Articles Posted in Lawyers

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We blogged a few weeks ago about Lee Michaels, the firm’s founding member, getting tapped for a big award from his alma matter, Syracuse University College of Law.  Well, the ceremony took place on the evening of October 20 in the beautiful Dineen Hall.  Above are a few of our favorite pictures.  The top left shows Lee being bestowed with the award. Lee was one of only five award recipients. The top photo on the right shows three of the other recipients standing with Lee.  Starting from left to right in the photo above, are:  Laura H. Harshbarger, a labor and employment lawyer at the law firm of Bond Schoeneck & King; Frank W. Ryan, US Chair of DLA Piper’s Intellectual Property and Technology practice; the Honorable Jonathan M. Feldman (a United States Magistrate judge),  and our Lee Michaels.   The other recipient was the Honorable Theodore A. McKee, a judge sitting on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (who was not present for the ceremony and thus does not appear in the photo).

The final photo shows Lee lined up with some friends for a photo op at the party that followed. From left to right are: Anas Saleh, Justin St. Louis, Annie Millar, and  Tom DeBernardis, all former students Lee taught; Marnin Michaels (lee’s nephew and also an SU Law alum), Mike Bersani (CNY Injury Law blogger and Lee’s partner).

A good time was had by all!  The food (drink!) and company were great.  It was an amazing way to celebrate some high achieving SU Law grads.  Congrats once again to our own Lee Michaels!

LeeMichaels1Lee Michaels is the senior attorney here at Michaels & Smolak.  He was personally responsible for hiring and grooming the rest of us.  To the other lawyers at our firm, he has been a mentor, teacher, friend, and role model.  It’s good to know that others appreciate Lee, too.

Syracuse University’s College of Law is going to bestow upon him a great honor this October 20.  You can read all about it on the Syracuse University College of Law website. Lee’s list of achievements  is too long to include here, but you can check it out on that website.  Suffice it to say Lee was a top law student at Syracuse, then because a top personal injury lawyer in the Syracuse area, and a top teacher of trial practice at the Syracuse College of Law, and has been a terrific community leader in many capacities.

As I said before, Lee has been a great mentor, teacher and friend to all of us here at Michaels & Smolak.  We are not alone.  One of Lee’s former students (Lee has been teaching Trial Practice as an adjunct at the law school for almost three decades) had this to say about Lee on the College of Law website:

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For the tenth straight year I am traveling around the great State of New York this fall to deliver my annual update on New York personal injury law to my fellow New York personal injury lawyers.  As always, my topic is governmental liability for personal injuries and wrongful death.  In other words, I am explaining to other New York injury lawyers how to hold the New York State and its counties, school districts, villages, towns, and other “public corporations”, liable for carelessly causing injuries and death. I have already knocked off Albany and Syracuse, and will be hitting Buffalo and Rochester in the weeks ahead.

I am deeply honored that the New York State Trial Lawyers Academy keeps inviting me back year after year to impart whatever wisdom I have on this topic to my brethren of the Bar.

Although my lecture tour is only once a year, I field calls from other lawyers on this topic all year long.  That’s because New York lawyers who have read my articles or have attended my lectures consider me a “expert” in this area.  They want to “pick my brain” to help them with cases they have against New York governmental entities.

Best-Lawyers-2018-300x203Once gain, all four of the lawyers here at Auburn New York’s premier personal injury and medical malpractice law firm have been selected for the latest edition (2018) of  the prestigious lawyer directory, “Best Lawyers in America”.  They have been selected for both the “personal injury” and “product liability” litigation categories.

According to the publishers of “Best Lawyers in America”, inclusion in Best Lawyers is “based entirely on peer-review and employs a sophisticated, conscientious, rational, and transparent survey process designed to elicit meaningful and substantive evaluations of the quality of legal services.” Best Lawyers asks voters – which consist only of other lawyers and judges who are named Best Lawyers – the question: “If you were unable to take a case yourself, how likely would you be to refer it to this nominee?”

The American Lawyer magazine – one of the nation’s preeminent law magazines – describes the Best Lawyers directory as “the most respected referral list of attorneys in practice.”

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Love affairs are tantalizing, but dangerous.  I know because I have been involved in such a love affair for well over a decade.  The object of my affection is not a person.  It is a thing.  And what a lovely thing it is: Email!

Email has revolutionized my New York personal injury practice.  Before email, I would get back to the office from a day in court and have dozens of phone calls to return, and to make.  Ever since I got email on my smart phone (about 10 years ago?) that hardly ever happens.  My smart phone is always on me and I can read and respond to my clients’ inquiries while standing in the Deli line or while sitting in court waiting to argue my case. What a time saver!

Email, I love you.

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I am writing this post mostly for my fellow attorneys, but non-attorneys might also find it interesting.

One of the differences between a seasoned litigator and a novice is the ability to take total control of the witness, both at deposition and at trial.  Inexperienced attorneys, including my former self, often let witnesses run from the question, or take them down irrelevant rabbit holes, or hide behind non-answers.  But as we mature as lawyers, we learn to reign the witness in, to “let them know who’s boss”.  We also learn not to take any crap from opposing counsel.

Here’s a recent example of “taking control” from a deposition I recently had.  I was deposing a corporate witness in a convenience store slip-and-fall case.  She was trying her hardest to weasel out of answering my questions.  Look at how she tries to evade my questions:

thOne thing I love about being a personal injury lawyer (besides all the great jokes that go with it) is that there is always room for improvement.  Yes, that’s right.  Even after twenty-five years of representing injured people against big companies and insurance carriers, I can still learn to do my job better.  Since I can always strive to get better, I never get bored with this job.

Case in point:  Recently a very accomplished fellow New York personal injury lawyer recommended a book to me, “Advanced Depositions”, by Phillip Miller and Paul Scoptur.  The book is designed to teach experienced personal injury lawyers like me additional skills for taking depositions, especially of experts and “tough” witnesses who might be evasive or tricky.

I admit I picked up the book somewhat skeptically, figuring I would already know everything in the book and that it would be a mere “refresher” course for me.  But I was wrong.  I learned some knew techniques for “boxing in” witnesses, for “exhausting” their knowledge on a topic, and for ensuring that the deposition transcript reads well so the jury can easily understand the “points” I scored.  I also learned better ways to make corporate witnesses concede that certain safety rules apply to the conduct of their employees, and even perhaps to get them to admit the rules were broken.

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We did it again!  Once again, Michaels & Smolak has been named in the annual U.S. News & World Report “Best Law Firms” in the practice area of both Personal Injury Law and Products Liability.  Is this a small honor? No it is not. The Michaels & Smolak Law Firm was the only personal injury law firm anywhere between Syracuse and Rochester (not including those two cities) to be named to this nationally recognized 2017 directory of top personal injury law firms in the United States.  Moreover, we are one of only three Syracuse area firms to be ranked in the “first tier” of personal injury law firms in the directory.

Awards are nice.  It sure is great to be recognized for our hard work and success.  But in the end “awards” are not the “rewards” we seek. Winning for our clients is its own reward.

The four Michaels & Smolak lawyers are so proud of our team’s incredible successes over the years.  Hard work and authentic concern for our clients have paid off.  Our support staff is the best!  And of course we could never have reached this high place without amazing referring attorneys and clients who put all their trust and confidence in us. To all of you, we give you our eternal thanks.

thYes, once again all four of the lawyers here at Auburn New York’s premier personal injury and medical malpractice law firm have been included in this most prestigious legal directory, the 23rd (2017) edition.  They have been selected for both the “personal injury” and “product liability” litigation categories.

According to the publishers of “Best Lawyers in America”, inclusion in Best Lawyers is “based entirely on peer-review and employs a sophisticated, conscientious, rational, and transparent survey process designed to elicit meaningful and substantive evaluations of the quality of legal services.” Best Lawyers asks voters – which consist only of other lawyers and judges who are named Best Lawyers – the question: “If you were unable to take a case yourself, how likely would you be to refer it to this nominee?”

The American Lawyer magazine – one of the nation’s preeminent law magazines – describes the Best Lawyers directory as “the most respected referral list of attorneys in practice.”

thWatching the Syracuse University basketball squad get scorched by North Carolina was tough. It seemed that North Carolina just could not miss a shot.  Their three pointers seemed to swoosh in just as easily as their shots from within the paint.  And SU?  They could not seem to even score a foul shot.  Where was the miraculous Syracuse team we saw only a few days ago pull off an amazing come-from-behind victory over number-one ranked Virginia?

Yes, despite playing their heart out, the SU team lost.

Every good personal injury lawyer knows the feeling.  That’s because good personal injury lawyers sometimes try tough cases, where the odds are stacked against them.  They take risks.  And sometimes they lose.

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