Features

Daniel Podhaskie – General Counsel

A jack of all legal trades

Daniel Podhaskie built a career as a litigator in New York City firms, representing real estate investors and developers such as the Trump Organization and Tishman Speyer in addition to financial institutions like JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Bank of America.

Big names, to be sure, with some big legal victories along the way as he developed a knack for understanding business—and the legal issues that affect it. Then came a game-changing offer to come in-house for a high net worth family office, opening new doors and bringing new purpose to his career.

“I do anything that comes up. All aspects of legal and compliance run through me,” Podhaskie says. “I always saw myself more on the business side as opposed to the legal side, and here I get a chance to see multiple projects through from start to finish.”

It’s not cushy

Though he’s prevented from discussing his work in specifics, Podhaskie says coming in-house has changed his focus from litigating cases as they come up to handling a variety of tasks from start to finish.

“An outside counsel may look at an in-house role as cushy, but it’s not,” Podhaskie says. “You go from advice-giver to decision-maker. And I relish the opportunity to make decisions on my own knowledge and instincts.”

At the same time, decisions often need to be made quickly, because Podhaskie knows he represents clients who’ve been very successful, often by acting when others have stayed still.

“They’ve identified their goals. They’ve visualized them and gone out and achieved them,” he says. “One of the challenges for me is helping my clients do so with the immediacy they want while protecting them.”

Confidence counts

In becoming a generalist, Podhaskie says learning the intricacies of protecting intellectual property—something he hadn’t encountered much as a litigator—was his biggest challenge. To be sure, explaining how IP laws affect a client in terms of trademarks and licensing can be far more difficult than explaining court procedures and litigation.

Podhaskie took stock of himself when he moved in-house, knowing it would suit him better than litigating. It’s that self-knowledge and self-awareness, he says, that matter most to how he does his job.

“Confidence is the one thing you must have,” he says. “You can’t constantly second-guess your actions and decision-making. You have to trust in your instincts. The more you second-guess yourself, the more you hold up your client.”

One outside counsel Podhaskie has relied on in his role is Neil Sunkin, who attests to Podhaskie’s ability to forge a path that keeps his clients’ interests at heart.

“The Law Office of Neil M. Sunkin has worked with Daniel on complex and unique litigation in California federal and state courts involving common law torts, defamation, first amendment issues, RICO and foreign lobbying law,” Sunkin says. “Daniel is able to guide outside counsel through the client’s overall legal and business strategies and his background as a litigator provides a unique perspective for that.”

In providing that perspective, Sunkin says Podhaskie is also creative in his approach to solving legal issues. “He has good instincts and his judgment has been superb. Daniel’s assessment of risk has been spot-on,” Sunkin adds.

Podhaskie says that going in-house is a route he’d recommend to any law school student, adding that gauging their interest through internships is a good first step. He should know: While in law school, Podhaskie worked as an intern at the Marwood Group, which provides advisory and financial services to the health care industry. Helping draft contracts and conducting legal research while advising the firm’s in-house counsel, provided the first realization he’d enjoy being a general counsel, Podhaskie explains.

Taking the chance

Despite his desire to work in-house, when Podhaskie was contacted by a recruiter about his present job, he wasn’t certain it was something he wanted to try. He gave it more thought and felt he owed it to himself to at least have an interview.

“After talking with them, I felt it would behoove me to take the offer,” he says. “Otherwise, I would always have wondered ‘what if’ about the opportunity.” Though real estate developers can be demanding clients, Podhaskie says the role has upped that ante and sharpened his resourcefulness.

“One of the things you learn about being with successful people, very rarely do they take ‘no’ for an answer,” Podhaskie says. “They have goals and expect to achieve them—they take action while others ponder.”

A native of Malverne, New York, on Long Island just outside Queens, Podhaskie has never strayed far from his roots. He earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from St. John’s University, followed by a J.D. from Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center in 2010. His career was built on litigation as an associate attorney at three New York City firms before joining his current employer in June 2018.

“There are a lot of things I’ve had to learn on the go. There have been issues I don’t know the answer to or where I have to start to find those answers,” Podhaskie says. “Going to the client side is a change in mindset, from being an issue or problem spotter to a problem solver.”

What leisure time Podhaskie enjoys with his family is often spent in the kitchen.

“We love to cook; it is our favorite thing to do when there is downtime,” he says. “It’s a great way to take your mind off of work for a little and decompress.” No matter the dish, Podhaskie says he thrives on challenges.

“I think I have relied a lot upon my passion for excellence,” he says. “I have always prided myself on my desire to continue to grow. You should always feel challenged; that is how you grow.”

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