Ariana J. Tadler (L) and A.J. de Bartolomeo. Photo by Jaci Down.

Ariana J. Tadler (L) and A.J. de Bartolomeo. Photo by Jaci Down.

In June 2019, Ariana J. Tadler and A.J. de Bartolomeo embarked on a mission to create a different kind of law firm, business and partnership. Simply stated, they had a vision – to redefine what it means to be a boutique law firm.

Before May 2018, Tadler and de Bartolomeo were not partners, nor working for the same law firm. They were colleagues with a deep awareness and genuine admiration for each other’s work, demeanor and reputation, which eventually brought them together. 

Tadler Law’s dynamic duo spent decades independently gaining recognition for their management, litigation and client acquisition abilities before they ever worked directly with one another. Tadler and de Bartolomeo became powerhouses handling complex class actions and battling corporate malfeasance at leading plaintiffs’ firms Milberg (and then Milberg Tadler Phillips Grossman, or MTPG) and Girard, Gibbs & de Bartolomeo (and then Girard Gibbs).

The magic began when de Bartolomeo joined MTPG in 2018, providing her with an opportunity to work alongside her colleague Tadler. Through decades of practice, the pair has crossed paths on many occasions, whether it was through mutual colleagues, meeting at hearings and conferences, working as co-lead counsel with the other’s partners, or indirectly working on related cases. Tadler and de Bartolomeo became familiar with each other’s character, reputation and quality of work.

With the future founders of Tadler Law now working together, destiny took its course. The powerhouse team synergized in a way that no one could have predicted. Committed to efficiency, quality and community, the team possessed everything it needed to be successful. What began as a meeting of two seemingly parallel tracks blossomed into a special partnership that could not be predicted.

“A.J. makes what we do joyful,” says Tadler. “She gets me. Some of my favorite moments in my career have been at 3am, the two of us strategizing through a complicated filing, and one of us says: ‘Go get some sleep.’ Then the other pops up in three hours and messages, ‘OK YOUR TURN!’ We have each other’s backs.”

The partners sailed through a year under these circumstances, but by the end of 2018, it became clear that there was something more that the duo could accomplish – beyond their roles at Milberg Tadler.

“To quote an expression made famous by the popular series ‘Mad Men,’ ‘If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation,’” says de Bartolomeo. “Launching Tadler Law was an opportunity to build something in Ariana's image, with influence from me. It’s a fantastic challenge. It’s difficult, but at the same time, having that control was a great incentive.”

The real appeal was to capitalize on their unique and powerful relationship and create something worth more than just the sum of their individual skills. So, they bet on one another and opened Tadler Law.

New Firm, Greater Success

Today the New York-based firm, which launched in June 2019, is working on a wide variety of matters, for clients large and small. Having each spent time in management at big and medium-sized law firms, the new Tadler Law partners craved the nimbleness and efficiency of a small firm.

“As a smaller firm, we’re able to constantly diversify what we’re doing, which keeps things from feeling rote,” says Tadler. “It’s an opportunity to hone our litigation and negotiation skills, and our ability to communicate well across the spectrum of clients, adversaries and co-counsel.“

Both Tadler and de Bartolomeo are honored to be court-appointed to leadership roles in complex and MDL matters. Tadler in leadership roles in consumer and data breach cases against ConAgra, Marriott, Facebook, Yahoo! and Equifax, and de Bartolomeo in leadership roles in consumer and antitrust cases against pharmaceutical giants like Bausch, Lupin and GSK, regarding prescription drugs Glumetza and Avandia.

It’s a fantastic challenge. It’s difficult, but at the same time, having that control was a great incentive.

The attorneys deploy their keen litigation skills in large, high-profile litigations, while not sacrificing opportunities to serve as strategic advisors, advocates and negotiators for people and businesses. The duo serves a wide array of clients’ legal needs – drafting or improving contracts for business owners, resolving contract disputes through arbitration, litigation or prompt settlement, and negotiating employment severance agreements.  

Recently, during a home renovation project, a subcontractor overheard that Tadler was a lawyer. He approached her and asked if she might help him with something: He owned the business and had a client who refused to pay. She offered him several suggestions to deal with the problem head on, and how he might avoid a similar situation in the future by shoring up his contracts to better protect him. That conversation has since led to Tadler offering this service to others, with an anticipated program to be offered by Tadler in an upcoming community speaker series. (Tadler is also a keynote and motivational speaker.)

Diversifying Tadler Law’s legal portfolio into a litigation, advisory and negotiation practice while being selective as to which clients, markets and practice areas they serve are driving forces for the boutique firm. In addition to their legal practice, the pair is committed to responsible team management, complemented by a commitment to healthy firm culture work.

“I’m acutely aware of developing a good working environment,” says Tadler, “including how you interact with your staff and with the outside world.”

When it comes to interacting with each other, the pair comes across like ride-or-die-besties who love nothing more than being in the foxhole together – in fact, they prefer it. Less than a year after opening the firm, they were about to enjoy happy hour with some friends in New Orleans when they received a case alert requiring a court submission. They immediately put down their yet-to-be sipped martinis and hammered out a brief together. While doing so, they didn’t realize that their friends were watching them as they sat side-by-side in another room, collaboratively strategizing and working on the brief “like fourth graders working on an essay together,” says de Bartolomeo. When they hit “send,” their friends laughed and clapped, amazed at the amount of fun these two were having.

“Ariana is the best communicator I have ever worked with or for,” says de Bartolomeo. “Whether it is explaining a legal theory or strategy to a client, arguing a motion to a court, presenting a CLE to a room full of lawyers, or talking to me about the status of a case or project – she is incredibly articulate, genuine and thorough. I am constantly impressed by her preparation and communication skills.”

The respect goes both ways: “A.J. is a powerhouse,” says Tadler. “So smart, so strategic. She is very, very driven. She has more endurance than anybody I know.”

Tadler Law has a unique recipe: Combine two experienced, skilled and focused lawyers, who have an affinity for business, math, high-tech hardware and software, fly millions of miles on Delta and United, have presence in New York and San Francisco, and you have a unique personal bond and business relationship that reminds observers of an old credit card commercial: “Priceless.”

The matters currently on their plates are diverse – some short term and others for the long haul. They include some high-profile class action cases where their fees are contingent upon successful resolutions as well as project fee and hourly work for businesses and individuals. Recent work includes conducting a litigation risk assessment for a financial corporation, a fraudulent inducement and breach of contract claim on behalf of business partners, and severance negotiations for laid off director and senior management level clients.

As a smaller firm, we’re able to constantly diversify what we’re doing, which keeps things from feeling rote.

De Bartolomeo also represented Hope Solo, the soccer star, GOAT goalie and two-time Olympic gold medalist, in her Equal Pay Act and Title VII discrimination case against the U.S. Soccer Federation. Ms. Solo, who has been a trailblazer and activist for Equal Pay and diversity most of her professional career, successfully resolved her individual claims and objected to Class Counsel's attorneys' fee request on the grounds that it was not reasonable – an upward adjustment from the 9th Circuit's 25 percent benchmark was not justified under the circumstances of the case. The judge ultimately reduced the class counsel’s fee request, allowing for a larger allocation of funds to the players, including Solo.

Trailblazing Multiple Fronts

Tadler Law’s partners also emphasize their work in the e-Discovery realm, as both litigation counsel and legal advisors. It’s a natural fit since Tadler has long been a leading authority in e-Discovery. As a math minor in college, Tadler loves using that side of her brain.

Tadler had a prescient recognition of how important electronic discovery would become. The ultimate “aha moment” came to her in the late 90s during a big securities fraud case against a high-tech company. The case involved security fraud claims against the company as well as the public auditing firm. Accounting work papers were produced, but were limited to static images and paper.

“Going through the papers, I knew something wasn’t right,” recalls Tadler. “I went to the partners and a fellow lawyer with an accounting background and said, ‘I am pretty confident that there is information behind these papers. Accounting work papers are prepared using software, and there’s more information embedded in the tool that we're not seeing, which I believe is going to shed light.’”

The team made a motion to compel, which they won. They got the work papers in a usable, electronic format, which was ground-breaking at the time. The discovery broke the case; they settled shortly after.

Tadler’s next big case was the IPO Securities Litigation, against 300-plus corporate issuers and 55 investment banks. At the same time, the Laura Zubulake employment case against UBS was also pending before Judge Shira Scheindlin, which was one of the first big e-Discovery cases. This coincidence presented an opportunity for Tadler to lean in and shine.

“I was fortunate that a partner from another firm in the IPO case had real experience with data in discovery. He graciously took me under his wing and mentored me,” says Tadler. Together, they led the charge to rally the troops and get the pertinent information from the banks.

As she started to become known in the e-Discovery field, Richard Braman, the founder and then-Executive Director of The Sedona Conference, approached Tadler and invited her to be a guest observer at a Working Group 1 meeting about electronic document retention and production. She ultimately joined as a member and later was selected to serve on the steering committee, eventually becoming the Chair, evolving to Chair Emeritus present day.

Working with Paul McVoy – a technology guru and strategist and Chief Technology Officer at Milberg – together, they developed an e-Discovery practice group that combined legal counsel and in-house data hosting, management and consulting, which was virtually unheard of at the time on the plaintiffs’ side. Tadler and McVoy ultimately spun off the technology side of the business, launching Meta e-Discovery, a data hosting, management and consulting company that experienced exponential growth (now part of the recently announced Repario Data) for which Tadler provides some consulting services.

Tadler Law’s two partners are also adept at looking at situations from the business perspective, which translates directly to their business litigation and legal advisory portfolio. Both Tadler and de Bartolomeo have practiced law in management capacities at large and medium-sized law firms. Tadler has been an entrepreneur and principal in her e-Discovery business for nearly a decade. Having served on management, banking and compensation committees as well as directing and overseeing the day-to-day operations of law firms, the dynamic pair brings a powerful blend of business and legal acumen to the table. 

Tadler Law’s two partners are also adept at looking at situations from the business perspective, which translates directly to their business litigation and legal advisory portfolio.

De Bartolomeo has long served her fellow partners as the “banking partner” (and sometimes was referred to as the CFO within the firm). She capitalized on her pre-law school Wall Street years as an Assistant Trader, with a focus on short and long-term municipal bonds. This early financial training in trading and pricing inventory within the U.S. debt markets, plus conducting daily risk analysis and assessment, was integral to preparing de Bartolomeo for her roles in law firm management, business expense management, and understanding and analyzing risk assessment.

Whether in complex litigation or business to business matters, de Bartolomeo has long used her Wall Street education when representing small, medium and large businesses as plaintiffs and defendants. Her first approach is to view the situation from the perspective of the business client. This approach is novel in litigation, which is by nature an interruption and distraction in the normal dealings of any business. Small and large corporate clients appreciate de Bartolomeo’s interest in their businesses and bottom-line performance.    

She and Tadler Law now provide Litigation and Regulatory Legal Risk Analysis and Assessment counsel. More recently, de Bartolomeo and the Tadler brand have added Legal Financial Risk Analysis and Assessment to their portfolio.

No Signs of Slowing Down

Nearly four years in, the firm is living up to these women warriors’ vision of providing a nimble and varied workload, as they work on big, interesting cases as well as impactful small ones that help businesses and people to resolve disputes, often avoiding litigation. Word is spreading about their efficiency and ability to achieve results, and new work is flowing in from a variety of sources – both organic and through referrals.

An individual came to the partners earlier this year, having been defrauded by a certain company. He had hired different counsel at first, but he wasn’t seeing any results. Tadler offered him a flat fee and said, “If I don’t get it resolved in five conversations, I’ll take less.” Tadler wrapped it up with two letters and three conversations over two and a half months.

Across the spectrum of their legal work and the growth of their firm, both women effuse a style that is persistent, strategic – and always civil and even gracious. “The best negotiator is the best listener,” says Tadler. “To get someone closer to a middle ground or across a line, you don’t bang them over the head. You tease out what they need and figure out how you can get them there.”

Tadler remembers a case a while back where she represented a company against its auditor, and they went into mediation. She was the only woman in the room, up against “some aggressive counsel” on the other side, as she recalls. They were making progress, but still had a sizeable gap to close before they could come to any agreement.

“I said to the client, ‘What’s your bottom line? What is the number that we can wrap this at?’” recalls Tadler. He gave her a number. While en route to the ladies’ room, she paused in front of the mediator, saying she had a demand that would resolve the dispute. “I increased the number,” she says. He said it wouldn’t work. She said, “You’re the top mediator, we know how good you are. I believe you can wrap this case at that number.” A half hour later, the mediator announced the number, and the case was settled.

Nobody in the room had any idea what she had done. Until the mediator looked over and said, "Great job, Ariana."

“Negotiation is a sweet spot for me now,” she says. “I learn what the client can live with and work as best I can to negotiate up. Not always, because you don’t want to lose credibility and sometimes the risk is not worth it. But when it is, I make the move.” She acknowledges that you need the authority to do this – “if you do it, be confident and authoritative.”

Community Involvement and Advocates for Women Empowerment

As their track record grows, they are also sponsoring and supporting local events and otherwise getting involved in the community. Tadler mentors local high school students about digital health and preparing for college, and she is an advisor for E-School for Girls, an active member of Christ Church Manhasset, and now a member of the Manhasset Chamber of Commerce. She also recently became a member of the NYC Chapter of National Speakers Association.

Tadler and de Bartolomeo are both also active advocates for women in law on a national scale. When they launched the firm, Tadler was invited as a guest to an event at Women Owned Law (WOL), an organization for female legal entrepreneurs. Before long, she was asked to join the board. De Bartolomeo is also a member of WOL. Tadler is also a founding sponsor of The League. De Bartolomeo, meanwhile, is a former Chair of the Women’s Trial Lawyer Caucus of the American Association of Justice, as well as a member of the Women Caucus’ Executive Committee. De Bartolomeo also serves as a long-time member of the AAJ Board of Governors and the Consumer Attorneys of California Board of Directors.

Tadler Law is proud to be certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) as a women-owned business since 2020. WBENC is known as the “gold standard for women-owned businesses in the U.S.” WBENC is an approved third-party certifier for the SBA’s Women Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contracting program. The Tadler partners are honored to be both WBENC certified and WOSB approved as further evidence of the pair’s commitment to excellence in legal services and advocacy for women’s issues.