In NewsWhistle’s weekly question-and-answer series, Clara Morgan speaks with some of her favorite influencers in and around New York and finds out more about their lives and careers.
This week, Clara speaks with top lawyer and legal commentator Randy Zelin, who is a leading trial attorney with a concentration in white collar criminal defense and complex civil litigation matters. He has been named a New York Super Lawyer in consecutive years from 2011 through 2016, and has over 28 years of experience defending individual and corporate clients in both State and Federal Courts in New York and in various states across the country.
Also a legal commentator for the media, Zelin regularly appears on national and local network television, as well as the New York Law Journal, New York Times and Wall Street Journal, offering expertise on a wide range of legal issues and cases. Aside from his day-to-day commitments, Zelin is a frequent lecturer at continuing legal education programs on criminal law and procedure, and has taught as a guest instructor in various local law schools’ trial advocacy programs, as well as for the National Institute for Trial Advocacy.
Zelin lives and works in Manhattan, and is engaged to travel agent Julie Hecht. Zelin has a passion for travelling, and favorite destinations include Paris and Rome. When it comes to food, he loves Italian – whether it be a perfectly baked wood fire oven pizza or a delicious al dente pasta. Read more about his favorite restaurants and travel destinations, among other things, in this week’s Q&A.
1. When and how did you first realize that you wanted to work in the industry and business you are in?
From the moment my mother brought me home Gray’s Anatomy when I was ten or so, and the pictures made me sick. Doctor – out. Lawyer – in.
2. Any celebrity clients or memorable stories related to your business that you want to share?
I am able to represent high profile clients because my best work is the work no one ever hears about. Every case is memorable so every story is memorable because they are so personal. As the Honorable Arthur D. Spatt once said – when every case stops taking a little piece of you, find something else to do for a living.
3. What is a typical day like for you? And what do you like to do on a day off?
I’m a creature of habit. I lay my clothes out the night before. My fiancée Julie changes what I’ve chosen. I’m up at 6am. At my desk by 7:20am with the Law Journal and breakfast of fruit and two hard-boiled eggs. Court appearances, client meetings, case work-up. Lunch at my desk. Television appearances one or two times per week. I try to be home by 8pm – usually that’s optimistic. Binge watch Ray Donovan, Game of Thrones, The Tudors, Better Call Saul, House of Cards, Scandal or Narcos. Typical Day off? Work, kids, Julie. The order changes. I am very lucky. I have a wonderful life. I’ve never worked a day in my life.
4. What is the next big thing in your industry? What are people doing differently today, compared to 10-15 years ago?
I hope it’s bringing the practice of law down to a more personal level. The relationship between a lawyer and a client should be close, personal and special. Practicing law must go back to being the honorable profession it once was. Being a counsellor – an advisor. A trusted confidante. I am proud to do what I do. I take it very, very seriously. And very personally. The biggest difference today? The advent of 24 hours news and social media. There is no time to plan. No time to formulate a response. Nothing goes away. Nothing can be kept hidden away.
5. What are your three favorite restaurants in New York?
American Cut, Tony’s Di Napoli, Elios.
6. What are your three favorite bars in New York?
I’m not really a bar guy. Having said that – the Regency, Del Frisco’s and the Dream Hotel Downtown.
7. What are your three favorite locations to visit in New York?
My apartment, my office, the United States Courthouses for the Southern and Eastern Districts.
8. Which three events on your annual calendar will you will absolutely not miss?
Any event involving any of our kids, summer vacation, winter vacation.
9. What was your best New York moment? Your worst?
Every morning when I walk to work and every night when I come home are the best. Having the kids with us. And of course – July 7, 2012 when Julie agreed to start seeing me again. The worst? A guilty verdict.
10. Tell us something that people do not know about you. (And you cannot say it is a secret!)
I knock three times on the outside of a plane every time I am boarding. And I used to dream that Liberty DeVito would call in sick and Billy Joel would call on me from the audience to play the drums for him.
11. How would you describe your personal style?
I love to be dressed in a suit. There is nothing like a bespoke suit. I have become more conservative in an effort to ensure that the key to the apartment still works. However, my casual style needs to start to catch up to my work style. White t-shirts and blue jeans are growing weary on my family.
12. Who is your style icon? Where do you find your style inspiration?
I am lucky enough to have been doted over by Martin Greenfield. And I don’t leave for work until Julie has approved the outfit.
13. Who is your favorite fashion designer, artist, or architect – and why?
Picasso. Because a 10-year-old actually cannot paint like that. Nobody can. Timeless. Complexity disguised in simplicity.
14. Name your favorite… and tell us why:
A three-piece suit. Because even I look good in it.
Calandre by Paco Rabanne. Reminds me of my mother.
Be Cool. Cedric the Entertainer was robbed of an Oscar.
d. TV show.
Entourage. Dare to dream to be that cool or to have that much fun.
The Alchemist. Because I’m all about conspiracies.
15. What is your favorite restaurant in the world? What is it you love about it and what is your favorite dish?
Mamo restaurant in Antibes, France. I could have cried after finishing their pizza, that’s how good it was. Honorable mention to Dan Tana’s in West Hollywood. Timeless takes on an entirely different meaning. And the pumpkin ravioli at Bencotto in San Diego. I asked them to overnight a plate of it after we got home. I think they called Bellevue to have me brought in for observation.
16. Name your favorite vacation spot and hotel? What makes these places so special?
I want to move to every place we vacation at. Every place is special – I guess at the end of the day it’s whom you are traveling with that makes the difference. I love traveling with any and all of the kids and there is no better travel planner, guide and partner than Julie. Having said that – I give the vacation spot nod to Paris and the hotel nod to the Grand Bretagne in Athens.
17. Which three items can you not live without?
Family, the courtroom, my glasses. I used to think it was my hair but apparently I’ve gotten over that.
18. What song, meditation or mantra can you listen to on repeat? And why?
“And when you want something all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” Paulo Coelho. Because that’s the way it has to be.
19. If you could meet anyone in the world, who would you like to meet? And why?
My grandfather David Silvers. He died when I was one. I’m told he was extraordinary. I would have liked to have found that out for myself. I also hope to meet my mother again. She passed away November 11, 2012.
20. Is there anything else you would like to share, discuss or promote?
Our differences are what makes us interesting, are what makes us worthwhile, and what makes us each worth getting to know. And let’s create a 24 hour news cycle of only good news.
Images courtesy of Randy Zelin