Questions: Kindly give our readers an introduction to your business.
Answer: SG law is a boutique litigation and counseling firm that was founded in 2007 by lawyers who previously practiced at larger firms in New York. The firm was founded on the idea of providing clients with large firm services, with small firm relationships. Today SG has represented international insurers, municipalities such as the City of New York, State of Connecticut, and otherwise, fortune 500 companies, private businesses, and individuals. The firm’s boutique areas of practice include litigation, employment litigation and counseling, and commercial litigation. SG law has been recognized by US News best Law Firms, AV rated by Martindale Hubbell, Super Lawyers, ALM and others. SG has developed an approach to litigation where we aggressively pursue our matters, winning hard cases and being trusted on significant litigation. We are in constant communication with our clients, establish procedures to move litigation much faster than other similar firms, are well prepared for litigation with background investigations, research, and expert consultation, and we provide clients with legal metrics and analytics that establish how our theory of practice has helped litigate their case. We are true partners with our clients, learning their goals, their needs and striving to meet their expectations in all matters for which we are retained. SG law maintains offices in Westchester County, New York located just outside of Manhattan. The firm likewise has offices in Syracuse, NY, Albany, NY and in the Hudson Valley of NY. The firm currently has 30 employees.
Questions: Kindly give us a brief description of yourself.
Answer: SG Partner Lou Gasparini graduated with honors from Albany Law School of Union University in Albany, New York in 2002. He began his professional career working for a prestigious and well-known New York law firm, focusing mainly on complex federal constitutional lawsuits. Before that time, he had worked for a New York State Supreme Court Judge and a federal Magistrate Judge in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York. In that early experience, Lou learned the importance of being well prepared, knowing the law, and staying in constant contact with clients.
In 2007, Lou formed SG with his partner Andy Schwab, where we could focus on representing clients outside of the large law firm framework. At SG, Lou has focused on learning his client’s business, their goals, and keeping them informed on their legal cases. Throughout his career, Lou has worked on significant legal matters, some of which with seven and eight figure exposure to clients. For example, Lou helped negotiate a settlement with his client and its large billion-dollar competitor, in a multi-jurisdiction unfair business practices and employee solicitation case with damages in the eight-figure range. He successfully tried to verdict another claim on behalf of a client where the plaintiff was seeking over $7,000,000 in damages. He has likewise been successful obtaining dismissals for clients, including separate federal lawsuits in both the Northern District of NY and the Southern District of NY on behalf of clients who were alleged to have engaged in state action when they conducted mobile mental health services; a wrongful death lawsuit where plaintiff refused to negotiate a settlement but the case was later dismissed when Lou was hired to replace a well-known New York City law firm to handle the appeal and trial that involved interpretation of state regulations on the hotel industry; obtaining defense and indemnification on behalf of a municipality client in a construction defect lawsuit where the demand for payment was over $200 million dollars, a significant personal injury case with seven figure exposure against Donkin Donuts; as well as numerous other matters where Lou obtained significant money judgments for clients in commercial litigation cases.
Questions: What inspired you to (start a new business venture) or (make significant changes in an existing business)? How did the idea for your business come about?
Answer: Practicing law in a large law firm certainly has its advantages, such as working on big and important cases, bouncing ideas off other lawyers with similar experiences, and otherwise. But only when you are within the framework of a small law firm can you understand a client’s challenges, learn their business, and understand what it is they are seeking. Since starting our firm, we have been able to be selective in our work and build lasting relationships with clients. Yet, despite being a much smaller law firm than some of our competitors, we have been trusted to work on big cases, advocate courts to issue decisions on topics never addressed before, and most of all help clients in their lives and business goals.
Questions: What three pieces of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Answer: Most good things don’t come along without some degree of risk. For us, we knew this. You obviously can’t start a law firm from scratch without a plan. Sit down, develop a strategy, talk to people who did it before, and make a calculated risk.
Questions: What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Answer: Be a risk taker—but a calculated risk taker.
Listen to your employees and treat them well. No successful business can grow and develop without good, knowledgeable and dedicated co-workers. We always valued our employees, wanted their input, and wanted to develop a strategy to retain them. This required employees to become invested in our practice.
Be prepared. No matter what the topic is—know your audience, know the topic and think about what you want to say.
Questions: To what do you most attribute your success?
Answer: For me, everything starts with family. Most of us who came from blue collar upbringings know that opportunity is there, provided you work hard and demonstrate your capabilities. This is something I learned in my childhood, and it has guided me through education, work and life in general.
Questions: How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
Answer: Word of mouth is the most rewarding aspect of our marketing plan. There is no greater professional feeling than to be called by another lawyer who refers a case to you. As lawyers, our clients trust us, and when another lawyer trusts me to handle their client’s case, that is truly fulfilling. I have always felt that the key to successful marketing is a combined plan—word of mouth, speaking at events, some advertising, social media. Having your name out there.
Questions: Where did your organization’s funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? How did you obtain investors for your venture?
Answer: We self-funded our initial move. We had a plan in place on how to start our practice, and we have still been following this plan 16 years later.
Questions: What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
Answer: Stay focused on your long-term goals, continue to stay with your core principles which for us are client interaction, recommending objectives, and carrying our strategies to achieve those goals.
Questions: Where do you see yourself and your business in 5 – 10 years?
Answer: We like our current size, but we have developed very good legal talent within the firm. We would like to see of our junior partners and associates to continue developing advanced trial skills in the near future. For me, I would like to focus more on commercial litigation matters, representing businesses and individuals in nuanced and interesting cases.
Questions: Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
Answer: Apple, because they have been at the forefront of innovation for my entire lifetime.
Questions: How important have good employees been to your success?
Answer: I have been very fortunate to have a strong team of employees with me for a long time. They have grown with the firm, just like I have. Certainly, without them, our firm would not have had the success that it has experienced. For instance, during the Pandemic, we all worked together to find ways to remain competitive, to change how we conducted business and to learn how to adapt to technology. This was a team approach, with constant collaboration. At the same time at a firm level, we have tried to reward employees here for their work ethic, developing rewarding bonus plans, profit sharing, use of technology, flexible work schedules and competitive pay.
Questions: How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
Answer: When we meet to discuss new business, technology procurement, business ideas, or ideas to make work more productive, we collaborate in house, discuss with others who have similar experience, and develop a strategy. If we think the plan makes sense, we stick with it and make a real effort at success. But business is a learning experience as well. If something isn’t working, we will review and discuss, making whatever decision is supported by the evidence.
Questions: What motivates you?
Answer: Many areas of the law can be mundane, however, in my practice I have been lucky enough to work with many people. In doing so, I have learned many things about them, how their business works, etc., but most importantly, being able to help clients achieve what is important to them.
Questions: What are your ideals?
Answer: Work-life balance, helping clients achieve their goals, and giving our dedicated staff flexibility to be comfortable at work.
Questions: How do you generate new ideas?
Answer: We are constantly communicating internally about new ideas for business, and in fact, we try to create a culture where employees are comfortable sharing their ideas. Just recently, a paralegal in the firm had approached us about some marketing ideas, and structural changes to our case management program to help move cases along. His ideas were reviewed and discussed, and we implemented some of his proposals.
Questions: How do you define success?
Answer: For me, work success is defined as happiness, liking our jobs and being productive by helping clients.
Questions: How do you build a successful customer base?
Answer: Any successful customer base starts with a client referring us to a friend or family member. We strive to attend to all client concerns and inquiries.
Questions:What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Answer: Being my own boss, having the flexibility to implement change, and to do the type of work that motivates me.
Questions: What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Answer: My most satisfying moment in business came when I was a young associate just starting out. I represented a student in a school disciplinary proceeding for a family that could not find a lawyer. It was a little outside of my comfort zone, but I was confident enough to take the case. Not only did we win the case, but the State Education Department wound up invalidating the entire disciplinary system that the school had in place at the time. We truly changed the law, and it was a wonderful start to my career which has been highly rewarding to me.