When he was the managing partner at the Stamford, Conn., office of Dreier LLP, Joseph M. Pastore III handpicked a group of lawyers to work at the financial litigation firm. Much of the group’s work involved defending brokerage firms against charges brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Among the lawyers Pastore brought in were Leanne M. Shofi and William M. Dailey. They worked closely together, but time and circumstances pulled the trio apart. “We always joked about getting the band back together,” Pastore said.
Last month, they did. The three former colleagues opened a new Stamford firm — Pastore, Shofi & Dailey — that may eventually have more than 10 lawyers and could include a Florida office. “We are starting out small but we are looking to grow,” said Pastore, whose new firm continues to represent financial service companies and investment groups. “I think we’re already practicing at a big-firm level. That’s the nature of our work style. We’re focusing on the financial practice, but our goal is to have a full-service law firm.”
In 2009, law firm founder Marc Dreier was arrested for securities fraud and his 200-lawyer, New York City-based firm collapsed. That prompted Pastore to help form a new 15-lawyer firm called Pastore & Osterberg, with intellectual property attorney Eric Osterberg. The office was later acquired by the 500-lawyer firm Fox Rothschild.
Pastore left Fox Rothschild in 2011 because one of the clients he had brought from Dreier was engaged in a legal dispute with a client of Fox Rothschild. Rather than give up the client, Pastore moved on. But Dailey kept working at Fox Rothschild and Shofi went off to raise a family. Pastore kept himself busy as partner in the security and litigation practices with Smith, Gambrell & Russell, a New York-based firm of 175 lawyers that has a Stamford office.
But all this time, Pastore said, he’s been looking to re-create the skill set and the esprit de corps he had at Dreier. That wasn’t possible right after the implosion. “Our impulse when that happened was, let’s just get everyone back in the boat” and re-employed, Pastore said. “But ever since, I’ve had a hard time finding a firm that really understands our market, which is Connecticut and New York.”
Elaborating, Pastore said hedge fund managers and other clients in Fairfield County expect sophisticated legal services to be provided with a speed and efficiency that “not everyone gets.
“The way I see it, we’re in a customer service business,” said Pastore, a Ridgefield, Conn., resident. “We’re good at what we do, we’re smart people but we’ve also got to provide value to our clients. And that in my mind means you don’t bill them disproportionately to the task.”
What he means by that, is if a client has a dispute that’s worth $5,000, “and you bill them $5,000, then you haven’t added any value for your client. Instead, you’ve hurt the client in that situation.”
The lawyers Pastore has brought together share his mindset. “Sometimes, we might even take a loss,” he said.
Shofi, like Pastore, graduated from Pace University School of Law. She is known for her appellate work in areas of unfair trade practice litigation. “She’s a tremendous lawyer and she deserves to be a part of this,” Pastore said. “I brought her in to work at Dreier and she’s been with me ever since.”
The other founding partner of the firm, Dailey, started his career working as an attorney for the Regulatory Division at the New York Stock Exchange. While working for NYSE, Dailey investigated and brought charges of regulatory violations, including insider trading and allegations of market manipulations of stock values. He also investigated brokerage firms for compliance of federal securities law until joining Pastore at the Dreier firm.
The new firm also has office space in Manhattan. Pastore has already hired five lawyers and plans to bring in at least two more in coming months.
Pastore said the experiences he and his partners have endured, even through the collapse of Dreier, have made them stronger.
“Organizations can fail, individuals can fail, but if you’ve got good people and surround yourself with good people, you can really persevere,” he said. “Because it’s less about the institutions and more about the quality of the people.”