From the community to the courtroom, Christopher McGrath is a force for good.
An attorney by trade, Chris McGrath has become one of the most well-respected names in our region’s legal world, representing clients from New York City to Long Island’s Twin Forks.
With a degree from the University of Dayton School of Law, Chris McGrath has been able to carry out a lifelong mission to “help those who need the help most” — a course, he says, he set upon in his childhood as a student of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Inwood, where he was raised.
“I remember vividly a priest in my youth by the name of Father Frank Canazarro. He would conclude by saying, ‘Your job is to help others in need. Now, get to work.’ So, since then, helping others has always been what it’s about for me my whole career,” McGrath says.
And, needless to say, to work Chris went.
McGrath quips that he has only had three jobs his whole life, one through high school and college at the Morton’s Army and Navy Surplus store in Cedarhurst, and another at a local beach club. After achieving his J.D. in 1983, he started working for a local law firm. Little did he know that one day, nearly four decades later, the door would bear his name.
Today, Chris is the Senior Partner of Sullivan Papain Block McGrath Coffinas & Cannavo, P.C., where he oversees a team of over 40 trial attorneys, who are united in mission and purpose.
“The firm is a family, everyone looks out for everyone else, and everyone looks out for those who have entrusted their problems to us,” McGrath says. “It seems to me like it was yesterday, 40 years has gone by in the blink of an eye, and I woundn’t change my life for anybody’s,” he continues.
McGrath’s legal acumen has earned him the respect of fellow attorneys and his clients alike. His career accomplishments thus far have been by all accounts historic. In 2020, McGrath secured the largest judgement in Nassau County history, a more than $141 million dollar decision, for a client in Long Beach.
He has also secured a string of multimillion-dollar verdicts and settlements, which cemented a stellar reputation among his peers and made his counsel among the most sought-after in the New York-Metro area.
McGrath was just named the 77th recipient of the Nassau County Bar Association’s Distinguished Service Medallion – a fraternity so exclusive, it includes former United States Supreme Court justices and former president Herbert Hoover – the highest honor awarded by the Association. He is also only the second lawyer on Long Island to be presented with the Award for Attorney Professionalism by the New York State Bar Association.
In addition to practicing law at SPBMCC, McGrath is a Special Professor of Law at Hofstra University Law School. He appreciates the opportunity to teach and mentor aspiring attorneys, helping to chart their path forward into the legal profession.
“To teach someone else is one thing, to watch them become seasoned lawyers is amazing. I love watching each and every one of my students become accomplished trial lawyers, like my partner Bob Sullivan did with me,” McGrath continues.
Beneath McGrath’s leadership as Senior Partner and his 40 years at SPBMCC, he has seen the firm more-than double in size from about 15 attorneys in the early 1980s, to 43 as of August 2021.
“Our policy when hiring and growing our firm has always been to find an attorney better than you, who will continue to fulfil the mission of helping those in most need. I am proud to say that I think we have done that successfully, and I am proud of the success we have had for our clients who live here in Suffolk County, in Nassau County, and in New York City,” McGrath says.
Among McGrath’s most impressive professional accomplishments is his work with the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He and his partners represented the families of the 343 firefighters killed – at no charge to the families whatsoever. This pro-bono endeavor helped cement the firm’s legacy as one that is committed to causes higher than itself.
Outside of his legal practice, Chris McGrath is a renowned community advocate and a well-known commodity in the world of philanthropy.
McGrath was named the “Man of the Year” by the Inwood Civics, he has also served twice as the Chair of We Care – the charitable arm of the Nassau County Bar Association. He has twice been elected the President of the Peninsula Kiwanis, an organization committed to empowering communities and improving the lives of local youths.
While the rich and famous mostly see the Hamptons as a summertime playground, McGrath stays on his mission of helping others while enjoying the warmer months on the East End. McGrath represents hundreds of residents in the Hamptons and the Eastern Suffolk towns, many of whom have been injured while working or are stricken with World Trade Center-related cancers.
While you may be able to find McGrath at La Parmigiana enjoying their famous grandma pizza slice or at 75 Main for dinner, you can also find him hard at work at the firm’s busy Cutchogue office.
But too, McGrath sees Southampton Village as an oasis for him and his family to spend time together, and escape the high-stress lifestyle of law – and, above all, McGrath is a family man, a father, and a new grandfather.
“I have three daughters, and it is a rarity that we are all together at one time. Bringing everyone to Southampton, though, is the chance for us to have family time. Now when I’m in Southampton, I’m helping to teach my three-year-old granddaughter how to ride a bike, or going on nature walks to look at animals, it’s the family time that makes me cherish the East End,” McGrath says.
Todd Shapiro is an award-winning publicist and associate publisher of Dan’s Papers.