Photo by Carmen Natale/ALM.  From left to right: Esther Cedeno, Karen Lopez, Anjuli Colina, James P. Krupka, Esq., John J. Ratkowitz, Esq., Richard M. Winograd, Esq., Robert H. Baumgarten, Esq., Karen Zuniga, Matthew V. Villani, Esq., Nicole Villar, John M. Piro, Esq., James M. Merendino, Esq.

When it was formed 36 years ago, Ginarte Gallardo González Winograd set out to represent litigants in underserved communities in New Jersey and elsewhere—and, of course, to achieve results. The firm hit both those marks in 2017. Aside from the Criollo matter described here, the firm won numerous verdicts, and obtained numerous settlements, on behalf of injured workers. At $1 million and $2 million, the recoveries might not always be eye-popping, but they are life-changing sums for individual clients, and the cases are typically complex, the injuries significant, and the stakes high for clients and their families.

** The responses were provided by managing partner Michael Gallardo. **

What were some of the department’s most satisfying successes of 2017, and why?

An example of what the Ginarte law firm stands for in its zealous representation of clients is exemplified in the matter of Jose Criollo vs. Empire, et al., ESX-L-492-14, which settled in 2017 for the amount of $8.225 million. Unfortunately, events following Mr. Criollo’s accident were typical of the type of matters handled by Ginarte, Gallardo, Gonzalez & Winograd. After his November 15, 2013, accident, his employer, who Criollo had worked for since 1986, denied Criollo was his employee because they did not carry workers’ compensation insurance. As a result, no insurance carrier would pay medical bills related to Criollo’s care, who was now a paraplegic due to his accident and undocumented.

The hands-on, client-focused approach of Ginarte, Gallardo, Gonzalez & Winograd benefited Mr. Criollo because, mere weeks after Mr. Criollo’s accident, the firm had already sent out investigators who identified the pertinent contractors working on the job site. We also identified the workers’ compensation carriers of the contractors higher up the chain of command. Further, since lawyers of the firm were routinely visiting Mr. Criollo, in four weeks we had an established relationship with Criollo, his family and some of the other workers on the construction site. After four years of litigation, Mr. Criollo’s case settled on the eve of trial for the amount of $8.225 million.

Being a Litigation Department of the Year means more than providing good counsel. How does your group go a step further for clients?

The firm strives to treat all clients like family. Right from the start, the clients are put at ease knowing that the litigation department as a whole will do everything they can to fight for them. All the attorneys go above and beyond what is expected to ensure the clients are obtaining the proper medical treatment, they fully understand the litigation process and are placed in the best possible position. The litigation department as a whole works vigorously to help return the client’s life to as normal as possible.

In an era of increasing law practice portability, what does it mean to be an effective litigator in New Jersey?

Accessibility from anywhere is a major asset of our firm. The attorneys are able to review files and work on cases from remote locations thanks to our elaborate computer system. The department can complete important work and utilize other tools at a moment’s notice, which has proven invaluable. The litigation department as a whole has an innate ability to adapt to the situation and circumstances required of any case. Simply put, we are available at all times no matter where we may be.

Is it true that clients now more than ever wish to avoid litigation, and if so, how do law firms manage the business of operating a litigation department in the new marketplace?

Each step of the litigation process is explained thoroughly to the clients. In doing so, the clients are able to make informed decisions based on the attorney’s recommendation. We do not necessarily agree with clients’ willingness to avoid litigation. We believe the client is looking for fairness, however, it is much more difficult today without litigation and the unwillingness of many defendants to settle or take responsibility early on, especially with insurance carriers involved.

Litigators are extraordinarily busy people. What does the firm do to ensure that they remain engaged with pro bono work, their communities and their families?

The firm is very active in the local community as well as national issues. We actively participate in yearly cancer walks in New York and New Jersey, autism awareness week, and most recently “March for Our Lives” gun violence awareness walk in New York. We also schedule yearly sporting events where attorneys are able to attend and get away from the daily grind. Additionally, we have yearly family picnics and outings in attempt to merge families with the law. We are also involved heavily with local charities such as Wynona’s House for abused and battered children, and extensive pro bono work

Technology and other factors have changed work capabilities and habits. How do you offer flexibility while also effectively managing attorneys and others professionals?

The firm is a big proponent of having remote connectivity so employees can have access to files and correspondence without physically being in the office. We strive to keep up with the ever-changing times and support employees with daily family responsibilities.