OFFICER JAMIE BUFFONE '01 with SWAT OFFICER JUSTIN WILLIAMS AND OFFICER KEVIN SLATTERY IN ITHACA. buffone is part icipat ing in specialized training usualy only ofered to SWAT team members. PHOTO COURTESY OF DAVEBURBANKPHOTOGRAPHY.COM.
by Melissa Sue Sorrells Galley '05
From the first moment Linda Uhlen Margolin '70 met John Bracken '60, she knew that, at this law firm, things would be different. "I walked into the office and John was in the middle of a conversation about ethics," Margolin remembers. "A focus on the ethics of law just wasn't common then; it wasn't something you heard everywhere you went. That impressed me."
A love of innovation and a commitment to best practices, even in the often traditional business of law, was never outside the norm for either Margolin or Bracken. Their Long Island-based firm, Bracken Margolin Besunder LLP, has made a name for itself in the tough corporate legal universe of contract litigation, land use, partnership disputes, commercial litigation and legal malpractice among other disciplines. Helming this operation are two law partners and HWS graduates who draw from distinct yet complementary skill-sets. Fellow HWS graduate, William Ferris '68, P'02 is counsel in the firm.
Bracken is an accomplished athlete and U.S. Marine Corps veteran. His Hobart career was marked by a string of successes in a variety of sports: three years on the football gridiron making tackles, mastering lacrosse, basketball and wrestling, while at the same time holding himself to equally stringent academic standards —becoming a member of the Orange Key Honor Society and working for SAGA.
Margolin eschewed sports ("I was blissfully unaware of most of them," she remembers) in favor of more didactic pursuits: the "genuine intellectual inquiry" she found in classroom discussions and close relationships with faculty. An English major and member of Phi Beta Kappa, Margolin worked hard to perfect her writing skills and spent long afternoons immersed in literature.
Although their careers would take divergent tracks, a chance encounter in the early 1980s brought Margolin and Bracken together to practice. The experience was a revelation. As legal partners, the two HWS graduates discovered their strengths and abilities to be very different but highly complementary.
"John is a terrific trial lawyer," Margolin says of her partner, noting his electrifying charisma and long experience in the courtroom. "With jury trials, you need a compelling narrative, a story that makes sense to the jury if you want your client to win. John's very skilled at putting the evidence together that way – he cuts an impressive figure in court."
Bracken is equally effusive. "Linda has the best analytical skills I've ever seen," he says, noting that Margolin handles much of the legal analysis, drafting, writing and research. "She's smarter than all of us," Bracken says. "In fact, I've had judges tell me she's one of the smartest lawyers to ever walk into a courtroom."
With such a strong appreciation for one another's strengths, it is no surprise that Margolin and Bracken have built a firm that highlights and shares those values. "We like to work on a collegial basis," Margolin says. "Our firm has an open door policy because the sharing of ideas is part of our culture."
Their commitment to developing collegial partnerships is so strong that their new law facilities were designed from the ground up with this in mind. Margolin notes that years of experience have given them an awareness of how small details can make a big impact in the workflow of a firm. "This may sound odd," she says, "but 30 to 40 percent of our meaningful discussions happen in public spaces, like the kitchen."
Their new offices feature large common areas, a design that facilitates collaboration and a rotating series of events to encourage strong relationships in the team. "Some firms are a collection of lawyers practicing individually," Margolin says, "but that's not us and never has been."