High Profile: David M. Schwartz, Sag Harbor’s Albany Lobbyist

David M. Schwartz and family
David M. Schwartz and family

In the world of celebrities, law, and lobbying, David M. Schwartz, Esq. is a known commodity. With three decades in the courtroom as an accomplished trial attorney, and now over 10 years also lobbying on behalf of clients small and large, Schwartz has earned himself and his lobbying group, Gotham Government Relations, a reputation for getting things done.

It is said that with regard to laws and sausages, it is best to not see them in the making. That is unless it’s your job to shape them before they are placed on the grill. Schwartz is that influencer, who helps his clients in Albany and Washington, D.C. craft legislation and navigate bureaucracy, in order to meet their legislative priorities and goals. He is the only practicing trial attorney who also serves as a registered lobbyist in the State of New York.

As an attorney, Schwartz has handled hundreds of cases in the court of law and has led dozens of cases before the jury. So, it is accurate to say that his expertise is both in a law’s crafting and its application. Known among his colleagues in the field as equally passionate as he is aggressive, Schwartz’s tenacity separates him from a crowded and renowned field of New York trial attorneys.

With a juris doctorate from New York’s Fordham University and an undergraduate degree from Tulane University, Schwartz’s experience is varied across many industries.  Politically speaking, he has represented clients ranging from large-scale corporations with a plethora of legislative interests to smaller nonprofit organizations that rely on government funding to serve the underserved.

“I’m not a Democratic lobbyist or a Republican lobbyist. I dislike both parties equally,” Schwartz quips. “My goal is always putting together a winning coalition to either pass legislation or defeat legislation, be it on the state level, or in the counties and towns, we are constantly at hearings in all the different regions, arguing for the interest of our clients.”

His trial skills have been an asset in this arena, he says, utilizing his acute knowledge of the law to make small changes to legislation that have large impact. Trust has been placed in Schwartz’s lobby shop to accomplish goals, such as but not limited to, keeping Walmart out of New York City, ceasing the sale of illegal cigarettes in the marketplace, and stopping No-Fault Insurance Fraud in New York.

“I’ve passed hundreds of pieces of legislation for private clients in a multitude of industries,” he says. “Whether it’s passing legislation or pushing to block legislation, I am in the trenches, educating elected officials on the issues at hand, and informing them of some of the unintended consequences that come along with certain pieces of legislation that have been introduced.”

“For me, it’s all about advocacy,” he adds. “The three pillars are advocacy in the court of law, advocacy in the courts of government in the legislature, and the court of public opinion. I’m an advocate in each of three of these arenas on behalf of my clients.”

While limited by confidentiality, Schwartz alludes to additional legislative pushes that he and Gotham are leading, with an impact that will be felt from Buffalo to Montauk.

In the next few weeks, Schwartz says that big changes will be coming at Gotham, with expansion plans to be announced soon and get underway immediately.

“Obviously, the legislative session is very intense, where things get passed and blocked,” he says. “Just as much work, if not more, gets done outside of Session, though. We are hitting elected officials in their district offices, hitting agencies, and at Gotham, we are all over the place pushing our client’s issues.

“We like to set things up for Session, so if we want to pass a piece of legislation, we are working with our clients all summer to make sure that on the first day of Session, with a sponsor, co-sponsors, this legislation is ready to go,” he continues. “Most of our clients are businesses, who are just looking to survive in the City and State of New York, as well as on Long Island.”

Like his role in politics, Schwartz has served in various capacities in law, as well. From 1993 through 1997, he worked as a prosecutor in the Kings County District Attorney’s office.  While cutting his teeth in the field, Schwartz was responsible for thousands of prosecutions, including those that held criminals responsible for felonies and misdemeanors.

Transitioning to private practice thereafter, Schwartz has spent nearly three decades handling hundreds of private cases, in criminal and civil capacities. Ranging from business litigation, to contract cases, to criminal law, Schwartz’s practice is robust.

“I tell people that I practice ‘fun law,’” he says. “I believe much of law is boring transactional law, contracts, real estate law. I get to do the two things that really excite me. Those are: being in a courtroom, picking a jury the adrenaline rush, the pressure is like no other. There’s nothing like making an opening statement in a jury trial, and that’s what I love about it.”

In addition to his professional endeavors, Schwartz is an active member of his community, serving on volunteer and appointed advocacy boards. Notably, he has held positions on both the Metropolitan Transit Authority Inspector General Advisory Board and the Jacob Javits Convention Center Corporation. He has been a commissioner on the Commission on New York State Judicial Nominations.

He has also served and advised nationwide legal organizations, namely, the American Bar Association, as well as statewide councils like the New York State Bar Association and the Criminal Courts Committee, where he held the title of vice chair.

Both inside and outside of the scope of these positions, Schwartz has been active in shaping the legal field of tomorrow. Through lecturing students and young lawyers on topics relating to the law of the land, or sharing stories from his career in lobbying, Schwartz sees this as an opportunity to spread knowledge and wisdom to those whose careers will flourish down the road.

“In addition to the boards, I also work with high school students,” he says. “I’m the mock trial coach for Wheatley. We won the Nassau County Championship two years ago, an accomplishment of which I am proud. I love imparting my knowledge on different topics, whether it’s political or legal.”

Schwartz and his wife of 28 years spend a generous among of time on the East End. While they live year-round in Roslyn, they own a home in Sag Harbor, where they vacation during the summer months and oftentimes throughout the off-season.

“My wife and I move to maintain our historic house in Sag Harbor which was built in the 1700s,” he says. “Sag Harbor is just a place where the whole family can go to take a deep breath in relax. We love going during the off-season, too – we visit during the cooler months, and we really enjoy it. It’s a place where we catch up and relax.”

Schwartz adds that the east end brings a totally new group of people who he enjoys getting to know, giving him the feeling that so much can be done in Sag Harbor proper, let alone the entire South Fork.

“It’s the most soothing place in the world,” he says. “We go to the coffee place, get a coffee and sit and watch the boats… We go to Le Bilboquet, and it’s fun seeing a lot of interesting people. So many hang out in Sag Harbor, whether they are people you know, people you don’t know, or people to whom you are just introduced. It’s a whole, wonderful scene, and I feel like I don’t need to go anywhere else in the Hamptons when in Sag Harbor.”

Todd Shapiro is an award-winning publicist and associate publisher of Dan’s Papers.

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