Dewey Pegno & Kramarsky / Q&A with Associate Christopher DeNicola
Christopher DeNicola joined DPK in 2016. He represents U.S. and international companies in complex litigation, arbitration and dispute resolution proceedings, with particular emphasis on banking and finance. Before joining Dewey Pegno & Kramarsky, Christopher was a litigation associate at Cleary Gottlieb Steen and Hamilton, and served as a law clerk to the Honorable Thomas P. Griesa of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. He began his legal career as an associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.
Christopher received his J.D., cum laude, from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where he received the Noyes E. Leech Award for international law scholarship and served as Articles Editor for the Journal of International Law. He received his undergraduate degree from Williams College. Christopher is a member of the Bar in New York and is proficient in French.
Christopher took time to answer a few questions about his career, trail running in his free-time, parenting twins during the pandemic, and his idea of a perfect day.
What’s the best advice you can give to someone who just started their career?
When I was a summer associate, a senior lawyer gave me a piece of advice that has stuck with me: “In this business, we’re painters. Sometimes we’re painting masterpieces, and sometimes we’re painting houses.” What I took that to mean is that while we strive for excellence in all aspects of our work, there are times when it is important to step back and think about which tasks require a high level of craftsmanship, and which can be handled more quickly. Having that perspective is particularly important when multiple complex matters are active simultaneously, because it can help us prioritize tasks and allocate our time accordingly.
What has been the most rewarding part of your career to date?
One of my most rewarding experiences was litigating a Section 1983 action on behalf of a pro bono client from summary judgment through trial. The case concerned a novel and complex due process claim concerning the placement of our client on suicide watch in a jail on Long Island as a form of punishment. I had the opportunity to do the opening, closing, and examine fact and expert witnesses, and we ultimately prevailed at trial, winning both compensatory and punitive damages for our client and setting a precedent in an unsettled area of the law.
What’s the best book you’ve read recently?
I would recommend How to Hide an Empire by Daniel Immerwahr, a history of current and former U.S. overseas territories from the Philippines to Puerto Rico. I found this book fascinating because it shows that these territories have often played critical roles in U.S. history while receiving relatively little attention from the American public. For example, during the nineteenth century, the United States raced to acquire small islands that contained guano—which was then considered essential for domestic farming—and many of those islands were later incorporated into a constellation of overseas military bases. The book is also packed with interesting trivia, such as the fact that Manila was the sixth largest city in the United States during World War II.
What’s the most exciting part of your job?
Nothing matches the excitement and intensity of trial, but I’ve found that the discovery phase of litigation is often underrated. Delving deeply into a trove of documents and pulling out the proverbial needle in a haystack can be very rewarding—especially when you know exactly how it will be used to devastating effect at trial (or during settlement negotiations).
What’s your favorite food?
Pistachio gelato (year round).
Do you have any talents or hobbies?
One of my favorite off-hours activities is trail running. As a former high school cross-country runner, I love running on varied terrain and getting immersed in nature, as well as the feeling of rejuvenation that follows.
Do you have any pets?
I do not, but if I were to get one, it would have to be a cat. I grew up with Maine Coons and several rescue cats.
Do you have any kids at home?
I do. I have twins—a boy and a girl—who are almost five years old. We have always been a tight-knit family, and parenting during the pandemic has created new opportunities for bonding. When my kids’ preschool closed in the spring of 2020, my wife and I decided that incorporating outdoor time into our daily routine was essential. My contribution was taking the kids for a walk around the neighborhood each morning before work. It turned out to be an amazing experience, because we were able to closely observe the emergence of spring together.
What’s your favorite season?
Summer is easily my favorite. I will always take a little extra heat and sun over any amount of ice and snow.
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
My perfect day would include a little adventure with my wife and children. I currently live outside of the city in Westchester County and feel lucky to have many great options for days off, including everything from exploring the city’s museums and movie theaters like Film Forum to venturing deep into the Hudson River valley to take in the scenic views.
Have you started any new hobbies or interests during the pandemic?
At the start of the pandemic, I decided to expand my culinary horizons. Having grown up with grandparents who owned a restaurant in Connecticut called the Newtown Inn, I have a longstanding appreciation for food, but only limited cooking skills myself. One of my early forays into pandemic cooking was recreating a red lentil soup that I first tasted at a midtown lunch spot near DPK’s office. I am pleased to report that the soup was a hit and is now a winter staple in our home.