Lynne Fischman Uniman hasn’t taken the usual path toward the courtroom but her experience as a fair and experienced lawyer has made her a top litigator in the state.
Uniman is one of two candidates in the upcoming Democratic primary for Fourth District Manhattan Civil Court bench. The district covers the neighborhoods of Gramercy, Kips Bay, Midtown East, Murray Hill, Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village.
Uniman, is a born and raised Brooklynite and as a result got her start as a law student at Brooklyn Law School, where she graduated in 1979. Passing the bar exam soon after, she was admitted to legal practice in 1980.
Uniman’s first job out of the gate was with the federal government but a change in office locations gave her a new perspective on her future career plans.
“I went to Brooklyn Law School and graduated in 1979. And straight out of law school I went to work for the federal government in the Department of Treasury. But I left there after a year or so because my office moved all the way to Long Island. And as a true New Yorker, I didn’t drive. As someone born and raised in Brooklyn, we didn’t drive,” said Uniman.
“And so I then went to work at the law firm of Mudge, Rose, Guthrie, Alexander & Ferdon, but I actually wasn’t a litigator there. I actually started out as a tax lawyer. But I would look at the litigator’s and I would say, ‘I want to be one of those’. And so after two years, I switched to the litigation department, and got my start there. After four years, I left and went to another law firm, Shea & Gould,” added Uniman.
While at Shea & Gould, Uniman got an opportunity to really experience litigation on a wide variety of issues. The associate had an opportunity to work closely with top partners at the firm, giving her a solid foundation in trial proceedings.
“While there I handled every type of litigation conceivable. It was known throughout New York as one of the premier, if not the premier litigation firm in the city. And known to give its young associates a lot of responsibility and to put a lot of faith and confidence in them. While there I did a significant amount of work for both Mr. Shea and Mr. Gould, and also learned a tremendous amount,” said Uniman.
The position then opened the door to her heading up her very own litigation department at the brand new offices of Andrew Kurth Kenyon LLP, in New York. A texas based firm that was opening in the city.
“I was at Andrew Kurth for 27 years and for 17 of them I was managing partner of the New York Office. But all twenty-seven was handling the litigation office but it wasn’t all just handling my own work. It was also shepherding and monitoring the work of all of the associates who were in the firm,” said Uniman.
By the beginning of 2018, Uniman made the decision to leave following a merger of her old firm for a smaller and more intimate firm, becoming a partner at Allegaert Berger & Vogel, where she has remained since but hopes to leave for the bench.
“I have wanted to be a judge for a long time. This is not something that just came on the radar in the last two years. I have really shaped my career in a way that I think will make me an asset on the bench,” said Uniman. “I have 39 years as experience as a lawyer, with 37 of them specializing in litigation. In terms of experience, I have litigated in just about every area. And I have become an expert in the procedure, it is so often that it is the procedure that bogs cases down. So I have that experience.”
Uniman has litigated matters across a broad spectrum of substantive areas and industries, including antitrust, banking,employment, class actions, franchise agreements, fine art, fraud,insurance, trademark, securities, professional malpractice, sports and entertainment, trusts andestates, tax and real estate, among many more.
The longtime lawyer also has built quite a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the court system, working over the last 26 years as a volunteer mediator in: United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals;Southern District of New York; Eastern District of New York; Southern & Eastern District Bankruptcy Courts; New York State Supreme Court Commercial Division; New York State Supreme Court; New York State Family Court.
“And as a mediator, I have learned patience listening skills, and I have learned that what you usually see in court papers is only half the story. So I have learned from an inside view what motivates people in litigation, what motivates people to continue doing the work, and most importantly how to settle cases,” said Uniman.
While juggling all these roles with efficiency and efficacy, Uniman has also been able for the last three years to work as an arbitrator for the American Arbitrators Association on both the commercial and employment panel. The position as afforded her a close look at cases and their importance to the daily lives of New Yorkers.
“There I have learned case management in a quasi-judicial role, since as an arbitrator I issue orders, I make rulings and I make decisions. And I’m a law school professor,” said Uniman.
Uniman has been serving for over two years as an Adjunct Professor at New York Law School,
“Over the last several years, I have had the honor to teach over 200 law students. So I have looked at the law from so many different angles, and from so many different perspectives that so many lawyers have not had the opportunity to do. And it is that conglomeration of knowledge that I have gleaned from each one of those roles, that I really want to bring to the bench,” said Uniman.
The Civil Court decides lawsuits involving claims for damages up to $25,000 and includes a small claims part (small claims court) for cases involving amounts up to $5,000 as well as a housing part (housing court) for landlord-tenant matters, and also handles other civil matters referred by the New York Supreme Court.
Uniman is hoping to bring a sense of calm and openness to the bench so that all those who walk into her court feel open to speak up and have their case heard.
“To me there is nothing more important than helping people resolve their issues but doing so in a thoughtful, patient and kind way. Courthouses are not places where litigates should be afraid. And if you sit in the courtrooms, and you see the people there, whether represented or not, there is a look of intensity, boarding on fear. That just shouldn’t be present. The courthouse should be a place where people get to say their peace, and there is someone there who listens to them. And that thoroughly, thoroughly excites me,” said Uniman.
The primary is slated for June 25. The general election will occur on November 5, 2019.