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Interview of the Month

An Interview with Neil E. Kozek

Susan L. Pollet
Chair of the Archive and Historian Committee

Q: When did you join the WWBA, and why did you join a woman’s bar association?

A:  I joined the WWBA in 1995 when I became Georgia Kramer’s associate at Hall Dickler Kent Friedman and Wood, LLP.  Georgia was an active member and co-chair of the matrimonial committee with Rita K. Gilbert.  I of course followed Georgia everywhere she went including monthly meetings for Chinese food, networking and CLE credits.  I have been a member ever since.

Q: You are on the Board of Directors and Leadership Committee of the Westchester Women’s Bar Association Foundation.  How have you contributed to the Board’s efforts, and are you involved in other WWBA activities? 

A:   As a board member of the WWBA Foundation, I support the foundation and its efforts in awarding scholarships and grants to not-for-profit organizations whose missions are primarily helping women and families.  The board meets approximately 6 times per year.  I attend annual dinners for Pace Women’s Justice Center and the annual Women’s Bar Installation of Officer’s Dinner at Mamaroneck Beach and Yacht Club where our firm often sponsors tables and contributes to support the Honorees.

Q: Please tell our members about your legal career.

A: I was principle law Secretary for the presiding Judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Matrimonial Part in Camden, New Jersey from 1988-89;  I was an attorney with Stern Steiger Croland in Paramus, New Jersey where I was a partner from 1989-1995;  I worked briefly on Park Avenue in NYC while I earned membership to the New York Bar with Sheresky Aronson Mayefsky in 1995-1996; then I joined Hall Dickler Kent Friedman and Wood where I became a partner (1996-2003);  Georgia Kramer and I founded Kramer Kozek LLP in 2003 where we both continue to practice today.  I am an avid Collaborative attorney having served on the boards of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals for three years, a founding member of the New York Association of Collaborative Professionals where I sat on the board for approximately 18 years and had the privilege of being its President for two years; I am a fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the International Academy of Family Lawyers, Nominated and included in the Best Lawyers of America, Best Attorneys in America, and a founding member of the American Academy for Certified Financial Litigators. I served on the Executive Committee of the Family Law Section of the Westchester County Bar Association, and have been an active member of and frequent lecturer for the Family Law Sections of the New York, New Jersey and American Bar Associations.  I have been recognized by New York Metropolitan Superlawyers since its inception for the past 13 years.  I am a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Rutgers University in 1985 and received my JD from Temple University School of Law in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1988.

Q: In your experience, how has the landscape changed over the course of your legal career, if at all, for women lawyers in Westchester County.

A: When I first landed in New York in 1995 I felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.  New Jersey was like Kansas and I knew I was no longer in Kansas. Where was the collegiality? When I discovered Collaborative Practice, I knew that this was to be my mission:  to make practicing matrimonial law in New York a more collaborative and collegial place to practice.  I introduced collaborative Practice to the Westchester County and New York County Women’s Bar Associations in 2002.  The Women’s Bar of Westchester County embraced the opportunity and Westchester County became the leader in the New York Collaborative movement. New York County was slower to make the move, as has been the pattern throughout the world.  Suburban practices are more open to change, and larger metropolitan cities are slower to shift their comfortable paradigm.  Over the 20+ years I have been in New York, both men and women have become more collaborative and settlement has become the goal rather than heavy motion practice, positional bargaining and trial work.  Women lawyers in Westchester have led the innovation of Collaborative Practice and I am very proud to have been a part of it. 

Q: What are your other community activities when you are not practicing law or contributing to the WWBA?

A: I have served on the board of Temple Emanu-El of Westchester County, I have coached soccer for all three of my now grown children and I work with various community not-for-profit organizations including the Westchester Family Share House, a group that provides fresh furniture and furnishings to give women and families of domestic violence and natural disaster a fresh start.  

Q: How have you balanced your legal career with your family responsibilities over the years.

A: When I began working with Mrs. Kramer, my first child was 4 months old.  Adam is now 23 ½.   Along with Georgia, I worked weekends, holidays and late nights.  I brought the baby carriage, the diaper bag and the formula to work while my wife of 27 years, Alison, played golf.  If I needed to go to the doctor with a child, my time was flexible, and Georgia knew that work-life balance was important.  I drove all three of our children to pre-school and elementary school since Alison worked in New York City.  Working in White Plains afforded our family the flexibility to both work full time and to both be active participants in our children’s activities and education.  Full time live-in child care helped a lot too!  Kramer Kozek has the exact same family friendly philosophy and congenial family-oriented work environment for all of our employees.  Kramer Kozek was nominated by our staff and recognized by the Westchester Women’s Bar Association for our dedication to families a few years ago.

Q: What advice would you like to give to women lawyers entering the legal profession.

A:  If you are going to be a parent and a professional at the same time, then you will need a good partner-whether that means a good business partner who understands the complexities of raising a family while working or a life partner who can help share the labor both at home and in the work place.  Balancing family life and work is not an easy task.  Men and women MUST begin to realize that the family and the workplace are both the jobs of life partners regardless of gender, family orientation or sexual orientation.  The sooner we all realize that family and marriage is truly an equal partnership, the sooner New York will join the new millennium.  I am not suggesting that every divorce case is 50/50 but I do urge the judiciary to recognize the herculean efforts of both spouses in our ongoing jurisprudence.

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