Kostelanetz LLP believes that the quality of its client service is enhanced through its investments in team building and professional development. So, in October, the entire firm (lawyers, paralegals, and staff) departed simultaneously on buses from our New York City and Washington, D.C., offices and met in Philadelphia for a firm-wide, two-day retreat dedicated to firm cohesion and education.
Centering our retreat was a look at criminal justice in the United States, its history, how the system operates today, and how our firm participates in that system through its robust white-collar and criminal tax practices, its pro bono work, and its membership in professional associations, such as the American College of Trial Lawyers and the Litigation Counsel of America. Consistent with our belief in the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion, much of our discussion in Philadelphia involved identifying inequities in criminal justice.
On a tour of the historic Eastern State Penitentiary, we learned the history of the prison, which was operational from 1829 to 1971 and housed Al Capone, who was later convicted of tax evasion. The tour, led by former inmates from other correctional institutions, included discussions about solitary confinement and prison overcrowding.
During the retreat, we heard reports on the firm’s work and progress from partners and associates, half of the members of our pre-law paralegal program, all members of our accounting staff, and leaders of our operations team. In all, 30 percent of our attendees presented to the firm, and 90 percent of our staff participated in the retreat.
Consistent with the retreat’s focus on criminal justice, Kostelanetz attorneys and paralegals led discussions on issues relating to incarceration and sentencing. Paralegal Michelle Dubovitsky led a presentation entitled “Thoughts on Wrongful Conviction, Rehabilitation, and Paths to Exoneration: Arlando ‘Tray’ Jones,” which recounted events leading to the release of Mr. Jones after 37 years behind bars. Partner Jay Nanavati provided insights on the sentencing guidelines for those convicted of federal crimes, and paralegals Michael Gelb and Ashley Morales presented information about the death penalty, including inequities in the system.
Beyond the broader criminal justice topics, firm attorneys, such as Bryan Skarlatos and Caroline Ciraolo, also provided business development and management tips and advice, and Don Fort, the firm’s Director of Investigations, and paralegal Mariana Gusdorf presented information about the BankScan software tool, which the firm has licensed for use in forensic investigations and financial criminal and civil litigation.