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Even though E. David Woycik Jr. traveled just one state away from his New York office when he was called to active duty earlier this year to serve with the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corps, he might as well have been on the other side of the world, as far as his private law practice was concerned. Stationed at Fort Dix in New Jersey, Woycik, a colonel in the army, said his personal injury practice with Sanders Sanders Block & Woycik will feel the impact of his eight-month absence for years to come. “It’s not like you can just turn over 150 cases to people in the firm,” he said. Although he is a self-described “patriotic person” — those who reach his cell phone voicemail receive a “God Bless America” salutation — he nevertheless estimated the financial impact of his call to duty to be in the “hundreds of thousands” of dollars. Woycik, 48, who also served nine months in Kuwait during the Gulf War, is one of 20 attorneys at the Sanders firm, which found itself having to pick up the slack in his absence. Phyllis Sanders, a partner at the Mineola practice responsible for delegating his tasks while he was away, explained that she and other senior partners contacted each of his clients personally when he was called up. She said that reassigning his cases to various attorneys within the firm was particularly challenging because he is one of its senior trial attorneys who focuses on plaintiffs’ work. “They needed personal reassurance that things would continue and that they wouldn’t fall through the cracks,” Sanders said, adding that when clients were told why he was leaving, they “responded well.” A full colonel, Woycik was part of the 1079th Garrison Support Unit at Fort Dix, one of the bases the military used to activate and deactivate troops during the war with Iraq. Woycik said his work there has helped mobilize about 250,000 soldiers. He counseled personnel on preparing wills and powers of attorney, and also worked on issues pertaining to employment law, contract issues and environmental matters. He was able to travel home to Garden City sporadically, he said, to see his wife, Carolyn Sanchez, a solo practitioner in New York, who “had to take care of everything” in his absence. Despite the positive send-off and return that Woycik said he received from co-workers and family, the effects on his practice have been decidedly negative. “I know I lost cases because I wasn’t here,” he explained, a consequence that he said he will feel for as long as three years. That hit is in addition to the one he took from cases he turned over to colleagues when he left. Woycik estimated that his pay dropped to about one third of his usual income while he was gone, a figure that does not include the cases he would have acquired during that time. “What I have to do is start networking again with people who were a source of work,” he said. William E. Pries, counsel for the New York State Mortgage Insurance Fund in Manhattan, said that he sympathizes with plaintiffs’ attorneys whose practices he said “fall apart” when they are called to active duty. A captain and a member of the Navy JAG Corps, Pries left New York in February for eight months to serve with the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon. He was on active duty for three years in Japan and four in Italy. He recently retired from the Navy after 30 years of service. Unlike Woycik, Pries was able to maintain a part of his civilian practice with the public benefit corporation while working in Washington, but that work, most of which he did from an apartment in Alexandria, Va., usually followed 12-hour days at the Pentagon. He found the time to perform the absolute essentials for his real estate practice due to his status as what he called a geographic bachelor, since his wife remained at their home in Brookville, Long Island. His work with the Navy was a sharp departure from his civilian job. Pries, 57, who described his function with the joint chiefs as “exhilarating,” provided operational law support to commanders. He briefed them on the legalities of rules of engagement, weapons use, appropriate targets, the treatment of prisoners of war and more. And though he was able to juggle both tasks “fairly seamlessly,” other attorneys at the Mortgage Insurance Fund had to pitch in. “It’s not as if I didn’t lose a beat,” he said. Peter Weinstein knows all about pitching in. When his top deputy was called last year to serve with the Army JAG Corps, also to work with the joint chiefs, it left a major void at the appeals bureau of the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office. Weinstein is the appeals bureau chief and the attorney called up, Lawrence Schwarz, was in charge of the bureau’s entire Appellate Term practice, and many other significant jobs in the office. “[His] absence definitely had a significant impact on the ability of this bureau to manage its caseload, but you make do. You do what you have to do,” Weinstein said. Schwarz has been a member of the reserves since 1978. His departure was coupled with a retirement incentive that many seasoned assistant district attorneys recently took advantage of. When Schwarz left last year, the appeals bureau had 14 attorneys. It now has 10. “We had to do more with less,” Weinstein said. Schwarz returned to a desk loaded with piles of paperwork, Weinstein explained. “I’m just happy to have him back,” he said.

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