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Once he dreamed of being an FBI agent; Joe Rosato became Mr. Bar Association instead

Profiles in Leadership

July 24, 2019 Rob Abruzzese

Growing up in Brooklyn, Joe Rosato always dreamed of being a law enforcement officer. His goal was one day to join the FBI and he even took the test to join the NYPD before he graduated from Xaverian High School.

Around that same time, though, he also took the test to become a New York State court officer. He did well on that test and started working in Manhattan as an officer even before graduating from New York University.

Rosato never intended on giving up the dream of becoming an FBI agent, but he got married to his wife Fran shortly later and his priorities shift. He was eventually transferred to Brooklyn Supreme Court, Civil Term and began to clerk for Hon. Elliott Golden.

Joe Rosato in his court officer’s uniform in 1982 when he worked in the Manhattan courts.

It was a good job with a pension and benefits, but still he felt an itch to do something more so he decided to go to law school. After all, sitting in the courtroom every day made him realize that despite the fact that he had struggled a bit in high school and college, he was capable of doing what the attorneys in his courtroom did every day.

“I was really nervous, quite honestly,” Rosato said. “It’s a job that people stay in their whole lives and for good reason. It has great benefits, good salary, but for some reason I just felt limited and I wanted an opportunity to do something more.”

While making that decision wasn’t easy, neither was going to law school. Rosato began attending Brooklyn Law School at night while working in the court during the day, all while he had a four-month-old daughter back at home.

“It was not easy at all,” Rosato recalled. “I worked full time, I had a four-month-old, and truthfully from Monday through Thursday I wasn’t home. My wife Fran was truly instrumental in helping me to do this. There is no way I could have done any of the things that I have been fortunate enough to do without her.”

Immediately after law school, Rosato joined the firm Cullen and Dykman doing insurance defense work. He did that for three years before he left to work for an insurance company. Finally, in 1996, he got a career-changing opportunity to work for the firm Schneider, Kleinick, Weitz, Damashek and Shoot where he got to second seat Ivan Schneider and Harvey White on some big cases.

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“I wasn’t even sure if I would be trying cases there, but I was thrown right into it,” Rosato said. “These were premier plaintiff’s personal injury attorneys and I got the opportunity to work with them and second seat them.”

Eventually, Johnnie Cochran became associated with the firm, and it became the Cochran Firm, Schneider, Kleinick, Weitz, Damashek and Shoot, which Rosato said gave him access to a great legal mind who took the time to help younger attorneys even though he didn’t have to.

In 2007, Rosato struck out on his own with his partner Gerard Lucciola to create the firm Rosato and Lucciola. In 2017, the pair split and it became simply the Rosato Firm.

Over the years, Rosato has represented insurance companies and plaintiffs in personal injury cases. These days, a lot of his work involves trying cases for other lawyers.

“I would say that 40 to 45 percent of my practice is trying cases for other lawyers,” he said. “I help lawyers who don’t go into court, who don’t deal with the rules of evidence, who don’t deal with jury selection, who don’t try those cases, and I’m able to offer those services.”

Joe Rosato (second from left) with his wife Fran Rosato (left) when he was honored by Borough President Eric Adams and District Leader Dilia Schack during the 2018 Shorefront Democratic Club dinner.
File photo by Mario Belluomo

In the background of all of his professional success has been the Brooklyn Bar Association, and many of the other local bar associations. While many lawyers have at least some involvement in their local bar associations, Rosato has become Mr. Bar Association.

Over the last 10 years, he has been the president of the Catholic Lawyers Guild of Brooklyn and the Columbian Lawyers Association of Brooklyn, and he is set to become the president of the Brooklyn Bar Association in four years. In addition to that, he is the current president of the Nathan R. Sobel American Inns of Court, and is an active member of the Bay Ridge Lawyers Association and others.

Rosato was originally encouraged to join the Brooklyn Bar Association, and get involved as a board member, by John Lonuzzi and Gregory Cerchione. Rosato also credited Anthony Lamberti, who worked as a court officer and went to school at night with Rosato, Gregory Laspina and Justice Matthew D’Emic for being big influences early in his career.

“It’s been so rewarding professionally and it has been a big part of my social life as well,” Rosato said. “I’ve met true friends, people I care about both in the legal community and family-wise. That’s what has made it really fulfilling. To have the support of the people in the Brooklyn legal community has had a tremendous impact in my life.”

Rosato said that he has no regrets about the way his career has gone as he loves his job and being involved in the legal community the way he is. He explained that it is fulfilling being involved in the bar associations through which he is able to make a positive impact on others’ careers and in the local community as well.

“A big part of the reason why I’m so involved is because I had opportunities that other people didn’t have where I got to work with some of the premier people in the industry,” Rosato said. “It might not have worked out the way I planned, but it certainly worked out, which is what makes me want to be involved, want to give back in a way where maybe I can give others opportunities that they might not have otherwise had.”

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