This year, activity in the Long Island legal community is not unlike an NFL draft. There’s been certain star talent and a whole lot of teams, or in this case, law firms, vying for name players.
“Over the last four months, there’s been a bumper crop of possible draft picks,” Lew Meltzer, chairman of Meltzer, Lippe, Goldstein & Breitstone, the law firm headquartered in Mineola, told LIBN.
For instance, this week the firm announced that Stuart Rabinowitz has joined as senior counsel.
Rabinowitz is the former long-time president of Hofstra University who for many years also co-chaired the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council. He brings years of expertise – and relationships – to his new role at Meltzer Lippe. And while there was the potential to work at various other law firms, Rabinowitz saw Meltzer Lippe, which also has offices in New York City as well as Boca Raton and Miami, as the right choice.
“This firm has superb lawyers,” he said, adding that its draw from clients around the country added to its cache.
He said he knew the firm’s focus “wasn’t just Long Island, although Long Island is important. And I like the people.”
Like other power firms around the region, Meltzer Lippe spotted opportunity in Long Island’s evolving legal landscape, bringing A-list public figures into its fold.
For example, in January, global law firm Greenberg Traurig, which boasted $2 billion in revenue for 2021, announced it was opening two offices on Long Island, with Mark Lesko joining as shareholder. Lesko is a former acting assistant attorney general for the U.S. Justice Department’s National Security Division, and a former acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
And soon after Greenberg Traurig’s announcement, Tim Sini, the former Suffolk County district attorney, joined Nixon Peabody, a global law firm with an office in Jericho. Sini is a partner at the firm’s litigation department and its government investigations and white-collar defense practice.
Meltzer said that as he and David Heymann, the firm’s managing partner, considered available talent to bring on board, they looked at each person’s track record. Meltzer said that Rabinowitz had the “largest, most impressive record of accomplishments of any lawyer – any person – I’ve seen on Long Island,” with the exception of scientists at, say, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, or Brookhaven National Laboratory.
In addition to serving as president of Hofstra, where he grew enrollment from 6,000 to 11,000, Rabinowitz, a former law professor, had previously served as the dean of the university’s law school. At the university, he worked closely with Northwell Health President and CEO Michael Dowling to create a medical school and a nursing and physician assistant school. And he launched additional schools: in engineering and applied sciences, in government, public policy and international affairs, and in health professions and human services.
That’s in addition to the university’s suburban studies center, and its entrepreneurship center. Under Rabinowitz, Hofstra hosted three U.S. presidential debates, the only university to do so consecutively.
Through all of this, combined with serving on a variety of councils and boards, Rabinowitz cultivated relationships across the corporate and nonprofit landscape, while also honing a deep understanding of the workings of local and state government. His expertise includes his work at the university dealing with union and contract negotiations.
Rabinowitz “will be a great resource to everyone in our firm, from the very senior, to the very junior,” Heymann said, referring, in part, to Rabinowitz’s law-school professor days.
When a star player joins a team, they bring a highly cultivated set of skills.
At Nixon Peabody, for example, Sini, a former Suffolk County police commissioner, works on matters that involve government investigations or charges, including by agencies such as the Department of Justice, state attorneys general, and district attorneys, while also working on commercial litigation matters and crisis management situations.
Sini told LIBN earlier this year that Nixon Peabody was “the obvious choice for me,” noting that he could combine his previous experience and “have that ability to be entrepreneurial, grow a practice and provide a real service.”
Sini is also a member of the firm’s COVID-19 response team, which helps clients navigate the challenges surrounding the pandemic. During his days as district attorney, he led the public office’s COVID-19 response since the beginning of the pandemic, through his term. And in his roles at both the district attorney’s office and the county’s police department, he managed a large workforce, a proficiency that Allan Cohen, the firm’s managing partner, said would also benefit the firm.
The Nixon Peabody announcement of Sini joining the firm came on the heels of the news from Greenberg Traurig bringing Lesko on board.
In addition to his national reach, Lesko understands Long Island at a local level. A three-time elected supervisor of the Town of Brookhaven, Lesko once served as vice president for economic development for Hofstra University as well as the executive director of Accelerate Long Island.
Lesko, at the time, said in a statement that he was “thrilled” to join Greenberg Traurig.
The Long Island offices focuses on litigation, white collar defense and special investigations, real estate, land use, mergers and acquisitions, private equity, intellectual property and technology, data, privacy and cybersecurity, labor and employment, and healthcare, among other specialties. Also joining the firm’s Long Island offices are four former Farrell Fritz partners and a former Long Island Power Authority deputy general counsel.
At Meltzer Lippe, Rabinowitz focuses on state and federal litigation, appellate litigation, constitutional law, civil rights law and voting rights law. His practice also includes education law, including higher education and labor relations and liaison with local, state and federal agencies and officers relating to economic development.
6 degrees of connection
On Long Island, it is easy to see that almost everybody has six degrees of connection to someone. This is especially true in the legal field.
Lesko, for example, was hired by Rabinowitz, for his Hofstra stint.
And Heymann studied law with Rabinowitz as a professor.
During his Hofstra tenure, Rabinowitz said he had opportunity to get to know a lot of the firms in the region.
But he said, “I go a back a long way with Lew,” referring to Meltzer.
And in a field where meaningful connections really matter, “we developed a relationship,” he said.
Now, that relationship will carry into the firm and beyond to its clients.