Alton L. Abramowitz is one of the name partners of the New York firm Mayerson Abramowitz & Kahn, LLP. Recognized by his peers as one of the leaders of New York’s matrimonial bar and an accomplished divorce lawyer, Alton is Immediate Past-President of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, and currently serves on its National Executive Committee. He is also a diplomate of the prestigious American College of Family Trial Lawyers. Over his 40-plus-year career, he has handled a large number of high-stakes divorce cases, which gives him a unique perspective on the topic. www.mak-law.com
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What do people with high profiles and substantial assets at stake look for when they’re choosing a family lawyer to represent them?
One of the first things that people look for is whether or not the lawyer they choose is going to be responsive to them, and if there is a connection. Can they deal with them on a personal level? Is the lawyer going to listen to them, hear what they say, and be able to respond in a respectful way that ensures they don’t feel they are being treated as just another case – that they’re special in their own way?
We try to do that at our firm with all of our clients, the most wealthy and high-profile, as well as those of moderate wealth.
Is the firm as important as the lawyer?
Those of us who are successful in our field have to surround ourselves with people who are probably smarter than we are, because they do the day-to-day work of assembling the financial information, tracking down all the finite details of the cases, and making sure that all of the cogs in the wheel are turning in the right direction and at the right time. They also need to assure the client when I’m not available that someone else is there who will be able to handle an issue that may arise on an emergency basis with the same depth of knowledge and insight that I would handle it with.
You mentioned personal characteristics and meshing well with the client. What personal characteristics as well as professional experience do you need to be successful at handling high-stakes divorce cases and clients?
One of them is a sense of humour about one’s self – that you don’t take yourself too seriously or put your own ego ahead of the client. Another, particularly with high-stakes clients, is that you try to keep it under the radar and ensure that the privacy of the client is respected and maintained at all times, and that your staff treats them with attentiveness.
What do you as a family lawyer have to bring to the game to win a high-stakes case? How is it different from a normal or more moderate case?
One has to be contemplative about the case from the minute the client walks in the door, if not sooner. One wants to investigate what’s going on, what’s appeared in the media, and understand from the referral source what it is that the client is looking for when they come in to interview you to determine whether or not you’re the right fit for the case.
We very often try to demonstrate to the client that we’ve performed intelligently and creatively in other similar situations; that we think “outside the box,” although that’s not a phrase I use very often; that we look at the whole picture and try to ensure the client and his family or her family have the kind of privacy they need, because people in their positions don’t do well under the microscope of the media.