Lessons from Lawyers: Interview with Daniel Buttafuoco
August 24th, 2011 by Megan Olendorf (AVVO)
We continue our Lessons from Lawyers series with an interview with New York personal injury attorney Dan Buttafuoco. As the Founder of Buttafuoco & Associates, Dan has been practicing law for 31 years and has handled over 100 juried and non-juried trials involving all aspects of personal injury, negligence, product liability and medical malpractice cases. He shares an interesting perspective representing clients in cases that involve high stakes and big rewards.
Avvo: What is the greatest thing about being a lawyer?
Daniel Buttafuoco: Changing people’s lives for the better. There is nothing quite like telling people you resolved their case for significant life changing money and that they can have a better future because of it.
Avvo: What’s the most challenging aspect of being a lawyer?
DB: Dealing with cold hearted and biased defense lawyers and insurance companies who minimize the toll of human suffering on the injured in an effort to make themselves more money.
Avvo: What was your first job as a lawyer?
DB: My first job as a lawyer was making $14,000 per year as a brand new litigator in a general practice firm, knowing nothing but being forced to learn quite quickly how to deal with arguing and presenting a case.
Avvo: Most significant change you’ve witnessed in the legal industry?
DB: The proliferation of attorney advertising where otherwise incompetent lawyers present themselves as “big case” experts to make a buck by getting your case and then settling it for a fraction of what it is worth.
Avvo: What’s one thing you wished you would have known or would have done differently when you first started out after law school?
DB: Honestly, nothing I can think of. Maybe writing a book about trials.
Avvo: What advice do you have for a lawyer who wants to start and build their own practice?
DB: Don’t become a lawyer now! We have far too many lawyers already and there are not enough jobs. If you are already a lawyer, pick an area of law where you can do the most good for mankind. Personal injury law is great and does indeed help people but it is too saturated with mercenary lawyers who only care about making money.
Avvo: What is your best tip for managing work/career and life balance?
DB: Never forget your family. Work in such a way that you don’t have to put in too many weekends at the office. Balance is key here. It is not about your ego but about being effective at managing your cases and your time. Take only the cases you can devote the time to with these goals in mind.
Avvo: If you had one non-billable hour free during your day, how would you spend it?
DB: Praying for my clients.
Avvo: What were the three most important things you’ve done to build your professional network?
DB: One – Winning big cases and advertising our results; two – speaking at various events and three – donating lots of money to great causes.
Avvo: Who is your favorite fictional lawyer?
DB: Robin Hood (not a lawyer but he always looks out for the downtrodden in society). He delivers his own brand of justice in favor of the weak against the evil and greedy.