You could say that D'Orazio Peterson began at Albany Law School in the early 2000's. That's when Scott (studying for the Bar Exam) met Giovanna (a 1st year law student). Flash forward a few years and we were married and building our individual legal careers with larger law firms, for the most part defending the interests of large institutions. The easy path would have been to stay with our respective law firms, and continue working for the powerful.
Of course, that's not what happened.
Eventually, each of us came to the realization that we wanted more from our legal careers. To us, being a lawyer is not just a job, it is a part of who we are, and we each wanted to do more with that than just help businesses fight over money or defend questionable employment or business decisions.
We realized that we shared a desire to help people stand up for themselves. To help them fight back when they are treated unfairly. To try and hold the powerful accountable.
So, eventually, D'Orazio Peterson was (formally) born. And at the time of its formation, we decided that we would limit the firm's practice to primarily representing people against the powerful. To only represent clients who were victims of serious personal injuries and malpractice, or who were treated illegally in their employment with a large company.
Our Guiding Principles
First, that lawyers should treat clients the way that they would want to be treated if the roles were reversed. Too often lawyers appear to clients to be arrogant, aloof, or too busy to return calls or emails, or actually listen to client concerns. That's not how we operate.
Second, that we have, essentially, three jobs for our clients: Educate them about the law and their legal rights; Empower them to stand up and fight to protect those rights; and Guide them through the process to make the right decisions. This has become our motto, so to speak.
Third, that the attorney-client relationship, which is built on trust, should be open at all times. We are always open and honest with our clients, particularly when the circumstances require us to tell them things that they do not want to hear.
Fourth, that large growth in firm size does not always equal success. For us, success is knowing that we devoted our time and energy to help someone deal with a difficult life situation. Success does not mean an office of 20, 30, 40 non-legal employees, or 5 different office locations. It means being good at what we do, and making a personal impact in the lives of those people who we can help.
Fifth, that we treat clients like family. What does this mean? It means that our clients should get to know us individually, and us them. It means that if they call the office, they'll get to know our staff and will not just be another number. This is absolutely critical to us, and will never change.
We made a conscious decision to keep our firm small in large part because we value and enjoy the personal relationships that are formed with clients as a result. We intentionally limit the number of employment and personal injury cases that we accept at any given time, and by doing so we believe we do a service not only to the new client, but to our existing clients as well.
Our Philosophy on Attorney Fees
We generally believe that the traditional “billable hour” method of law firm billing is outdated and impractical in many situations. Although we continue to use traditional “billable hours” on those limited cases which call for them, we increasingly utilize alternative methods, such as accepting most employment and personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis.
This is different from many other firms. Our contingency fee approach means that once we have accepted your case, we will advance both our time and the case expenses without risk to you. We believe that, after an injury, your job is to recover and take care of your family. Likewise, if you have been illegally fired from employment, your job is to try and pick yourself back up. The last thing you need is to worry about paying tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and expenses.
This also means that when you hire us you do not have to worry about “the meter running” whenever you have a question. Curious about your case? Call or email the office. Someone will get back to you within a day. And you won't pay extra for it.
Contingency fee amounts
Clients often ask what percentage we charge for a contingency. The answer is generally one-third of any recovery that we achieve, after reimbursement for expenses. Occasionally a client or prospective client will tell us that this seems like a lot. Our response is this: by accepting your case on a contingency fee basis we are taking on all of the risk. When we do this, we are taking the chance that we will put 30, 50, 100 or more hours of work and in some cases tens of thousands of dollars into a case, and not get anything back. This is the trade-off of a contingency fee case. We have found that it works quite well for the individuals whom we serve, and allows them to focus on the things that really matter (recovering, finding work, taking care of their families).
Fees in medical and podiatric malpractice cases
Generally, the only exception to the one-third fee is in New York medical malpractice cases. In those cases, the fees that lawyers charge their clients is set by law. According to New York Judiciary Law Section 474-A, in medical and podiatric malpractice cases the legal fees shall be, after disbursements:
30 percent of the first $250,000 of the sum recovered;
25 percent of the next $250,000 of the sum recovered;
20 percent of the next $500,000 of the sum recovered;
15 percent of the next $250,000 of the sum recovered;
10 percent of any amount over $1,250,000 of the sum recovered.
We disagree with this fee structure, and believe that it actually seeks to discourage New York attorneys from accepting medical and podiatric malpractice cases by effectively limiting the fees in what are commonly recognized as the most difficult cases for plaintiffs. Nevertheless, as the fees are set by law, these are the fees that we charge in medical and podiatric malpractice lawsuits.
Cases we handle
As you will see in looking at our practice areas, we limit our practice to representation of individuals in personal injury/medical errors and employment discrimination lawsuits. We do not strive to be a “general practice” law firm, instead we focus on plaintiff-side practice areas and strive to excel in only those areas.
Our personal injury practice areas primarily include:
Construction site accidents;
Our employment discrimination and retaliation practice primarily includes the following:
How we evaluate and accept potential cases
Because we've chosen to stay small, we inevitably receive many more calls than we can accept. We simply cannot help everyone, and so we have certain criteria that are typically present in the cases that we accept.
Liability and damages
In both employment and personal injury cases we look at two distinct things: liability and damages. When we say liability, we mean was the defendant at fault under the law, and are we able to prove it. Without good proof of who was at fault, and a solid legal basis for establishing that fault, we cannot hope to prove a case.
When we say damages, we mean injuries or economic losses. The reality is that lawsuits are expensive, both monetarily and in terms of time devoted to the case. Because of this, we only accept cases where the client has suffered significant damages.
If you're wondering whether you have a case that we would accept, contact us to find out. We do not have specific thresholds for cases, instead we look at each case individually, to see if the case and client are a good fit for our firm.
Our Philosophy About Trials
If you visit many legal websites you will see lots of lawyers bragging about how they're “not afraid to go to trial,” or how they're “trial lawyers.” This may or may not be a good thing for you as a prospective client.
We are also “trial lawyers”, meaning that we try cases when they need to be tried, and have had significant success in doing so. We do not accept cases, and then transfer them to another attorney if/when it comes time for trial. In reality, trials are one of the most exciting parts of our job.
For the client, however, trials are not always appropriate. Not everyone wants to “go to trial.” In fact, in our experience, many clients don't. Instead, they want to be made whole for what happened to them, often in an efficient and quiet manner.
Personal injury and employment discrimination lawsuits are not one-sized fits all. We believe that it is critical to talk with clients early on to determine what their goals are for the process, so that we can map out a strategy for achieving those goals. Some clients want a public, drawn out process in order to achieve change. Other clients want a quick, quiet process in order to move on with their lives. Neither approach is inherently wrong or better than the other. However, the reality is that, often, a fair settlement is the best resolution of a litigation matter.
So, while we are happy to take cases to trial where it is appropriate or necessary, we do not believe that every case, or every client, should go to trial. We do not take a “bull in a china shop” approach to litigation, nor do we think that such an approach benefits anyone other than the lawyer.
Where we handle cases
We're local to Saratoga Springs, but we're proud to serve all of New York State. If you've been wrongfully terminated from a job, are being harassed at work, have suffered injuries or believe that your family member is being neglected or abused at a hospital or nursing home anywhere in the state, we urge you to contact us. Legal proceedings can be complex, and the law is not always “common sense”. If you're unsure whether or not you have a case, call us today at 518-308-8339 for a free consultation to learn more.