top of page

Dewey Pegno & Kramarsky / Q&A with Co-Founder Steve Kramarsky

Steve Kramarsky is a commercial litigator whose practice includes litigation in state and federal courts, as well as arbitrations and mediations. He advises clients on complex issues arising in the litigation and transactional context, with a particular focus on technology, complex financial instruments, intellectual property and employment matters. Steve writes a regular technology law column for the New York Law Journal.

Below, Steve discusses why he became a lawyer, his advice to new lawyers, his involvement in the prosecution of Imelda Marcos, and what he did for the past 1,177 consecutive days.

What's something our clients would never guess about you?

My NYT crossword puzzle streak is currently 1,177 days. I’m not proud of that. It’s a problem. I should probably see someone about it.

What’s the best advice you can give to someone who just started their career?

If you are trying to choose a career and get started in life, try everything that seems even remotely interesting and fail as much and as spectacularly as possible. There’s a strong tendency right now to force young people to get on a life path very early. I’m strongly against that. Beginnings are a great time for failure. The stakes are low, you probably don’t know what you really want, the potential for learning is high, and failures make for the best stories. I have a surprising number of failed careers under my belt. When something clicks, you’ll be able to recognize it.

If you know you want to be a lawyer, my advice is pretty much the same: try to do as much different stuff as possible. Take every opportunity to do substantive work—even work you think might be outside your comfort zone. Take whatever Pro Bono cases are available. Ask to be assigned to smaller matters with leaner teams, even if they’re less prestigious. Take every chance to do anything that feels like something new. If you’re not writing the brief, ask to write a section; if you’re not taking the deposition, ask if you can write the outline and maybe second chair; if you’re not arguing the motion, ask if you can be at counsel table, or at least in the back; if you’re not the person talking to the client, try to be in the room with whoever is. That leads to what is probably an unpopular opinion: all of this is going to be easier if you’re in the office, at least some substantial portion of the time. Chances are the more senior people in your firm are going in. You want to be down the hall when they need you. There’s no better way to get varied experience, and that’s really the only thing that matters early on.

What three items would you take with you to a deserted island?

I wouldn’t last ten seconds on a deserted island, so I guess the answer is a boat capable of getting me back to New York and two friends to keep me company on the trip.

What was your first job?

My first paid job was teaching a basic computer skills course to parents at my elementary school in 1980. I was 13. Personal computers were a pretty new thing, and the course was meant to make them comfortable with these new machines that their kids were increasingly talking about. I was a giant nerd back then and I still am today, though now I have a day job.

After that I had a host of different full-time and part-time jobs. I’ve worked construction, retail, food service, tech support (so much tech support), customer service, building maintenance, IT repair, software development, and middle and upper management. Ask me anything!

My first full-time job was as a paralegal in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York. It was the job that made me decide to become a lawyer. More on that later.

Do you have any talents or hobbies?

I’m still a huge nerd and I have nerd hobbies. I’m a gamer and a puzzle fan, and I even write a little code every now and then, just to remind myself that I can.

Any tips for a successful meeting/hearing?

This is a total cliché, but the answer is be prepared—better yet be over prepared. Be ready for things that you can barely imagine happening, because that’s where the advantage is. When the curve ball comes and you’re ready for it; that’s when you win. My first boss was a world-famous trial lawyer and an absolute genius in court, but one challenge of working for a guy like that was that you never knew how his brain was working—what tiny detail he was going to decide was important. One other thing: being prepared means having all the materials you need and knowing the background and the relevant facts and law (if that’s a thing), but it also means knowing the outcome you actually want, and what you’re willing to give up to get it. It’s important to know what you and the client are really aiming for and what the priorities are.

What’s your favorite movie?

Are people really able to answer this question? I love the movie Blade Runner. It combines two of my favorite genres (Science Fiction and Noir), and it’s certainly one of my favorites. But do I love it more than Casablanca, or Duck Soup, or The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, or Aliens or Dazed and Confused or . . . there’s no way to answer that question.

Are you a morning person or a night owl?

Night owl, by far. I do my best work after everyone else has gone to bed.

What made you want to be a lawyer?

The short answer is: watching great lawyers. I grew up in a family that loved words and loved to argue, and I guess it was always in the back of my mind that there might be a career in it. In college I studied Computer Science and English and, having come to the conclusion that the whole “computer” thing wasn’t going anywhere, I wanted to get an MFA and be a poet. When I was gently informed (by some very good poets) that I should consider something else, I returned to New York and got a job as a paralegal in the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The department was badly understaffed, so the paralegals ended up acting as junior associates. I spent much of the time in court, supporting trial teams on matters ranging from low-level drug offenses to the (failed) prosecution of Imelda Marcos. I came away thinking that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a trial lawyer.

Can you speak more than one language?

I speak some French and some Japanese. My older son (an engineer) informs me that computer languages don’t count.

What’s the best book you’ve read recently?

The Power Broker. It’s absolutely as good as everyone says, and Roman Mars is doing a podcast right now where he talks about it in 100-page chunks, one episode a month for a year. I highly recommend that, too. The book is 1300 pages long, but the audiobook is great so listen when you don’t want to carry the book around, and it’s totally worth it. If you want to learn about how New York became what it is, and how politics really work, as much today as 70 years ago, it’s absolutely worth your time.

Are you a coffee or tea person?

Coffee. Coffee, coffee, coffee. And Diet Coke.

What’s the most exciting part of your job?

The high-speed car chases. Admittedly those are extremely rare, so other than that I kind of see it as my job to make sure things don’t get too exciting. We’re a litigation boutique. If you come to us, your life is already exciting enough. Our job is to make sure our clients are prepared for whatever comes along in an inherently unpredictable process. That said, I personally love oral argument and witness examination – the moments when things can go off the rails and you only have yourself to count on. At a very basic level, I got into this job to argue about stuff, and I still have a lot of fun doing it.

Do you have any pets?

We have an amazing Cesky terrier named Preston.

What has been the most rewarding part of your career to date?

That’s easy—founding and running DPK! When Tom, Dave and I left our jobs at large law firms to start our own firm 26 years ago it was a huge risk. But we took the leap, because we had an (admittedly somewhat sketchy) idea of how we wanted to practice, and we thought some substantial number of clients and lawyers might agree. I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve built, the service we provide to our clients, and the fantastic people whose careers we supported and grew—whether they stayed with us or moved on. After 26 years, I still look forward to going into the office and working with those folks every day. What’s more rewarding than that?



Commenting has been turned off.
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
bottom of page