Goldberg Segalla’s Bill O’Connell Loves a Good Argument
Video Profile: It’s one of the tenets by which attorneys at Goldberg Segalla abide when building relationships with those they represent: They take on their clients’ problems as if they were their own.
And for William T. O’Connell, a partner in the firm’s Appellate practice group, it’s a principle that guides him in his daily work, especially in representing clients facing potentially costly judgments.
“It’s a serious matter and I take it that way. I take it like it’s my own money. And so you have to fight for your clients,” said Bill, who is based in White Plains. “You have to find whatever way is the best to win for your client, be it a dismissal or keeping the number down in a settlement. You have to be the fighter everybody expects you to be.”
A former law clerk who worked for more than a decade in New York State’s trial and appellate courts, Bill has been with Goldberg Segalla for 14 years. When he started, the firm had roughly 100 attorneys, less than a quarter of the 400+ who make up Team GS today.
“Goldberg Segalla was a newer firm at the time and they had a need for a ‘law guy’; that’s sort of the colloquialism for an appeal-motion guy. I interviewed and it went well,” Bill recalled. “I came on board and started doing appeals and writing motions for summary judgment. And that’s how I got started here. It’s been a great run.”
As an appellate attorney, Bill is often required to parachute into high-stakes cases that have been ongoing for several years. He must be able to digest voluminous case histories quickly in a compressed period, and then synthesize those histories into a coherent defense for his clients. That requires the ability to think on one’s feet and know immediately what facts and evidence to look for that will best position his clients for success.
Having had a hand in drafting more than 300 judicial opinions during his time as a law clerk, his skill as a writer is also integral to the work he performs as an appellate attorney, which requires him to extensively research case records and write briefs for client appeals.
But the pinnacle of his work, Bill said, is arguing before the court.
“It’s funny, many attorneys don’t really think that oral argument can change a result. But the argument is the chance to change a judge’s mind. By the time you get to the argument, that’s your last chance and I’ve seen it dozens of times in the arguments I’ve done over the years: You can change the court’s decision. So it’s a great opportunity. It’s my favorite part.”
Bill’s other loves are the New York Jets, of which he’s been a diehard fan for decades, and his family, whom he credits for supporting his career and allowing him to fight as hard as he does for his clients.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in this office over the last 14 years, and the 12 years before that in court. You miss stuff,” said Bill. “I have a wonderful family who understands that and respects that, and lets me do what I need to do to be the best lawyer I can be. My wife, Mary Alice, and my kids, Tommy and Alice, they’re great. They’re a great family and I couldn’t do it without them.”
And that’s a fact no one could argue.