“My job is to take the facts of my client’s accident, usually the most painful experience in their lives, and craft it into a story that persuades the judge or jury to right the wrong.”
Joe Donnelly was the first person in his family to become an attorney. He credits his parents with giving him the traits that have made him a zealous advocate in the courtroom. His mother, a nurse in Far Rockaway, instilled compassion for those who are hurt and suffering misfortune. His father, a network television journalist, nurtured a talent for writing and storytelling.
“In order to successfully advocate on behalf of an injured party, whether your audience is a judge in a motion, or a jury at trial, it is critical to arouse their sense of injustice. Everyone has suffered injustice. My job is to take the facts of my client’s accident, usually the most painful experience in their lives, and craft it into a story that persuades the judge or jury to right the wrong. Delivering that story with passion is the key to moving a jury to take action and finding for your client. You can’t get compassion without passion.”
It was that passion to help others that drove Joe to leave a profitable real estate career and go to law school. “I enjoyed the real estate business, but something was missing. I wanted to challenge myself, and have a job that helped society, not one that simply delivered a paycheck. I wanted to be passionate about what I do. That’s why I became an attorney.”
Joe was accepted to St. John’s University of Law with an academic merit scholarship, where he enrolled in the evening division. In order to help support his wife and young child, he continued to work full-time during the day while attending classes at night.
Despite this rigorous schedule, Joe excelled in law school. He graduated with honors, and earned the “Dean’s Award for Excellence,” an honor given to the highest scoring student in each class, in Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, New York Criminal Practice, as well as both semesters of the Prosecution Clinic in which he prosecuted misdemeanor cases under the supervision of Assistant District Attorneys in the Domestic Violence Bureau of the Queens County District Attorney’s Office.
Additionally, during his time at St. John’s Law, Joe was elected as an Executive Articles Editor for the American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review and served as a judicial intern for the Honorable Sheri S. Roman of the Appellate Division, Second Department.
However, it was the nearly three years that Joe spent as a law clerk at Salenger, Sack, Kimmel & Bavaro that he credits as his most valuable experience during his law school years. “It was at SSKB that I learned what it meant to be an attorney. I was fortunate enough to work alongside partners Joe Bavaro and John Zervopoulos on some of the firm’s most high-profile cases. Although I was just a student at the time, they gave me a tremendous amount of responsibility. Along with their instruction, I learned by their example about the inexhaustible work ethic you need to be a truly great advocate for your clients.”
After graduation, Joe started his career as an Assistant District Attorney in the Queens District Attorney’s Office. There he prosecuted a variety of felony matters, including attempted murder, robbery, burglary, assault, grand larceny, and DWI, and tried numerous cases to verdict. “Being an ADA in Queens was a privilege and an honor. It gave me the opportunity to get justice for crime victims, help make the community a safer place, and allowed me to cut my teeth in the courtroom. But when it came time to move on, there was only one place where I wanted to go, and that was back with the amazing group of attorneys and staff at SSKB.”
Upon completing his service at the DA’s Office, Joe retuned to SSKB as an Associate where he handles all stages of litigation, from intake through resolution. Joe specializes in cases involving injuries to police officers and firefighters. Joe has a particular interest in these cases having many family members and friends in these professions, including a brother in the NYPD. “Law enforcement and firefighter jobs are dangerous and difficult by nature. These brave men and women put their bodies and lives on the line every day to help keep us all safe. They don’t need the additional risk of injury due to the negligence, recklessness, or carelessness of others.”
Ultimately, what drives Joe is a desire to help the average working-class person who is feeling the devastating effects of a serious injury. “I didn’t grow up wealthy. I know what it feels like to barely scrape by, living paycheck to paycheck. If you suffer an injury that doesn’t let you do your job, that’s a very scary thing. Many times people don’t know what their rights are or what to do when they find themselves in that situation. Insurance companies aren’t the friendly helpers portrayed in their commercials. I want to fight for those people.”
-St John’s University School of Law, J.D., cum laude, 2014
-Stony Brook University, B.S., cum laude, 2004
-Holy Trinity High School, 1999
-Joe played football in college and currently plays baseball for the 2017 Long Island Champion Island Park Mariners of the Men’s Adult Baseball League, a team he started with his father and brother in 2004.
-Joe also volunteers as a youth baseball coach for the Massapequa Coast Little League.