Joseph Bavaro

“Even when there’s no monetary incentive, I try to help. Money feeds the physical; helping without being paid feeds the soul.”

“I love the challenge of proving people wrong, thinking that we’re ambulance chasers. I’m all about ‘Let me show you how much I can do for you, how much I can care. Let me show you I’m not that. I say it with my actions more than my words.’”

“My parents embody my ideal of who I would like to be. My dad was an immigrant who came to this country in his teens, and my mom had a full scholarship to CUNY but because she had to support her family, had to take a secretarial job with a local lawyer. Included in this expectation of who I’d like to be is to be an advocate for those who do not come from privilege.

“As a kid, my mom took me to work with her when I was sick because she couldn’t afford to take a day off. From a young age I saw that people came to her boss with all sorts of problems and he solved them. But my dad, who didn’t have an education, was also revered by many in our community who came to him for his good advice. I learned that you can have an important perspective without an education.

“This early experience still affects the way I look at things today, and who I respect and admire. My colleague Marvin Salenger always says, ‘What does the case really mean—what’s it about, and what would you want someone to say about it if it were your mother and father? Our clients come from families just like ours. It’s a privilege and honor to be able to give a voice to someone whose voice is not as loud and clear as your own.

“I was not much of an academic early on, but had to read books for school. My family had already indicated that I should be the attorney in the family, so To Kill a Mockingbird really resonated. Despite everything Atticus was faced with, he did what was right. The community was against him, his family was put in danger, and still he did what was right. Ultimately, Atticus did not prevail in the courtroom, but he exposed the injustice in the system, and in the end had the larger victory. That was the first time someone had stood up and fought for that man, and it’s the most important thing. Building on the example of Atticus Finch, I’d like to get the small victories for my clients, because those victories are big.

“I went to law school because I wanted to help people. After I earned my degree, I worked for an acting administrative judge, the Honorable Louis San Giorgio, Supreme Court Justice, Richmond County, who managed all the courts. Judge San Giorgio made sure I saw as many trials as possible—on every kind of civil matter, and that experience gave me the certainty that I wanted to be that guy—the litigator. The judge then counseled me join the Staten Island District Attorney office for the intensive litigation experience I’d get there. – I became the lead prosecutor in the Sex Crimes Special Victims Unit there.

“I owe a lot to Judge San Giorgio. It goes back to the mission of what we do as human beings—we help each other in times of need and strife. Your soul gets fed a lot for doing good work. Even now at the firm, most of the phone calls we get, there’s not a case. Even so, I try to help them—many of these people are not of privilege or don’t have a family attorney, I want to help them. There’s no monetary incentive, but I help – money feeds the physical, helping without being paid feeds the soul.”