Even though former Connecticut Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz left a corporate law job for a position in public service nearly 20 years ago, she claims she never stopped being a lawyer.
“The whole time I was secretary of state, I was practicing law on behalf of taxpayers, rather than for paying clients,” she said. Her career in public service came to an end last summer, when she lost a bid to be the Democratic nominee for the U.S, Senate seat eventually won by fellow Democrat Christopher Murphy.
But now, an entrepreneurial spirit has driven Bysiewicz, 51, of Middletown back to the business of representing paying clients. Last week, she announced she was joining the recently launched Pastore Shofi & Dailey. The founding partner, Joseph M. Pastore III, met Bysiewicz when she was practicing corporate law at White & Case in New York City years ago. He said she’s an important addition to the 10-lawyer firm.
“She a bright light; she brings an enthusiasm to everything she does,” said Pastore, who left Dreier LLC in 2009 to work for Fox Rothschild and then Pastore & Osterberg, before launching his new financial litigation firm in December. “She is a talented attorney and a wonderful person. If she was a doctor, she’d be a great doctor.”
Pastore and Bysiewicz never worked for the same law firm, but they have kept in touch over the years, most recently during her primary run last year. They reconnected during the campaign because some of Pastore’s clients were her supporters. After the election, Pastore made her an offer. “I was excited about the opportunity to build a firm with some very talented and top-notch lawyers,” Bysiewicz said.
Last week, she and an assistant were the only ones working in her new office in Glastonbury. But there is room in that office for four more lawyers to work with Bysiewicz, who joins the firm as counsel. The office is Pastore Shofi & Dailey’s third, joining locations in Stamford and New York City.
While he acknowledged that Bysiewicz’s name recognition is helpful to his firm’s business, Pastore said her job won’t be “just to wave at the occasional client.” Instead, she’ll work to build practices in the areas of corporate law, finance, banking, securities and contract negotiations.
“Of course, we are interested in Susan’s ability to open dialogue, to open doors for our clients,” Pastore said. “We’re in the business of persuasion, and for our clients, having someone with Susan’s credibility and name recognition is valuable.”
Bruce Marcus, a law firm management consultant in Branford, said a lawyer with Bysiewicz’s statewide name recognition makes her an attractive acquisition. “Put it this way, running for an election means you have gone out and met a lot of people and raised funds,” he said. “A political name like hers is currency.”
A Connecticut native and Yale College graduate, Bysiewicz’s first law job after graduating from Duke Law School was as an associate for White & Case, representing corporations in business transactions. She returned to Connecticut a few years later as an associate at Robinson & Cole in Hartford. Later, she worked for Aetna Insurance Company in Hartford, where she served as counsel in the Law Department and focused on healthcare and pension law.
“My clients were for the most part financial institutions that were lending money to corporations, for instance, I represented Deutche Bank in some transactions,” she said.
In 1992, Bysiewicz was elected to the legislature, where she served until 1999. At that point, she was elected to her first of three terms as secretary of the state, an office that oversees elections and the licensing of 300,000 businesses statewide. A rising Democratic star, Bysiewicz considered running for governor. But in 2010, she decided instead to run for state attorney general.
She was disqualified from that race, however, when the state Supreme Court ruled she did not have 10 years of “active practice” in the law, as called for by the statute that sets the qualifications for attorney general. The court defined “active practice,” in part, as appearing in courtrooms on behalf of clients.
To this day, Bysiewicz disagrees with that decision, saying she handled legal matters on a daily basis as the secretary of the state. She noted she supervised a team of six to eight lawyers.
“I practiced law as secretary of state,” she said. “Because it was my obligation, not only as the chief business registrar, but as the state’s chief elections official, to interpret election law and as the secretary of state I would provide legal opinions on voting regulations.”
Bysiewicz said the vast majority of Connecticut lawyers lack 10 years of courtroom experience. “To have a Supreme Court ruling which excludes 93 percent of the lawyers in the state from running for attorney general because they are not litigators, that says you must be a trial lawyer in order to serve in that capacity. And that excludes 93 percent of a very important profession. It’s something I do hope the legislature will address in the future.”
It is exactly that sort of outspoken advocacy that attracts Pastore to his Bysiewicz. While Pastore is known as a litigator and appellate lawyer on behalf of banks and investment firms, Bysiewicz’s work “will focus on keeping our clients out of court.”
Bysiewicz acknowledged that because of her political career, she has contacts at law large law firms throughout the state and many professional opportunities as a result. But when the opportunity to join the Pastore firm was made, it was the right one. “This was just the right opportunity at the right time,” she said.
Part of what she’s most excited about, Bysiewicz said, is building a practice in the growing, new firm.
Asked whether there may be another political run in her future, Bysiewicz said, “Right now, I’m very focused on building this practice.”•