Be yourself and be an individual; it is the only way to become successful, if you follow others, you will become dizzy not knowing yourself and the direction towards success.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Adam Leitman Bailey.
‘Actively at the helm of the law firm he built from scratch, Adam Leitman Bailey, Esq. practices residential and commercial real estate law. Among New York’s most successful and prominent real estate attorneys, Mr. Bailey is one of two attorneys from a law firm with less than 30 attorneys that has been ranked in Chambers & Partners, honored with a Martindale-Hubbell “AV” Preeminent rating, a Best Lawyers ranking for himself and his law firm, selected by Super Lawyers as one of New York’s “Top 100” attorneys, a list that included only five real estate law firms’ attorneys and selected among America’s Top 100 Bet-The-Company Litigators.’
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I read a book in 7th grade about John Peter Zenger and how he hired a prominent Philadelphia attorney who used persuasion and words to acquit a New York City publisher from seditious libel after printing truthful facts about the British Governor, Bill Cosby. I wanted to be that person. Especially after seeing how weak my ancestors were and how they did not stand up for themselves in the late 1930s, which led to their deaths in the Holocaust. I wanted to use my voice to fight against injustice at a very early age and it bothered me tremendously that not enough Jewish people fought back. I have been fighting back ever since, case by case.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
The most interesting thing about our firm and myself is that I feel like the most hated real estate lawyer in America over and over again. For example, the nation hated us when we represented the Ground Zero Mosque’s right to be built near the World Trade Center, defending every religion’s right to build. We scared every developer in the nation when we found an arcane statute to assist thousands of home purchasers with the ability to achieve large price decreases or rescind their contracts. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals mentioned we were threatening the decline of the real estate economy. We angered the Courts when we taught New York about self-help evictions, and it became a go-to practice during COVID. The tenant bars came after us when we figured out a way of getting around the moratorium on evictions by suing for security deposits. We never tried to be the most popular firm in the State, but our first priority is to fight injustices, although we try to help everyone in any way we can.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I had just opened up my first practice and was very worried about ethics and copyright laws. I did not realize that every attorney used the same standard form template when drafting a lease. I received an assignment from a Smithtown Long Island store to draft a commercial lease and I visited the Bar Association library to research the best provisions to protect my client. I drafted a lease that must have taken me 40 hours, instead of the 5 or 6 hours it would have taken if I used the same lease form everyone else used. That lease was signed without edits, and to this day I have no idea if it was used again or if any problems arose from it.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
At 17 years old I was a passenger in a car accident and survived a coma that broke many of the bones in my body. I did not complete high school that year and received 37 stitches in my head. I was told by my doctors that attending college was not an option. But because of my success from running so soon after recovering and receiving awards and honors that I should never have dreamed of, I knew that I would regain my memory and my faculties and become a contender in academics once again. I credited my success to my track coach and schooling and started a charity in 2002 called Building Foundations and Dreams. Since its inception, the foundation has carried out over 150 projects aimed at improving the lives of those in our community. The organization has continuously provided generous academic funding and awarded much-needed scholarships to students from underprivileged backgrounds, helping them to reach their full potential and achieve their dreams. Building Foundations & Dreams aims to further this work through additional public donations. Led by a team of dedicated staff and volunteers, Building Foundations & Dreams is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to serving our community. Based in New York City, the team works tirelessly to improve the lives of young adults from all walks of life. I awarded the first Raymond “Hap” Harrison Scholarship in 2008 in honor of my high-school cross-country and track coach, Raymond “Hap” Harrison. The scholarship is awarded annually to high school graduates attending college. To receive this accolade, a recipient must possess many of the ideals and traits Raymond Harrison instilled in me, including deep-seated values of success and the desire to make the world a better place by helping others. Additionally, the recipient must also demonstrate financial need and strong academic achievement. Building Foundations and Dreams has given millions of dollars back into underserved communities via prestigious college scholarships, youth mentoring programs, anti-bullying initiatives, and paid internships. I have also personally provided significant funding grants to support hospital research into preventing and curing severe illnesses, such as leukemia and neurological diseases.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
I was instrumental in helping movie actress Rosario Dawson [who starred in ‘Ahsoka’ and ‘The Mandalorian’, among other blockbuster films] and her family, who were squatters in a building at 544 East 13th Street, move from homelessness to home ownership. In fact, Rosario was ‘discovered’ on the front steps of the building in 1995 by photographer/director Larry Clark who went on to cast her in the 1995 film Kids as Ruby, a breakout role which launched her stratospheric Hollywood career.
What three things should the community/society/politicians be doing to help fix specific societal problem/s that you are passionate about resolving?
Crime and housing. Growing up poor in Bayside Queens and then Canoga Park California, I am aware that we cannot have a successful society without a safe society. Our police force needs to be reformed and held to the high standards of the Bloomberg administration. I believe that everyone should have a home, but to do that you cannot have a broken system of housing like the current rent regulation system which needs to be weaned out. Large low-income properties should donate a certain number of units to the heroes of our society to attract people to these jobs — teachers, nurses, doctors, firefighters, the best police officers- and those that receive the low-income apartment should not be based on when they moved in but on application and interviews.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership inspires persons to do better than they would without the leader; leadership takes the blame for failure and gives kudos for success; leaders are always humble but see the big picture and know how to win at all times and keep his/her staff calm and fighting for victory or the closing of a deal.
Tell us “5 things I wish someone had told me when I first started out in Law” and why.
- The world is full of corruption and corrupt people in and out of government and you will need to be very focused to avoid them and even smarter to succeed despite them.
- You know a lot more than you give yourself credit for — be bold and start being the best you can be now –every day on your way to success.
- Surround yourself with people smarter than you so you can learn from them.
- Be yourself and be an individual; it is the only way to become successful, if you follow others, you will become dizzy not knowing yourself and the direction towards success.
- Have fun — do more than work. Try balancing both, making sure you become successful while keeping your smile.
- Remember the most important decisions you will ever make are who you will marry and who you will work for.
You are a very influential person. If you could inspire a movement that would do the most good for the most people, what would that involve?
Becoming an activist and real estate lawyer/litigator who fights against injustice and attempts to better the world.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Courage is to stand up and speak, it’s also what it takes to sit down and listen.” — Winston Churchill
Name any living person with whom you would like to have a private meal with and explain why.
A number of years ago, President Obama was pushing for a boatload of money to go to Iran that would be used to build up its nuclear arms program. He needed the Senate’s support and a few undecided voters, including Senator Chuck Schumer. My client at the time and good friend, the legendary Dale Hemmerdinger, hosted an intimate fundraiser and seated me next to the Senator, as I had given up another event to attend the dinner. He made sure we discussed the vote. I had prepared for the moment and although I will never know if my discussion swayed his vote (he voted against President Obama, his party and against Iran obtaining the weapons), it was a momentous occasion for me because I had the opportunity to try to stop Iran from building a nuclear weapons plant.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
We maintain a website at www.alblawfirm.com and you can follow us on Instagram (@alb_pc), Facebook (Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C.), TikTok (@alb_pc) and LinkedIn (Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C.)
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success in your great work!
Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Adam Leitman Bailey Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.