2017 Top Legal Eagles

When the time comes to retain counsel, the choice between the right attorney and the wrong one can be life altering. The law is nuanced, complex and ever-changing, which is why it’s crucial to choose a specialist in the particular area being pursued. For the past decade, Long Island Pulse has been featuring the region’s top attorneys as a reference to easily find the best legal guidance for the task at hand. Professionals in the field were invited to nominate those whose expertise and practices were so outstanding in 10 areas of practice, they could be considered the best. These attorneys strive for excellence in their endeavors, give back to their communities and remain active in the development of the law outside the courtroom by participating in, and in some cases leading, organizations that uphold the strictest ethics and legal principles. The 10 Top Legal Eagles profiled on these pages are those who received the greatest number of votes from their peers. Their offices span Nassau and Suffolk Counties, just as their areas of expertise cover the full spectrum of legal pursuits. Their bios are rich in experience and they are all in good standing with their respective bar associations.

Jed C. Albert
Farrell Fritz, P.C.



Area of Practice: Estates & Trusts

Formulating an estate plan is a complicated, multi-faceted process. Increases in family wealth and intergenerational transfers have created a greater urgency for sophisticated planning. Ensuring that personal healthcare is in order then divvying up assets, all while keeping estate and capital gain taxes in mind is, to put it mildly, a dizzying process. Since 1987, Jed C. Albert has navigated this complex maze, helping clients with estate planning, charitable giving, business succession planning and estate administration.

Given the complexities of this field of law, technical proficiency is a requisite, as is the ability to make complex concepts easy to grasp. Albert places acute importance on understanding his clients’ personal motivations and goals to find solutions that can be implemented efficiently. After all, this work involves deeply personal issues. Albert empowers his clients to make the best practical decisions by taking the time to educate them on their choices (and the consequences of those choices).

In the end, Albert works to provide advice that is far more than technical, but is instead personal in nature. That is where compassion and 30 years of experience combine to achieve positive results.

Jeffrey A. Wurst
Ruskin Moscou Faltischek, P.C.



Area of Practice: Bankruptcy

Bankruptcies are tricky to mediate. Borrowers are looking to mitigate debt and reorganize their lives, while lenders are trying to recoup their money and keep their businesses running smoothly. It takes a seasoned attorney to handle these cases, one who knows when to negotiate a settlement and when to push for a trial. What distinguishes Jeffrey A. Wurst from others in this area of practice is his ability to handle cases in both the courtroom and the boardroom, as he is highly skilled in transactional as well as litigation matters.

These skills were recently on display when he represented a well-known Italian food importer and distributor following the confirmation of the company’s plan for reorganization. Wurst navigated through multiple obstacles to enable the company to close its bankruptcy case and get back to the business of its business.

Wurst is nationally recognized for writing and speaking on financial services topics as well. He is the author of the commercial finance blog WurstCaseScenario.com and regularly presents webinars and continuing professional education seminars on bankruptcy and commercial finance issues.

Elena Karabatos
Schlissel Ostrow Karabatos, PLLC



Area of Practice: Divorce

There may be no more volatile stretch in one’s life than divorce, when a family’s structure hangs in the balance. The highly emotional case gets even more complex with issues such as custody and visitation added into the mix. It takes an aggressive litigator and a skilled negotiator to guide a client through the process. Certified in advanced mediation by the Straus Institute of Dispute Resolution, Elena Karabatos is an experienced negotiator of settlements, powered by an uncanny ability to communicate effectively with both parties. And when needed, Karabatos has proven to be an equally successful trial lawyer.

This pragmatic and passionate approach to matrimonial law has made the Tufts and Brooklyn Law graduate one of the premier matrimonial attorneys in the region. She is the immediate past president of the New York Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and serves on the Matrimonial Practice Advisory and Rules Committee for the New York State Office of Court Administration. She is also the vice president of the Nassau County Bar Association (NCBA) and a past chair of the Matrimonial Law Committee of the NCBA.

Karabatos has long been devoted to sharing her expertise with the next generation of attorneys. She previously served as the course chairperson for the continuing legal education program on matrimonial litigation and equitable distribution at Fordham Law School. Karabatos was also a member of the adjunct faculty of Hofstra Law School and frequently lectures on a wide range of family law topics.

Fred Skolnik
Certilman Balin Adler & Hyman, LLP



Area of Practice: Business/Corporate

Working in an area as expansive as business law requires not just a keen understanding of the law but also a great deal of business acumen. The area of practice involves a diverse set of issues, including private financing, public offerings, sales of businesses and operating agreements. Yet, it still requires a personal touch.

When one of Fred Skolnik’s clients grew frustrated during a lagging business dispute negotiation, the client instructed him to take legal action. Skolnik, sensing that a resolution was imminent and that a lawsuit would cost his client additional legal fees and time—as well as jeopardize a timely settlement—was able to persuade his client to wait. A few days later, a deal was reached on his client’s terms, illustrating Skolnik’s legal and negotiating aptitude as well as another hallmark of good attorneys: putting the client’s best interest above all else.

Skolnik’s interests extend beyond the courtroom as well. In 2004, he co-founded the firm’s mentoring program Lawyers Involved in Kids’ Education. Over the past 13 years, Certilman Balin employees, as well as friends and family, have visited a local school on a weekly basis, developing relationships with the 4th and 5th grade students and playing word and number games to help the kids improve their analytical skills and self-confidence.

Rachel Demarest Gold
Abrams, Fensterman, Fensterman, Eisman, Formato, Ferrara & Wolf, LLP



Area of Practice: Criminal

After beginning her career as a prosecutor in the Bronx district attorney’s office, Rachel Demarest Gold went on to serve the public in several roles outside of the courtroom, including special assistant to the New York State Senate minority leader. But the pull of the courtroom was too strong. Ten years after leaving the Bronx DA’s office, Gold returned to prosecuting, this time in the highest legal office in the state.

Working with the New York State attorney general, Gold developed a criminal unit within the Law Department’s Labor Bureau. In this position, she prosecuted cases of worker abuse and government fraud, including the first cases under the Workers’ Compensation Law enacted in 2008.

In 2011, Governor Cuomo appointed Gold special counsel and deputy commissioner to the State Labor Department, overseeing all criminal enforcement divisions of the agency. She brings that wide-ranging experience to Abrams Fensterman where, in addition to criminal law, she practices labor and employment, and election law. Outside of the office, the Brooklyn Law grad volunteers as state chair of the New York State Women’s Equality Party.

Gregory S. Lisi
Forchelli, Curto, Deegan, Schwartz, Mineo & Terrana, LLP



Area of Practice: Employment

The wide spectrum of employment law has enabled Gregory S. Lisi to represent an equally diverse set of clients, from individuals to large companies
and even the United States government. As a former regional counsel of the U.S. Customs Service, Lisi defended the government before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in opposition to the Treasury Union.

The Georgetown Law grad is the head of the Employment and Labor Departments at Forchelli, Curto, Deegan, Schwartz, Mineo & Terrana, overseeing cases involving a litany of issues such as sexual harassment, employment discrimination, wage and hour matters, and management-union disputes. He has showcased his acumen not just in the Federal Courts of the United States, but also before the National Labor Relations Board, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, New York State and Nassau County Divisions of Human Rights, the New York City Commission on Human Rights and the courts of New York and Washington, D.C.

Outside the courtroom, Lisi is on the Nassau County Bar Association’s board of directors and has authored many articles and lectured extensively on labor and
employment law topics.

Joseph Ortego
Nixon Peabody, LLP


Area of Practice: Litigation

The high-pressure, dramatics of the courtroom is the setting for attorneys to experience either triumph or tragedy. Joseph Ortego falls into the former, proven by his obtainment of a complete defense jury verdict for client Airbus Helicopters, following a two-week wrongful death and personal injury trial in El Paso, Texas state court. Ortego has also represented other major private and publicly traded companies including Airbus and Pall Corporation, a leading global industrial and life sciences company headquartered on Long Island.

Although Ortego is more than accustomed to the courtroom—he’s tried more than 100 cases to verdict in both federal and state courts throughout the country—he is constantly vigilant in finding a settlement before trial if it suits his clients’ terms. He is the group co-leader of Nixon Peabody’s Commercial Litigation practice and has served as both the chair of NP Trial®, an international team of NP’s most successful and experienced trial lawyers, and the firm’s aviation practice. Ortego has also successfully represented clients before arbitration tribunals around the world.

Cathleen D. Allen
Jaspan Schlesinger, LLP



Area of Practice: Real Estate

You could say that brick and mortar are in Cathleen D. Allen’s blood: her grandfather built homes around Long Island, even the one she grew up in. The area of real estate law was thus a natural fit.

It’s a good thing she is so comfortable in this area, as real estate law is a deceptively complicated process. Case in point: When a client recently offered to purchase a mixed-use property, he also unknowingly took ownership of the business operating on the ground floor. What he envisioned as one transaction was actually two separate but related deals: a purchase of real property and the purchase of a business. Allen walked him through the way in which the transaction should be structured to help him on both sides.

Allen, a graduate of Duke University and Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, has extensive experience representing business entities and individuals in all aspects of real estate law, including sales, acquisitions and leases. She thrives on the challenges presented in structuring, analyzing and negotiating transactions and ultimately helping clients achieve their goals.

Laura M. Papa
Shaub, Ahmuty, Citrin & Spratt, LLP



Area of Practice: Medical Malpractice

When one thinks of medical malpractice, thoughts are almost immediately and entirely concentrated on the patient. However, on the oft-overlooked other end of any malpractice suit are the doctors and medical professionals who, most often, did the best they could to help their patients. Laura M. Papa defends these professionals, a role she is distinctly qualified for. As a former registered nurse, Papa has a unique perspective and appreciation for medical professions and knows more than most, that even modern medicine remains an inexact science. That hands-on experience has fostered a deeper understanding not only of her client base, but also their relationships with the patients they serve.

Papa’s background serves her well in the role of managing partner, which others in the firm liken to an air traffic controller. The graduate of Georgetown University and Hofstra Law School spends a great deal of time behind the scenes ensuring cases are properly developed in all stages so that the firm’s trial attorneys have the materials they need to obtain the results the firm is known for. But Papa also maintains her own caseload because she enjoys the area of practice. She uses it to remain current on the challenges attorneys face, in turn becoming a more effective mentor and advocate on their behalf.

Kenneth Landau
Shayne, Dachs, Sauer & Dachs, LLP



Area of Practice: Personal Injury

A personal injury attorney’s clients come to them in despair, often after a life-altering event. Their only respite from this newfound turmoil is a just resolution to a suit. Kenneth Landau received tutelage early on in his career to ready him for this exact professional spectrum.

Shortly after graduating from Buffalo Law School, he joined the firm where he continues to practice today. Founding attorneys Neil T. Shayne and Norman H. Dachs, two personal injury giants on Long Island, emphasized the importance of measures such as exploring insurance coverage issues and keeping the door open to negotiation, as well as the use of alternate dispute resolution in tort cases. This education has propelled Landau through a 35-year career handling a wide array of automobile and accident cases in the courts of Long Island and New York City.

Landau has paid it forward by making a commitment to share his expertise and knowledge, as was once done for him. He is a past dean of the Nassau Academy
of Law and twice received the President’s Award for outstanding contributions to
the Bar Association of Nassau Academy. For the past 25 years, he has been hosting a weekly radio program Law You Should Know on WHPC.