Lawyer Limelight: Janine Pollack

Janine Pollack is no stranger to calling out deceitful business practices. In her career as a class action litigator, she has fought against them for almost 30 years.

For a company making false claims about their products or failing to safeguard a customer’s personal information – some of the only good news for them, is that Pollack brings respect and positivity to the table.

For her clients on the other hand, the good news includes not only an abundance of justice, equity and other core human values, but the nearly half-century of experience Pollack and co-founder Regina Calcaterra have collectively brought to their new firm, Calcaterra Pollack LLP.

Every individual within their women-owned firm benefits from these foundations and the great commitment to diversity and life-balance Pollack brings as their Chief Wellness Officer.

In the Spring of 2020 with the additional challenges of a pandemic, Pollack and Calcaterra launched their practice to defend rights of consumers, investors and shareholders; advocate for businesses against anti-competitive practices; and uphold rights of individuals and families in a wide range of social justice matters from discrimination, wrongful death and sexual assault.

Through it all, Pollack remains driven to do this crucial work every day.

Lawdragon: What are some aspects about this work that you find professionally satisfying?

Janine Pollack: As a predominantly plaintiffs’ side attorney, it affords me great gratification to work on behalf of victimized consumers and investors as I have done for the past three decades. And the class-action mechanism is a collective way for those victims to seek justice regardless of the size of their loss and particularly when that loss is too small to pursue individually.

LD: And what keeps you excited about it?

JP: Because each case involves a different type of product or service, I am constantly learning about new sectors. Challenges arise in each litigation that require creativity and innovative thinking, which keeps the work intellectually stimulating. Collaboration with other attorneys within and outside of my firm not only enriches the work product but allows the development of personal relationships that augment the enjoyment from the practice of law. As a litigator, I do an enormous amount of writing which has always been one of my favored pursuits. I relish the opportunity to prove my side is the right one.

LD: Can you describe for us a recent matter that you’ve handled?

JP: I am currently handling several cases under New York’s Child Victims Act, which revived cases of child sexual assault that would have been time-barred. These lawsuits not only help adults to get closure on old wounds but bring the perpetrators to justice, if only financially, requiring them to face the wrongdoing they inflicted on the victims as children. These heinous acts resulted in decades of psychological suffering and the victims to this day are still struggling to overcome the damage and pain. We are finding it incredibly fulfilling to assist these victims in triumphing over the traumas they experienced from their youth.

LD: What momentous work that must be. Is this the type of practice you imagined yourself practicing while in law school?

JP: My entrance into the ranks of a working lawyer was very typical and what I assumed I would do upon graduation from law school: I joined a large defense firm. After a year at that firm, I took an interview with a plaintiffs’ class-action firm despite that I was not entirely sure of what a class action was. I accepted the position, and this changed the trajectory of my life. Advocating for victims demonstrated to me how important such work is to society because the government cannot police or prosecute every wrong. The work we do helps keep the markets honest. There is unquestionably a different sense of purpose to this type of practice.

LD: You do sound purpose-driven. And a natural advocate. How would you describe your style as a lawyer? Or how do you think others see you?

JP: I strive as a lawyer to be calm, respectful and courteous. Being zealous does not equate to being malicious. I find that setting a positive tone at the outset enhances the level of cooperation with the opposing attorney and allows the matter to be litigated on the merits, not as a fighting match between the lawyers, which causes distraction and stress. Being calm also fosters the skills of thinking on your feet and being able to be thorough and analytical because your mind is clear and able to process the details and issues of the case. In mentoring others at the firm, these are critical virtues I attempt to instill in junior attorneys as they gain experience in their careers.

LD: It seems mentoring and starting your own firm was inevitable. How has firm or practice management changed since the start of your career?

JP: When I started out as an attorney, there were very few women-owned, women-run law firms so the fact that we were able to open such a firm, let alone in the middle of the pandemic, is quite an accomplishment.

As co-founder and co-manager of the firm, I need to wear more hats than I did as a partner in a larger firm. We need to run the firm as a business while simultaneously litigating our cases. In addition, the concepts of diversity and wellness were not paramount when I began as a lawyer and now in our firm, they represent the fundamental pillars of our philosophy. In fact, we have near total diversity (seven out of eight people). Moreover, we follow the guidelines of the American Bar Association Resolution 105 by elevating wellness to be a core principle.

As Chief Wellness Officer, through our program, Work Well, I give internal presentations on various issues with an emphasis on physical, emotional and psychological health. Every person is valued, and all opinions are solicited and appreciated. We believe that this environment of inclusion represents a fundamental shift in law firm management that will enhance the legal practice for our clients and allow us to maintain a salutary life balance both professionally and personally.

LD: These are such heartening words. If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be doing now?

JP: Wellness. I have so much energy and want to motivate others to also live well. Incredibly, as Calcaterra Pollack’s Chief Wellness Officer, I am able to engage in both of my passions (wellness and law) as they come together in everyday life as an attorney. As a frequent public speaker on health, nutrition and overall well-being, I am able to raise awareness of these and other related issues, particularly in the legal field where it seems to be deeply needed.