John: I’m here with Alan Schwartz, Attorney, Judge and Model Citizen. It’s good to hear you from you, Alan.
Alan: Good morning, John.
John: You know the theme of this month’s issue is both living in gratitude and paying it forward. I was hoping to get a few words from you about paying it forward as I know it’s a big part of your life.
Alan: My pleasure.
John: Would you please tell our readers and your fans a little bit about why you pay forward?
Alan: It seems to me that those of us who are lucky enough to have done well in our careers and our lives have some obligation to try to pass that on to others, often times expecting nothing in return, although good things usually come about regardless. The best example I can give as a practicing attorney for 40 years is that I spend a lot of time mentoring law students and young lawyers, for organizations like the Nassau County Bar Association and a variety of mentor programs, and we frequently have student interns working with us on a regular basis. It’s usually and primarily law school, but we’ve had high school students, college students, and even secretarial and paralegal students work with us at the firm. The benefit to them is it that it gives them a real idea of what it’s like to practice law, and it allows me to spend time with young people who are enthusiastic about what I do for a living, which in turn makes me more enthusiastic.
It would be my pleasure. All I ever wanted to do was have my own practice. This probably goes back to when I was two years old. We always had attorneys in the family, most of them work for big law. I knew I wanted to practice law, but that is not the kind of law I wanted to practice. I grew up on watching Perry Mason, so I knew I wanted to be a trial lawyer.
I was fortunate that I got my first choice of job with the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office in 1980. I got that job primarily because I wanted to develop my skills as a trial attorney. My game plan was to stay there for four or five years and then open my own practice. After four and a half, I went into practice with another friend who is also in the DA’s office. I did all the trial work and he did the paperwork and we successfully practiced together for seven to eight years at which point he decided that smaller was better and I thought bigger was better. We had started as two lawyers with no staff and grew to three or four lawyers with a support staff of five or six. In 1992, I took over the practice and continued to expand it and moved from Mineola to Garden City. Now I have practiced for forty years, thirty-five since I left the DA’s office. Two years ago I was selected to become a village judge in Center Island, where I have the privilege of overseeing the lifestyle of the rich and Famous, like Billy Joel and Sean Hannity. Just to summarize my forty years, I have had a unique opportunity to look at criminal matters from not one, or two, but three different perspectives. That of a prosecutor, that of a defense attorney and now that is a judge. However, when I left the DA’s office in 1985, it was apparent to me that if all we did was criminal work, I’d be out of business in a relatively short period of time because I prosecuted the criminals, I didn’t necessarily defend them. We ended up developing a reputation for representing good kids from good families who did something stupid. Now we include their parents as well, especially in the middle of a pandemic, the practice grew into a litigation practice. Even as far back as 1985, where I would go into court for anything, whether be a criminal matter, matrimonial or personal injury because my feeling was once you tried a felony cases In front of 14 person juries everything else is just a matter of money.
We got to the point where we were busy enough and could take on other lawyers who were comfortable handling cases in their areas. I was in criminal. So, now we have a total of twelve lawyers and each of them has a different area of concentration. So, the sweet spots of the practice still remain as criminal defense and range from traffic violations through homicide at the local, state, and federal level. I’ve taught for the National Institute of Trial Advocacy at St. John’s, as well as Hofstra University. I also judge national mock trial competitions with some regularity. All of which has led me to the conclusion that I may never retire because I enjoy what I do too much.