of the community and mentoring.
John Christopher, a Partner with the Firm, was named as one of the "Ones to Watch" in Real Estate, Architecture, Engineering & Construction in the October 19-25, 2018 issue of Long Island Business News for being recognized as one of the 15 attorneys recognized by Super Lawyers.
"Ones to Watch" is featured each week in LIBN, highlighting six people who stand out in their respective fields.
What are your responsibilities in leading the Firm’s Corporate and Securities Practice?
My primary responsibility is making sure that the Firm has a unified approach in how it represents businesses. It’s important to not only understand the specific matter on which a particular business needs legal representation, but to make sure that we all understand the exact nature of each client’s business. Understanding how a client operates its business enables us to not only anticipate the client’s needs, but also grants us the opportunity to refer business to our clients
What does your practice entail?
On a day-to-day basis, I see to it that my clients are all utilizing up-to-date contracts with their customers, vendors and partners that not only comport with applicable law, but provide exacting clarity as to any questions that may arise. On a more global scale, I serve as each client’s primary point person on any question that arises with respect to their business, be it related to their corporate legal needs, intellectual property issues, real estate questions, possible litigation and other disputes and general tax-related advice.
What attracted you to Corporate and Securities law?
Perhaps the single greatest attraction to Corporate and Securities law was the opportunity to work with such a diverse group of clients. If you’re a litigator or an estate planning attorney, you tend to stay within just those areas of law. When you work in my area, not only do you deal with legal issues spanning any number of disciplines, but you get to witness first-hand the inner workings of how businesses in numerous industries operate. Just in the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to work very closely with software developers, architects, restaurants, food manufacturing and distribution companies.
How much of an impact does the new tax law have on corporations?
The new tax law will have a large impact on this country as a whole, not just corporations. That said, it’s tough to predict exactly how the new law will end up impacting corporations and other entities, for better or for worse. The best advice anyone can give is that, before making any assumptions as to what the new law means for you or your business, please consult with your attorneys and accountants, not to mention waiting for the IRS to start issuing regulations concerning the new laws.
What trends are you currently seeing in the Corporate and Securities Practice Area?
A strong mix of excitement and apprehension. With the economy continuing its strong momentum, people are able to grow their businesses; however, with the volatile political climate and uncertainty of the new tax laws, business owners are hesitant to re-invest capital into their businesses for fear of an economic recession.
Elaine Colavito, a Partner with the Firm, will receive the Top 50 Women in Business Award from Long Island Business News at a special ceremony that will take place on October 18 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury. This is the second year in a row that she has received this honor.
The Top 50 Women in Business program recognizes Long Island's top women professionals for business acumen, mentoring and community involvement. The event honors the most influential women in business, government and the not-for-profit field.
To view Ms. Colavito's biography, click here.
The Honorable Edward McCabe, Senior Counsel with the Firm, will be honored by the Nassau County Bar Association at the group's 119th Annual Dinner Dance on May 12 at the Marriott Hotel in Uniondale. Judge McCabe will be recognized for his 60 years as a practitioner of law. Prior to joining the Firm, he served as a Nassau County Administrative Law Judge and a New York State Supreme Court Justice.
Firm Associate Joshua D. Brookstein and Touro Law Center Dean Harry Ballan.
Joshua D. Brookstein, an Associate with the Firm, was honored by Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center with the Public Interest/Pro-Bono Attorney of the Year Award at a ceremony that took place on March 26 as part of the law school’s Goods and Services Auction. Mr. Brookstein was recognized for his work as a coach and mentor of The Crescent School mock trial team. Last year, the team finished as one of the top 10 teams in Nassau County.
He also serves as a mentor to area students in order to become a positive presence in their lives. Last year, he mentored at Woodland Middle School and, this year, lent his time and talents to Barack Obama Elementary School.
The Public Interest/Pro Bono Attorney of the Year Award is given to an attorney who devotes their time to those in need through their pro-bono efforts.
The Firm was also a sponsor of the Goods and Services Auction, an annual fundraiser to benefit the Public Interest Law Fellowship Program, which was established in the mid-1990s by Touro Law Center to encourage and facilitate the placement of students in public interest legal work.
Mr. Brookstein was also recently appointed as the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) Young Lawyers Section Liaison to the NYSBA Local and State Government Law Section.
Kyle Lawrence was named as one of the "Ones to Watch" in Law by Long Island Business News for joining the Firm as Counsel. "Ones to Watch" is featured each week in LIBN, highlighting six people who stand out in their respective fields.
Elaine Colavito, a Partner with the Firm, will be honored by the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University as one of its Outstanding Women in Law. A special ceremony will take place on April 24 at the Milleridge Inn in Jericho, starting at 6 p.m.
Outstanding Women in Law celebrates women who have made a meaningful and inspiring contribution to the legal community.
John Christopher, a Partner with the Firm, received the 40 Under 40 award from Long Island Business News at a special ceremony that was held on February 8 at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury.
The 40 Under 40 Awards celebrates the future leaders of Long Island who have already begun to distinguish themselves in business, government, education and the not-for-profit sector.
Long Island Business News Editor Joe Dowd and John Christopher.
Reflecting on 2017, what were some of the more challenging projects you worked on?
Two projects come to mind. First, after several years, we secured approval for the extension of term of a pre-1961 special permit for a public parking garage in Midtown Manhattan. The garage was developed pursuant to a special use permit from the City Planning Commission granted on October 2, 1957 for a term of 25 years. This special permit was extended several times, with the last extension expiring on October 9, 2002. The approval had lapsed for nearly 13 years by the time we filed for the renewal and extension of term. In order to secure the approval, we had to establish supporting precedent that the approval could be reactivated and extended, despite being expired for nearly 13 years. City Planning also required many improvements to the garage in order to bring it into compliance with current zoning laws, which added another layer of complexity.
The second project was a comprehensive zoning analysis we prepared for a property within the East Midtown Rezoning. The East Midtown Rezoning established mechanisms to increase base maximum permitted floor area through bonuses. Different bonuses apply throughout East Midtown, and a very complex set of requirements must be met in order to obtain the bonus, such as a minimum of 75 feet of clear frontage on streets having a width of 75 feet or more. What made the analysis challenging was that the property was part of a larger combined zoning lot, made up of multiple tax lots with different owners, and the zoning lot was bisected by a special district sub-area boundary. Within each sub-area, different bonuses apply. The zoning resolution has very complex requirements for when and how floor area can be transferred. Analyzing which bonuses applied to each portion of the zoning lot, whether the zoning lot meets the requirements to allow for the bonuses, and how bonus floor area could be distributed within the zoning lot, was very challenging.
Looking back at 2017, in what areas did your zoning practice grow and what trends did you see?
Fitness, fitness and more fitness. You would think that, with the explosion of boutique fitness in NYC, there would be a slowdown. That has not been the case, based upon the growth of my practice. In 2017 alone, we were retained by several large and small fitness owners/operators to secure a special permit from the NYC Board of Standards and Appeals. In NYC, gyms and fitness studios are considered physical culture or health establishments under the NYC Zoning Resolution. They are only permitted in certain commercial and manufacturing zoning districts by special permit issued by the NYC Board of Standards and Appeals. The applications are comprehensive, and require many meetings and hearings before the Board of Standards and Appeals and the local community boards. This has become a very busy part of my practice.
Self-storage is another area of growth. We were retained by several large self-storage operators to review potential sites for new self-storage use. This area of growth is not surprising, considering both the residential and commercial growth the city has recently seen, especially considering the amount of limited space available. Self-storage uses are permitted in manufacturing zones, and many developers have come to realize that they can get a better return from a self-storage use than from a manufacturing use at the same property. In order to preserve and support manufacturing uses, the city has proposed a zoning text amendment that will put new restrictions on self-storage use in manufacturing districts in Industrial Business Zones. This proposal is presently in front of the City Council and should be approved before year's end.
How are rising real estate prices in parts of the city affecting your practice?
Rising real estate prices seem to have pushed my practice further into the outer boroughs. I am consistently working on more zoning analyses for developers and zoning opinions for lenders, as well as analyzing potential rezonings in the outer boroughs. Areas that may have been ignored have now become prime areas for development. Fifteen years ago, it was Williamsburg; 10 years ago, it was Bushwick and Crown Heights, and now it is East New York and Ridgewood. In the outer boroughs, developers are considering rezoning property to high-density residential zoning districts to facilitate larger residential development. Depending upon the bump up in residential floor area requested, the city will require that all or a large portion of the units be designated as affordable housing. I expect this trend to continue, and to be an area of growth for my practice.
Looking at city zoning in 2018, are there any new regulations that an owner/developer should keep an eye on?
One proposal that I am watching closely is the proposed M1 Hotel Text Amendment. Similar to the self-storage text amendment, in order to preserve and support manufacturing uses within parts of the city, the city has proposed a text amendment that will only allow hotels within M1 districts by a City Planning special permit. There has been a proliferation of hotels in M1 districts in recent years. I get retained regularly to analyze the potential for new hotel development in M1 districts. I do expect the hotel lobby to put up a big fight. A City Planning special permit is a complex and time-consuming discretionary approval that falls under the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.
Looking forward to 2018, what aspect(s) of your practice do you anticipate growing or keeping you busiest?
Until there is significant economic downturn, I don’t expect a slowdown in the development of fitness uses throughout the city. It seems that, every week, we have a new boutique fitness concept. I expect to handle more BSA special permit applications for these uses. I also expect more projects in the Bronx. As Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn continue to get pricier, I am noticing more and more attention on the Bronx, particularly for affordable housing development.
Chris J. Coschignano, a Member with the Firm, has been named to Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center's Board of Governors.
Mr. Coschignano is a 1990 graduate of Touro Law Center. He concentrates his practice in the areas of zoning and land use planning, real estate law and transactions, municipal and legislative law, economic development and industrial development agency law, advanced litigation on state and federal courts and matrimonial law. In 2015, he was named Touro’s “Alumni of the Month” for the month of May and received the Keith Romaine Elected Official of the Year for his interest in and passion for government.
He is a member of the American, New York State and Nassau County Bar Associations and the Nassau Lawyers’ and Columbian Lawyers’ Associations. He is admitted to practice in the states of New York and Connecticut. In addition, he was named to the Metro New York Super Lawyers list in 2016 and 2017 in the practice areas of Land Use/Zoning, Real Estate: Business and General Litigation.
He previously served as a councilman with the Town of Oyster Bay from 2001 to 2017 and his previous municipal experience included serving as counsel to the Oyster Bay Town Zoning Board of Appeals from 1995 to 2001.
Mr. Coschignano is involved in many charitable and non-profit organizations. He participates in the annual Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor’s 5K Run and joins his colleagues at the Firm in the Marcum Workplace Challenge to help raise money for various charities. He is also pro bono legal counsel to Homes for Our Homecoming Heroes, which provided its first-ever house to a returning war veteran, and Oyster Bay-East Norwich Boys & Girls Club, of which he is a member of its Board of Trustees.
In addition, he is a board member with Pride in Athletics for Life (PAL), and is a volunteer coach with Oyster Bay Baseball and PAL Ice Hockey. He is also a member of the Knights of Columbus, Sons of Italy, Syosset-Woodbury Rotary Club, Oyster Bay Chamber of Commerce, Residents for a More Beautiful Syosset and the North Syosset Civic Association. He is also co-founder and member of the St. Edward Confessor Church’s annual festival committee and serves as an usher at the church. In 2015, he was honored at the school’s 15th Annual Golf & Tennis Classic for his ongoing commitment and involvement in the school and in Catholic education.
Last year, Mr. Coschignano worked with the Firm to establish the Chris J. Coschignano/Sahn Ward Coschignano, PLLC Scholarship. The scholarship is awarded to second-year law students at Touro Law Center who are interested in practicing in the area of land use and real estate law. This year’s scholarships went to Aaron Rogers and Denise Schubmehl.
The Touro Law Center Board of Governors is a group of distinguished men and women dedicated to supporting the growth of the Law Center. The Board consists of lawyers and non-lawyers who are leaders in the legal profession and in the business, philanthropic and academic communities on Long Island and nationwide.
“I am proud to join this prestigious group of attorneys, business and community leaders at Touro Law Center,” Mr. Coschignano said. “This appointment provides me with the opportunity to give back to my alma mater and help make contributions to its goal of becoming one of the leading legal education centers in the region.”
Jon A. Ward (click for bio), a Partner with the Firm, and Firm Associate Elaine M. Colavito (click for bio) received the Leadership in Law award from Long Island Business News at a special awards ceremony on November 16 at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury. Mr. Ward was honored in the category of Partner and Ms. Colavito in the category of Associate.
The Leadership in Law award recognizes all of the following qualities — dedication, hard work, skill, tenacity and excellence — and is dedicated to those individuals whose leadership, both in the legal profession and in the community, has had a positive impact on Long Island.
Sahn Ward Coschignano, PLLC represents clients in a wide variety of complex business, labor, employment, construction, real property, environmental, civil rights, and land-use litigation in state and federal trial and appellate courts... Read More
Adam Koblenz, a Partner with the Firm, was named as one of the “Ones to Watch” in Real Estate, Architceture, Engineering and Construction by Long Island Business News. “Ones to Watch” is featured each week in LIBN, highlighting six people who stand out in their respective fields.
Elaine M. Colavito, an Associate with the Firm, was recognized as one of the “Top 50 Women in Business” by Long Island Business News at a special awards ceremony on October 19 at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury.
Launched in 2000, the Top 50 Women in Business program has recognized Long Island’s top women professionals for business acumen, mentoring and community involvement.
LIBN Publisher Scott Schoen and Elaine Colavito
Elaine Colavito being joined by Sahn Ward attorneys and staff at LIBN’s Top 50 Women awards.
Miriam Villani, a Partner with the Firm, was named as one of the "Ones to Watch" in Law by Long Island Business News. "Ones to Watch" is featured each week in LIBN, highlighting six people who stand out in their respective fields.
Jon A. Ward, a Partner with the Firm, and Firm Associate Elaine M. Colavito will receive the Leadership in Law award from Long Island Business News at a special awards ceremony on November 16 at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury. Mr. Ward will be honored in the category of Partner and Ms. Colavito in the category of Associate.
The Leadership in Law award recognizes all of the following qualities — dedication, hard work, skill, tenacity and excellence — and is dedicated to those individuals whose leadership, both in the legal profession and in the community, has had a positive impact on Long Island.
Elaine M. Colavito, an Associate with the Firm, will be recognized as one of the "Top 50 Women in Business" by Long Island Business News at a special awards ceremony on October 19 at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury.
Launched in 2000, the Top 50 Women in Business program has recognized Long Island's top women professionals for business acumen, mentoring and community involvement
Elaine Colavito, an Associate with the Firm, was featured in Long Island Business News’ “Who’s Who in Women in Professional Services.” Her profile focused on her work with the Firm, as well as her role as President-elect of the Nassau County Women’s Bar Association.
Nicholas Cappadora, an Associate with the Firm, was named one of the “Ones to Watch” in Law by Long Island Business News. “Ones to Watch” is featured each week in LIBN, highlighting six people who stand out in their respective fields.
Elaine Colavito, an Associate with the Firm, was sworn in as President-Elect of the Nassau County Women’s Bar Association (NCWBA) at the group’s Installation Dinner on June 15, 2017. The term is for one year. She previously served as NCWBA’s Vice President for two years, and treasurer for two years.
Elaine Colavito (seventh from left), an Associate with the Firm, is sworn in as President-Elect of the Nassau County Women’s Bar Association during the organization’s Installation Dinner.
The mission of the Nassau County Women’s Bar Association is to promote the advancement of the status of women in society and the legal profession; to promote the fair and equal administration of justice; and to act as a unified voice for its members with respect to issues of statewide, national and international significance to all women, and to female attorneys in particular.
Ms. Colavito concentrates her practice in the areas of matrimonial and family law, civil litigation and immigration matters. In 2013, she received the NCWBA’s Bessie Ray Geffner, Esq. Memorial Award for her demonstrated interest in improving the justice system, professionalism of the Bar and service to the community at large. She was recognized as a Super Lawyers “Rising Star” in the area of Family Law from 2014 to 2016 and was among the Super Lawyers’ “Top Women Lawyers in New York” in 2015 and 2016. This year, she was recognized as a Trailblazer in Divorce by the New York Law Journal. In addition, she writes the monthly “Bench Briefs” column for Suffolk Lawyer.
She graduated magna cum laude from Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center and summa cum laude from State University of New York at Stony Brook.
John Farrell, a Partner with the Firm, was named one of the “Ones to Watch” in Real Estate/Architecture/Engineering/Construction by Long Island Business News. “Ones to Watch” is featured each week in LIBN, highlighting six people who stand out in their respective fields.
The Firm received the Long Island Business News Corporate Citizenship Award at a special ceremony held on June 6 at Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury. The Firm was honored in the category of Leadership Excellence for outstanding contributions and leadership in the community.
The Corporate Citizenship Awards recognize companies and individuals who believe that, by being a good corporate citizen, we contribute to the economic and social well-being of our employees, businesses and the community. Honorees consistently prove that true community stewardship evolves through building strong partnerships with nonprofit organizations and others that strive to meet the critical needs of our community.
In addition to being a Partner with the Firm, Chris J. Coschignano served as Councilman in the Town of Oyster Bay. After more than 25 years in public service, Chris has decided to move on to a new chapter in his professional career. He will continue to be involved in community service and will continue with his full-fledged efforts with the Firm.
“All of us at the Firm congratulate Chris on his distinguished career in public service and elected office,” said Michael H. Sahn, the Firm’s Managing Partner. “Chris has been a role model in his service to the public and the legal profession. We are fortunate that our partner will continue his work with us, both as a lawyer and as a leader in our community.”
In this interview, Chris shares his experience in public office, his involvement in the community and the work he continues to perform with the Firm.
John Christopher, a Partner with the Firm, has been named chair of the Young Lawyers Section. This was reported by State Bar News. Mr. Christopher also serves as a section delegate to the House of Delegates and liaison to the Real Property Law Section. In January, he was named a fellow to the New York Bar Foundation.
In addition to her family and matrimonial law practice and being a monthly contributor to the Suffolk Lawyer with her "Bench Briefs" column, Elaine Colavito will be installed as President-elect of the Nassau County Women's Bar Association on June 2017. In this interview, Elaine discusses her upcoming new role with the Nassau County Women's Bar Association and her ability to maintain a healthy work/life balance.
What is it like to soon be installed as the President-elect of the Nassau County Women's Bar Association?
It is an honor to be selected by my colleagues for this new position. I have been involved in the Nassau County Women's Bar Association for many years in various capacities. I have been able to see and participate in the good that it has done in promoting the advancement of women in law and women in general.
What does it mean to you to be part of this organization?
This organization means a lot to me and to the other women attorneys involved in the organization. We do many things to support one another, both professionally and personally. Participating in the various committees of the Nassau County Women’s Bar Association is one way that we provide support for one another. For example, last year, at meetings of the Working Parents Committee, we discussed time management and work/life balance.
This year, I enjoyed serving as the association’s Vice President. I was first elected in 2012 as a member of the Board of Directors. The next year, I was elected as Treasurer. I served in this capacity for two terms. After that, I was elected as a Vice President. I am presently serving my second term as Vice President. In 2013, the association presented me with the Bessie Ray Geffner, Esq. Memorial Award for my interest in improving the justice system, professionalism of the bar and service to the community at large. It was a prestigious honor.
Through the Nassau County Women’s Bar Association, I have also been involved in the community. During the 2016 election, each chapter of the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York was encouraged to run a voter registration drive. The Nassau drive was held in conjunction with the Nassau County League of Women Voters. The goal of the drive was to get more people involved in the political process. Statewide, we had more than 1,300 new people register to vote.
How do you balance your work and home life?
I have eight children, so, as one could imagine, juggling work and home life is a daily challenge. However, having a large family forces me to make the most efficient use of my time and to constantly prioritize and re-prioritize. I do this both at home and at work to keep me focused and to adequately manage my time.
During my undergraduate studies at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, I gave birth to my first two children. I was expecting my third child (six months along) when I graduated. I was set to commence law school immediately thereafter. My third child was five days old at that time, however, I decided to defer law school for one year. During that year, I worked in a homeless shelter. I then returned to Touro Law School in the Fall of 2004. At that time, my children were four, two and one years old and I was expecting my fourth child. I subsequently gave birth to my fourth and fifth children during law school, while working part-time as a paralegal. Hence, juggling work, school and family was necessary and time management was essential to stay organized.
I gave birth to my sixth, seventh and eighth children while working full-time as an attorney. Again, time management and obtaining an optimal work/life balance is a daily challenge. Being an attorney, time management and organizational skills are key.
They say “If you want something done, ask a busy person.” I truly believe this because, the more that I have to do, the more that I get accomplished and the more focused that I am.
What do your duties as family and matrimonial attorney entail?
In matrimonial matters, I counsel clients with regard to child support, maintenance, and equitable distribution, in addition to ancillary issues that arise in the context of divorce, both contested and uncontested.
In Family Court matters, I counsel and advise clients concerning custody and visitation rights, child support, child support enforcement and modification, paternity, and orders of protection.
I also negotiate and draft prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, and represent clients in adoptions and guardianships.
What made you want to enter the field of family law?
With family law, I found it to be more relatable than with other practice areas, and one is able to see the impact of the representation on a client’s daily life.
How do you incorporate your own personal experiences as a mother when you are representing a client?
Running a household is no different than representing a client. In a court of law — just like in a house full of kids — you have to pick your battles!
John P. Christopher, a Partner with the Firm, has been appointed as a Fellow of The New York Bar Foundation. Fellows are nominated by their peers to the Foundation based on their outstanding achievement and dedication to the legal profession.
The Fellows are a distinguished group of legal professionals, with only 1% of New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) membership invited to share in this honor. All fellows must be members of the NYSBA and admitted to practice in the State of New York.
Mr. Christopher concentrates his practice in the areas of zoning and land use, real estate transactions and leasing, landlord/tenant disputes and municipal law. He is an active member of the Young Lawyers Section of the NYSBA, currently holding the position of Chair-elect and previously holding the positions of Treasurer and Secretary. In addition, he serves as a Section Delegate to the NYSBA House of Delegates and Liaison to the Real Property Law Section.
Established in 1950, The New York Bar Foundation is a nonprofit philanthropic organization that receives charitable contributions from individuals, law firms, corporations or other entities and provides grants to further its goals of promoting and advancing service to the public, improvements in the administration of justice, legal research and education, high standards of professional ethics and public understanding of legal heritage. The Foundation makes grants to financially support law-related programs of legal services organizations, nonprofits, bar associations and other organizations throughout New York State.
“It is truly an honor to be selected to join this elite group,” Mr. Christopher said. “I am also pleased to be recognized by my colleagues who recommended me to this prestigious position.”
Wayne G. Edwards and Christian Browne, Partners with the Firm, received Long Island Business News’ Leadership in Law award at a special ceremony that was held on November 17 at Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury.
Mr. Edwards concentrates his practice in the areas of zoning and land use planning, real estate law and transactions, including acquisitions, sales, leasing and financing and related corporate transactions. He represents many of the region's most prominent real estate owners and developers in both acquiring property for development and in obtaining the municipal approvals necessary to help their projects move forward.
He regularly lectures on issues related to commercial real estate transactions, zoning and land use.
In 2013, 2015 and 2016, Mr. Edwards was named to the list of New York Metro Super Lawyers in the area of Land Use/Zoning.
He is admitted to practice in the State of New York and before the United States District Courts for the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York. He is a member of the Nassau County and the New York State Bar Associations.
Mr. Browne concentrates his practice in the areas of commercial litigation, zoning and land use planning and municipal law. He appears before all jurisdictions from Long Island to Westchester. He also assists with the Firm's New York City zoning practice and handles applications for homeowners, local businesses, major developers and large corporations.
Mr. Browne is the deputy village attorney for the Village of Island Park and has served as special counsel to the Village of Freeport. He was also a member of the Town of Hempstead Board of Appeals.
In 2015, Mr. Browne was selected by Super Lawyers as one of New York Metro’s "Rising Stars." He was recognized in the practice area of Civil Litigation, Plaintiff.
He graduated with honors from the College of Holy Cross in 1998 and received his law degree from Fordham University in 2004. He is admitted to practice in New York State and before the United States District Court for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York.
He is a member of the Nassau County Bar Association and an active member of St. Agnes Cathedral Parish, where he served on a fundraising committee to help raise money to pay for the church’s renovations. He is also a contributing writer for Crisis Magazine, which covers religious matters.
The Leadership in Law Award recognizes those attorneys who carry the following qualities in their profession: dedication, hard work, tenacity and excellence. The award is dedicated to those individuals whose leadership — both in the legal profession and in the community — has had a positive impact on Long Island.
Firm Partner Christian Browne (left) and Long Island Business News Publisher Scott Schoen (right).
Miriam Villani, a Partner with the Firm, was featured in Long Island Business News’ “Who’s Who in Women in Professional Services.” Her profile focused on her work with the firm, as well as being editor-in-chief of The New York Environmental Lawyer and as an author of numerous articles for many legal publications, including West’s New York Practice Series.
Elaine Colavito, an Associate with the Firm, was named as one of the “Ones to Watch” in Law by Long Island Business News. “Ones to Watch” is featured each week in LIBN, highlighting six people who stand out in their respective fields.
In addition to his active municipal law, zoning and land use planning, real estate transactions and leasing, and landlord/tenant disputes practice, John Christopher is an active member of the Young Lawyers Section (YLS) of the NYSBA, where he currently holds the position of Chair-Elect. In this interview, John explains his dedication to the profession and his leadership role in the Young Lawyers Section.
How did you become involved with the Young Lawyers Section?
I have been a member of the New York State Bar Association and the Young Lawyers Section since I was admitted to the Bar in 2007. However, I became actively involved when I attended a YLS half-day CLE program in 2010 during the NYSBA Annual Meeting in Manhattan. By chance, I sat next to a gentleman named Phillip Fortino. At that time, Phil was the Chair-Elect of the YLS. Phil invited me to join him at the YLS Executive Committee meeting after the CLE, so I did. Several months after that first meeting, I was appointed to the position of Co-Representative for the 10th Judicial District. The district representatives are really the boots on the ground for YLS throughout the state, since the Bar Association’s headquarters are located in Albany. I held this position for several years, until I was elected to the position of Treasurer in June of 2015.
Adam H. Koblenz will receive the Long Island Business News Millennial Award during a special ceremony on September 15 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury.
The Millennial Awards celebrates those between the ages of 19 and 35 and honors the bright, dynamic young professionals who are part of the millennial generation, who contribute to the Long Island community and who have made significant strides in business at a young age.
In 2014, Mr. Koblenz became partner at the Firm. Along with Partner Daniel H. Braff, Mr. Koblenz continues to grow his practice and the Firm’s New York City practice.
To learn more about Mr. Koblenz, please see his Attorney Profile.
In addition to her active environmental law practice, Miriam Villani is a member of the Executive Committee of The Environmental Law Section of the New York State Bar Association. Miriam also serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Section's newsletter. In this interview, Miriam explains her devotion to the profession and her leadership role in the Bar Association.
When did you get involved in the Section?
I was a student member of the NYSBA Environmental Law Section in law school and then continued my membership once I started practicing. I got involved as an active member after a few years of practice. I had been attending Section CLE programs with my EPA colleagues, and liked the camaraderie of the Section. Soon after I entered the private sector, I was nominated as an Executive Committee member-at-large by one of my law school professors and mentors, Phil Weinberg. A year or so later, I was invited to chair the Section's environmental law essay contest. I still chair that contest. In 2000, I was nominated as an Officer and continued through the five-year term of officer from Secretary to Section Chair. I became the Editor-in-Chief of the Section's journal at the end of my term as Officer and have continued in that role since. As Editor-in-Chief and as a former Chair of the Section, I remain on the Executive Committee.
What motivated you to assume a leadership role on the Executive Committee and to devote efforts to publish the Section's newsletter?
Both the mission of the Section and the members who sit on the Executive Committee have been my motivation for devoting time and energy to the Section's business.
How has your work for the Section benefitted you, and what have you learned from this experience?
My involvement in the Section has added depth to my career and experience. I learn from my Section colleagues and benefit from having the state's, and probably the country's, leading environmental lawyers and legal minds available for discussing emerging issues and developing law.
How has your work helped your colleagues, and, most importantly, how has your work helped further the goals of the Section and benefit the interests of those members who practice environmental law?
I assist my colleagues at the Firm by providing a unique expertise to assist with the Firm's clients' matters. A part of the Section's mission is to educate the bar in the field of environmental law. My work as Editor-in-Chief helps facilitate this goal by getting out to the membership a scholarly publication with articles and columns that inform about the latest developments in environmental law.
Lastly, what advice do you have for law students, and newly admitted lawyers who want to practice environmental law?
Law students who want to practice environmental law should take all the classes offered by the school that have a connection to environmental law; join the school's environmental law society; write for the school's environmental law publication; join the environmental law section of at least one bar association as a student member; submit an essay to the NYSBA Environmental Law Section's essay contest; and do clinical/internship work at one or more of the environmental regulatory agencies. A newly admitted lawyer should become an active member of at least one bar association environmental law section by offering to co-chair a committee; get to know the members of that section; and, if not in an office where environmental law is practiced regularly, offer to do some pro bono work in the field in order to start building some experience.
John Christopher, a Partner with the Firm, was a panelist at the New York State Bar Association’s 2016 Section Leaders Conference on May 12th. Mr. Christopher joined a panel of esteemed colleagues to discuss the various ways that sections can meaningfully engage their members through collaboration, community outreach and connections. Mr. Christopher spoke on the importance of holding networking events with other young professional groups in order to provide valuable networking opportunities for Young Lawyers Section members.
Mr. Christopher is an Officer of the NYSBA’s Young Lawyers Section and serves as a Section Delegate to the NYSBA House of Delegates and a Liaison to the Real Property Law Section.
Chris Coschignano, a Partner with the Firm, was named one of Long Island Business News' "Ones to Watch" in Commercial Real Estate/Architecture/Engineering/Construction/Green. Ones to Watch is featured each week in LIBN, highlighting six people who stand out in their respective fields.
Robert Abiuso, Counsel with the Firm, and Ralph Branciforte, an Associate with the Firm, were selected as Touro Law Center’s 2016 Public Interest Attorneys of the Year. Mr. Abiuso and Mr. Branciforte were recognized with the other honorees at a special awards ceremony held during the law school’s 22nd Annual Goods and Services Auction on March 16. The Public Interest Attorney of the Year program recognizes attorneys for their commitment and dedication to performing pro bono work for the good of the public.
Robert Abiuso (left) accepts his Public Interest Attorney of the Year
award from Patricia Salkin (right), dean of Touro Law Center.
Mr. Abiuso has been providing pro bono legal services through Catholic Charities, the Knights of Columbus and the American Legion, as well as other civic and charitable organizations. Using his background in real estate law and transactions, he assists family members and friends who are “underwater” on their mortgages. In addition, he provided legal counsel to help restore the Vietnam Memorial Monument in Queens.
Ralph Branciforte (left) accepts his Public Interest Attorney of the Year
award from Patricia Salkin (right), dean of Touro Law Center.
Mr. Branciforte served in a pro bono capacity as an Assistant District Attorney for the Nassau County District Attorney and successfully argued an appeal in People v. Valery before the Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department. The defendant, who was caught by two police officers burglarizing a Nassau County residence, appealed his convictions for burglary in the first degree, attempted robbery in the second and third degree, resisting arrest, and assault in the second degree. The Second Department affirmed all convictions, except for the lesser included offense of attempted robbery in the third degree.
This case was the second matter that Mr. Branciforte handled in a pro bono capacity for the District Attorney’s Office. He previously participated in the program in 2014.
Robert Abiuso (left) and Ralph Branciforte (right) display their Public Interest Attorney of the Year
awards during Touro Law Center’s 22nd Annual Goods and Services Auction on March 16.
Adam H. Koblenz, a Partner with the firm, was named as one of the “Ones to Watch” in Law/Technology by Long Island Business News. “Ones to Watch” is featured each week in LIBN, highlighting six people who stand out in their respective fields.
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