For a referral to the nearest Legal Aid or Legal Services(free) call (646) 442-3600.
Scroll down for information on how to select and keep a good lawyer.
List of Tenant Lawyers
Anil Taneja, Esq.
Pedro Rivera, Esq.
Steven De Castro, Esq.
Robert Sokolski, Esq.
Kenneth B. Hawco, Esq.
Collins, Dobkin & Miller
Finder, Novick, Kerrigan, Anderson & Palitz
John Gorman, Esq.
Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben & Donohue
Ann Jaffe, Esq.
Grad & Weinraub
James Fishman Steven Neil
Fishman & Neil, LLP
305 Broadway Suite 900
New York, New York 10007
(212) 897 5840
All of the lawyers listed above have practices that limit representation to tenants or who have agreed to Rent Wars dispute policy or who have contributed to the Rent Wars Project. If you are an attorney who wishes to be listed here please contact us. If none of the above attorneys are able to help you, click here for lawyer referral services.
|Ronin's Tips on finding and keeping a lawyer will be added in the near future. Below are some helpful suggestions from attorney Steven De Castro.|
Six Questions Before You Pick Your Lawyer
Not all lawyers are the same. Therefore, it is important that you know how to select a lawyer who is (1) good, (2) good at housing, and (3) good at New York housing. In addition, you want to look at personality and style. Who would you work with best? Remember that when you meet, you are checking out the lawyer, and at the same time, the lawyer is checking out you. Before you decide on your lawyer, here are six important questions.
1. What is Your Lawyer's Reputation? It is often said that the best way to know a lawyer is by his reputation. That is because a lawyer's reputation is developed over time through a repeated demonstration of the his skills and judgment. New York's tenant organizations and tenant advocates keep up with the best tenant lawyers, and their recommendations count for a lot. So ask them. (By the way, never ask a lawyer, "what is your reputation?" If you don't already know her reputation, why would you take her word for it?).
2. What Will It Cost? There is no such thing as a cheap (good) lawyer. If a lawyer can't negotiate his own fee, you don't want him negotiating on your behalf in court! So the question is not whether a lawyer is costly, but whether hiring the lawyer is cost effective. And in order to determine this, you have to answer the next question:
3. What Is Your Apartment Worth? Take for example a lawyer says that your case is complicated, and therefore she estimates that it will cost $5000 for her to represent you. Before you say yes or no, how much is your apartment worth to you? Remember, the question is not how much it is worth; the question is how much it is worth to you. For example, if you plan to raise your family in your rent-stabilized apartment, then your apartment is worth tens of thousands; just imagine how much you save by paying incremental rent increases in a stabilized apartment over a few years, compared to living in an apartment with an unregulated market rent. Now, $5000 in legal expenses doesn't sound so bad. What if you don't get a lawyer? If you lose your apartment and move into a place that is $200 more than what you paid before, you lose that same $5000 in just the first two years. Four years later, you've lost $10,000. In another example, a rent-controlled tenant with a very low rent has all the incentive to spend whatever is necessary to protect her low-rent apartment. But if you are a young professional planning to move out in a year or two, the same apartment may not be worth as much to you.
4. What's Your Lawyer's Experience in Housing Court? Many tenant advocates advise you to make sure that your attorney represents tenants only. In my opinion, it is more important to find out how a person started in housing court. There are only a few choices. The lawyer either worked for a judge, worked for a firm that practices in housing court, or worked for a nonprofit legal services organization. Since I worked in Legal Aid Society for five years as a paralegal prior to law school, I have to say I am partial to legal services experience. The training in indigent tenant legal services organizations in New York is top notch, far surpassing any formal landlord-tenant training in any private firm. Veteran attorneys in these organizations nurture the development of tenant advocates.
5. Is Your Lawyer "Well-Connected"? Some clients prefer to have a lawyer who is entrenched in the court system. I think there are pros and cons to having a "well-connected" lawyer. Of course, you want someone who can navigate the system, but you want a lawyer whose first loyalty is with you, not with maintaining relationships with the judge and his fellow lawyers. So I think it is a good idea for you to choose a lawyer who is well known in the housing court. Just as long as the lawyer's popularity does not eclipse his loyalty to you. (I think that is why, as mentioned above, many tenant advocates recommend that you do not hire a lawyer who represents landlords.)
6. Are You Putting Your Best Foot Forward? As I stated above, you are checking out the lawyer, but always remember that you are being checked out too. If you put your best foot forward and give the impression that you are a desirable client, you will have more lawyers to choose from. First impressions count for a lot. If your documents are well-organized, you are making it easier for the lawyer to save you money. If they aren't, you make the lawyer work harder. Also, you should know that a tenant lawyer's consultation fee is usually deeply discounted. If you show up without full payment up front, you give the impression of being unreliable.
Good luck in finding your lawyer. There are plenty of considerations, but in the end, don't forget to trust your gut.
Steven De Castro, Esq., represents tenants in Manhattan's landlord-tenant court and can be reached at the number and link listed above.
Steven De Castro © 2001, All Rights Reserved. The representations made are accurate to the best of the author's knowledge on the day of publication, but readers should note that laws and regulations constantly change and are subject to different interpretations. For legal advice applicable to your situation, see an attorney. This document may be reproduced and distributed by community groups, as long as it is re-published in its entirety, including attribution.