Practice Makes Perfect

How One Firm Found That Good Lawyering And Community Engagement Are Inextricably Entwined

Long before he earned his formal education from Stuyvesant and StonyBrook, Gary Angiuli picked up some of his most valuable lessons growing up in Bayside Queens.

"The greatest part of my education probably came from my dad," the founder and managing partner of Angiuli & Gentile, LLP, noted. "He was a really great businessman, a very entrepreneurial type of guy. And I think growing up with that role model — having that family business background — makes me uniquely suited to offer business advice to my clients."

But business structure and the inner workings of lease transactions were just a few of the many lessons Angiuli learned from his dad — a self-made auto dealer and commercial real estate owner. It's also what undoubtedly bonds him with his partner, Annamarie Gulino Gentile.

"I came from an entrepreneurial family as well, and I think that may have been something that connected Gary and myself," Gentile noted. "Growing up around a family business, you inevitably see and learn what's involved and understand the highs and lows. I think that background really helps us to help our clients; we see things in terms of business but we also see and understand the human side, which we feel forges an extremely important connection."

And after more than 20 years of practicing law together, Angiuli and Gentile know that knowledge and experience combined with a strong sense of empathy are definitely what give their firm an edge. Together, the North Shore-based attorneys navigate a wide variety of legal issues, including business, personal injury and elder law. "Gary is the architect of the firm," Gentile said. "He has a vision which we work hard to implement. He directs the course of our firm in terms of the areas we practice and in the type of personnel we surround ourselves with. I come in as engineer and I help attain what that vision is."

And a big part of that vision includes a focus on client relations. "So many people feel extremely uncomfortable coming to a lawyer, but it's something you inevitably have to do within your lifetime," Angiuli added. "And those instances are usually serious and life-changing. Our primary function here is to be cognizant of and sensitive to needs. Many attorneys complete paperwork and make court appearances, but we look for more than that in our staff. As supervising partner of the day-today talent of the firm, Annamarie does that seamlessly… she forges those connections."

The partners met in 1989 during a trip to Washington, D.C., when both were admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court. Angiuli's firm at the time was focusing on a few areas of law while Gentile and her partner were tackling several others. When they returned to Staten Island, they started discussions about joining. In January 1990, the venture became official.

"Probably the greatest skill we have maintained as a team is coupling the right legal talent with the right client," Angiuli said, defining the firm's tag line and overall mantra as "We'll take it from here."

"That chemistry is exactly what 'We'll take it from here' means," he said. "Consumers have a lot of choices when it comes to lawyers. If you provide adequate service, your reputation will be just that. But if you give unparalleled service and let clients know everything is in our hands — that we have it — it can be a very personal touch in some very traumatic times."

Both Gentile and Angiuli believe a big part of building a solid reputation is fostering a strong connection with the Staten Island community.

"The firm has made a strong investment in technology throughout the years, not only because we want state-of-the-art communications for our attorneys, but also because we feel it's important to make a greater effort to be socially responsible and cut down our carbon footprint," Angiuli explained. "We recently participated in an initiative to recycle old computers and also redesigned our firm's email signature, saving at least one printed page on every chain of emails. It may sound like a small change, but that simple adjustment preserves reams of paper."

The firm is also involved in various community and charitable activities, including assisting with Staten Island's Green and Clean Expo, the Staten Island Veterans' Associations, and Eger Harbor House. Some of their pro bono activities included works on behalf of the St. George Theater, Seaman's Society for Children and Families, March of Dimes, Luzerne Music Center, Meals on Wheels, the YMCA, the Chamber of Commerce and the College of Staten Island Foundation, where Angiuli served as vice president and as member of the Board of Directors.

We definitely encourage our staff to get involved in the community," Angiuli said. "It's a big part of who we are." Gentile, who grew up on Staten Island and attended St. Patrick's elementary school and St. Joseph by the Sea High School, has a very strong and personal bond with the borough.

"The Staten Island community is unlike any other," she said. "There are such strong family bonds here, and that's what we focus on." Those bonds represent one major reason why she and Angiuli decided to create an elder law division in the firm five years ago.

"Estate planning was proving to be an important topic among the baby boomer generation," Angiuli said. "Not only with respect to managing assets, but also in terms of protecting them. We decided to pursue that area as a means of being there for the Staten Island community." It's just part of how Angiuli and Gentile connect with their neighbors.

"By and large, Annamarie and I have been successful at making people feel like they're not just in some lawyer's office," Angiuli concluded. "They're in the hands of someone who gets it. Our most important job is to connect with the community at large. And for us, that includes being competent and requiring a very humanistic approach. Hopefully that makes our firm a place that people both trust and respect."