It’s all about what you did next.

At a certain point in your life, you’ve no doubt experienced a few difficult situations and, if you’re reading this, you survived all of them. Your experiences may have changed you for better or for worse but you’re here – and that’s life in a nutshell. It turns out that life has a lot to do with context – and perspective. That perspective drives decisions we make about what to do next.

Like a twister, the COVID-19 pandemic rose quickly and has had a devastating impact on countless individuals, families, and businesses. For many law firms, it would be easy to take the hit, perhaps get discouraged – and just circle the wagons for a while until the storm has passed. But that isn’t the stuff of entrepreneurs, disruptors, restless creators with a passion for making their mark by making a difference.

 

That’s what caught my ear when speaking recently with Jon Dorf and Jon Nelson who together lead Dorf & Nelson – a bi-coastal, boutique law firm with expansion plans. As he spoke of the unique opportunity to build now – while others tremble – Jon Dorf spoke of “doing good and doing well.” That is, creating opportunity – building in a storm and despite the storm – and in doing so, creating a place of opportunity.

Lesser known than some of its Park Avenue peers, nevertheless Dorf & Nelson has been quietly consciously and consistently working on Diversity and Inclusion – creating a place of work that is fulfilling and full of opportunity for all. So as the conversation turns to growth, it’s an exciting conversation – and one that may appeal to individuals who have been ill-served by traditional firms.

– David Kinnear

 

David T Kinnear

DAVID T. KINNEAR

Tell us a bit about yourself and your role.

Jon Dorf

Jon A. Dorf, Esq.

I grew up in Westchester County and have been living and practicing the law outside of Manhattan for over two decades, where and when I first began my law career as a sole practitioner.  I am the Managing Partner of Dorf & Nelson LLP and also serve as the Co-Chair of the firm’s Commercial Real Estate Department where I provide strategic planning and oversight for the firm and also advise high net worth clients and an expanse of businesses, ranging from start-ups to mid-sized and larger corporations, by providing solid legal counsel and serving as a trusted advisor.  I make it a point to be personally accessible to all clients and ensure that our team provides each matter with an unwavering dedication to excellence, professionalism, and unique client centered solutions. 

David T Kinnear

DAVID T. KINNEAR

Tell us a bit about yourself and your role

Jonathan B. Nelson, Esq.

JONATHAN B. NELSON, ESQ.

As a former prosecutor, litigating and trying cases is in my professional DNA.  However, it was the several years I spent as Associate General Counsel to Compass Found Groups, USA that taught me the invaluable lesson: there are no legal issues, there are only business issues.  In other words, my job as counsel to a business is to protect that business in a way that allows it to flourish and succeed.  At D&N, I am Chair of the Litigation Department and have fostered an atmosphere that embodies the lesson I learned.  We learn about our client’s businesses.  We counsel our clients.  And we advise on issues that make sense to that business and the stage of economic life in which it finds itself.  No two issues are identical because no two clients are identical.  I am proud to say that the Litigation Department at D&N is now over twenty attorney strong and is one of the most powerful litigation departments in Westchester, New York.

David T Kinnear

DAVID T. KINNEAR

As Managing Partner of a leading New York law firm, what do you see in the road ahead for Dorf & Nelson?

Jon Dorf

Jon A. Dorf, Esq.

We are in full growth mode, actively seeking and adding new talent to all our practice areas.  As the Managing Partner, I am responsible for steering the firm in a positive direction, despite the challenges that may serve as stumbling blocks.  In order to do so, I hold a vision of what I know our firm can become and then take action to ensure this vision becomes a reality.  Each economic downturn or environmental challenge creates opportunities for Dorf & Nelson to advance its strategies for serving our clients, domestically and abroad, and providing innovative solutions, which otherwise would not have been considered. 

David T Kinnear

DAVID T. KINNEAR

How would you describe “the secret of your success” at Dorf & Nelson?

Jonathan B. Nelson, Esq.

JONATHAN B. NELSON, ESQ.

I am particularly proud of our efforts on Diversity and Inclusion – the importance of this to who we are and how we operate is a common leadership bond we share. I value the fact that as a firm, we know one another by first names and we enjoy is a strong rubric of both personal and professional respect. They say “opposites attract”. Speaking personally, I enjoy the balance that Jon and I bring to one another’s leadership. As the firm grows, there is always lots to do but we find a good point, counter-point equilibrium between us when it comes to the tougher decisions. This was perfectly exemplified in our discussions about potential expansion in the US and into the UK market via London. It makes for well-reasoned, successful decisions. By the way, we’re very excited about London’s potential for Dorf & Nelson.

David T Kinnear

DAVID T. KINNEAR

Is COVID-19 a Black Swan event, which creates opportunity?

Jon Dorf

Jon A. Dorf, Esq.

Absolutely.  As I noted above, it is these are types of challenges which prompt us to think outside the box and to serve our clients in real time situations with creativity and innovation.  As you know, David, New York, particularly Westchester County, was the first U.S. epicenter of the pandemic.  As such, we were forced to respond immediately and effectively to assist clients and colleagues in a collaborative manner, enabling business to go on despite the fears and concerns regarding COVID-19.  Having come through this unprecedented and extremely trying period, we have grown collectively as a community, professionally as a firm, and personally as individuals, allowing us to move forward and succeed regardless of the time required to eliminate this public health threat. 

David T Kinnear

DAVID T. KINNEAR

Do the drivers of opportunity for legal professionals in New York translate to other markets, such as London?

Jonathan B. Nelson, Esq.

JONATHAN B. NELSON, ESQ.

If you were to take each market individually and analyze the need for more attorneys, it is a sure bet that you would come to the conclusion that each market was saturated.  However, if you were to conduct the same analysis, but this time analyze the need for better attorneys, the answer is quite different.  At D&N, we pride ourselves at being a cut above.  You may ask – But don’t all law firms say that?  The might; however, we put our money where our mouths are so to speak.  We are constantly investing in our technology in order to bring a better product to our clients.  We employee non-attorney professionals so that our attorneys can concentrate on their clients.  There is the old adage, “the customer is always right.”  We have taken that to the next level:  the client comes first, last and everywhere in between. 

David T Kinnear

DAVID T. KINNEAR

How do you view overseas markets, such as London post-Brexit?

Jon Dorf

Jon A. Dorf, Esq.

Well, change is inevitable.  Dorf & Nelson’s practice areas are keeping pace and are in step with such major political changes, such as Brexit.  Since we function as a cohesive team, but also maintain a focus on individual practice areas, we are able to respond to global, international, and domestic situations that may impact the law as it applies to our practice departments and our clients.  Therefore, we view overseas markets as opportunities, and we are confident in our ability to respond to changing political and economic climates.  For example, our intellectual property department has a robust international case load, which has not been at all hindered by Brexit.  Our attorneys are highly concentrated in their respective areas, regardless of the physical location of the client. 

David T Kinnear

DAVID T. KINNEAR

Diversity & Inclusion in the legal industry is under the microscope. What’s your take on that?

Jonathan B. Nelson, Esq.

JONATHAN B. NELSON, ESQ.

It should be. For far too long, diversity and inclusion has failed to be a top priority of many law firms.  At D&N, we take this issue with the seriousness it demands and are pleased to be the first Gender Fair Certified law firm in the nation.  Our commitment to diversity does not stop there.  We feel that with diversity comes a spectrum of thoughts, perspectives, approaches and understandings which result in better services to our clients.

David T Kinnear

DAVID T. KINNEAR

How is your firm navigating the demands of COVID-19 remote working measures?

Jon Dorf

Jon A. Dorf, Esq.

As safety of our firm members and the community in general is a top priority, we have responded in a fluid and dynamic manner to allow Dorf & Nelson to continue providing top notch service while not putting people at any further health risks.  Prior to the pandemic, we had the functionality to work remotely, and since the start of the pandemic, have switched into full remote access mode with a skeleton staff present in the offices to provide face to face service, when required, while still strictly adhering to CDC guidelines.  We have not missed a beat in providing service to our clients, nor will we do so in the future, should we be faced with additional waves of the virus.   

David T Kinnear

DAVID T. KINNEAR

There’s talk of disruption in the air. What do you see as the play for lawyers in London looking for more upside?

Jonathan B. Nelson, Esq.

JONATHAN B. NELSON, ESQ.

Beset with COVID-19 financial challenges, a lot of clients are looking downstream to their suppliers seeking more for less and delivered more efficiently. Disruption exposes weaknesses – and change creates opportunities. COVID-19 has exposed some of the fundamental weaknesses experienced by Big Law firms – both as to how flexibly they can manage and compensate their human capital – but also as to the relative inflexibilty in their operating model for clients. For lawyers with portable business it’s a great opportunity to re-align with a more agile firm that can in turn deliver what their clients really want. Moreso, the added benefit to the individual is clear – a bigger slice of the pie and none of the vast overheads associated with Big Law. It’s akin to a successful fund breaking away from a major global bank in order to control its destiny and reap more of the profits. 

JON A. DORF, ESQ.

About Jon

Jon A. Dorf is the Managing Partner of Dorf & Nelson LLP and serves as the Co-Chair of the firm’s Commercial Real Estate Department.  Jon provides strategic planning and oversight for the firm as Managing Partner, and in his comprehensive practice, advises high net worth clients and an expanse of businesses, ranging from start-ups to mid-sized and larger corporations, by providing solid legal counsel and serving as a trusted advisor.  Although Jon’s personal areas of concentration include corporate, commercial real estate, and intellectual property, Jon is personally accessible to all clients and ensures that he and his team provide each matter with an unwavering dedication to excellence, professionalism, and unique client centered solutions.

For over the past two decades, Jon has advised clients on corporate matters and commercial real estate transactions, including complex sales and purchases, refinances, divestitures, negotiation of contracts and related governance agreements, corporate compliance, strategic planning aimed at maximizing profits, and litigation strategies.  Additionally, Jon has experience in intellectual property, including trademarks, copyrights, the licensing of intellectual property, and general branding, and he advises clients on how to capitalize on marketplace recognition and protect their intangible assets.

Jon is dedicated to the furtherance of the economic growth and stability of Westchester County and New York State.  He is a board member of the Business Council of Westchester and a former board member of the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation.  In the past, he served as an executive committee member and as the former general counsel of the Business Council of Westchester.  Jon has also served the Westchester County Bar Association, having been former vice president, executive committee member, and board member.  Jon currently serves on the Board of Trustees for his alma mater, Albany Law School.

Committed to diversity and inclusion, Jon works diligently to ensure that D&N continues to further this end.  Under his leadership, D&N has been the recipient of several awards for gender fairness, equal justice access, furtherance of women, and family friendly policies.  Further, Jon’s commitment to excellence is noted by the firm’s receipt of the 2017 Small Business Award for Excellence in overall firm growth as featured in the fall issue of 914Inc.  Since 2010, Jon has been awarded membership to the prestigious organization, New York Metro Super Lawyers, and is a frequent lecturer and presenter on relevant law topics at local and state organizations such as the New York Bar Association, the Westchester Bar Association and law schools. 

Jonathan B. Nelson, Esq.

About Jonathan

Mr. Nelson is an experienced litigator and corporate counsel with comprehensive knowledge and business vision in corporate governance, multi-national operations, risk management, strategic business development, dispute resolution, and complex litigation matters. As Chair of the Litigation Department, Mr. Nelson oversees more than twenty attorneys in the Litigation Department which is comprised of a Commercial Litigation Group, a Title Insurance Litigation Group, a Medical Malpractice Defense Group, a General Liability Defense Group and a Professional Liability Defense Group.

For almost thirty years, Mr. Nelson has handled and tried a diverse array of litigation matters from state court civil business litigation to complex federal intellectual property matters. He oversees all aspects of the firm’s commercial litigation cases from intake through trial.

Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Nelson was Assistant General Counsel at the Compass Group USA, Inc., the publicly traded subsidiary of Compass Group PLC (CPG.L). Earlier in his career, Mr. Nelson had a general law practice focusing on civil and criminal litigation in state and federal court.

He has also held the position of Assistant District Attorney at the Office of the Kings County District Attorney in Brooklyn, New York, where he has attained the position of Senior Trial Attorney. Upon receiving commendations for successfully trying numerous felony cases, including homicides, Mr. Nelson was chosen to help form an elite bureau, concentrating in the complex prosecution of crimes committed against children.

Dorf & Nelson