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Jennifer Budner’s Passion for Representing Construction Clients is ‘Personal’


Jennifer Budner’s Passion for Representing Construction Clients is ‘Personal’

March 27, 2024
Jennifer L. Budner

Inside a courtroom, thinking on her feet, arguing a motion before a judge, or making her case to a jury, that’s when Goldberg Segalla partner Jennifer L. Budner is “in the zone.”

Outside the courtroom, walking a construction zone, gathering information, and speaking with laborers on the job, well, that’s where she feels at home.

“My father was a general contractor and so was my grandfather, so I grew up on construction sites,” said Jenn, a partner in the firm’s Civil Litigation and Trial, and Construction Litigation and Counsel practice groups. “I’m the oldest of five daughters and we’d be dragged down to the sites to do construction cleaning. The fact that I stumbled into this in my practice is really kind of a bonus because I feel very comfortable in the arena — walking onto job sites, and consulting with men who are doing this very physical and dangerous manual labor — because that’s what I grew up around.”

Based in Manhattan, Jenn represents construction clients in large-loss, catastrophic personal injury cases and wrongful death litigation, focused primarily on high-exposure labor law matters.

“It’s kind of serendipitous to me that this is where I ended up. It’s very personal to me,” said Jenn. “I think that it sets me apart, because I’m comfortable in situations some other attorneys would not be, especially women.”

Serendipity, maybe. Or, perhaps, it was fate.

Following college, Jenn worked as a social worker representing the elderly, advocating for Medicaid, food stamps, and other benefits.

“Time and time again, I encountered this situation where I’d be arguing against an administrative lawyer that was hired by whatever agency’s benefits were at risk,” Jenn recalled. “I realized that I kept encountering these lawyers and I didn’t know how to make legal arguments. How am I supposed to advocate for my client if I can’t make a legal argument as well as my adversary? I got accepted to a couple of Masters’ programs in social work and I just didn’t want to be a social worker. I wanted to be a lawyer, so I decided, ‘let’s just go for it.’”

While her intention was to practice elder law, Jenn was pushed in a different direction after she was “bit by the litigation bug.” While in law school at the City University of New York, she joined the Criminal Defenders Clinic and worked with the New York Public Defender’s Office. She loved it. But, upon graduation, a hiring freeze hit the Public Defender’s Office, so Jenn took a position with the Bronx Corporation Council, defending city agencies and property owners in cases that included labor-law matters. That experience eventually led her to the private sector, where she served as an in-house litigation and trial counsel for a major insurance carrier defending cases involving high-value personal injury matters and large property owners in labor-law cases.

By the time Jenn joined Goldberg Segalla in early 2023, her experience spanned two decades, enabling her to bring a wealth of knowledge and skill to an area of law that in the Empire State is often challenging and complex.

“The labor law is very punitive here,” Jenn said. “Just by virtue of being a property owner or a contractor under the labor law, under certain claims, you’re liable without having the plaintiff having to make a show of negligence. You’re kind of starting behind the 8 ball. These cases take a lot of time and they’re labor intensive. So creating a strong team and having people you trust around you is very important for not only the outcome of the case, but to take that pressure off because you want to do the best job you can for your client.”

Thankfully, Goldberg Segalla ensures such support exists.

“GS is a very collaborative place,” Jenn said. “Our team leaders are very encouraging, have open door policies and you can come to them with any questions, or any issues that come up. If I need more staffing, I can tap my team leaders and say, ‘hey, five new cases just came in. Who do you have on your team that I can pull in?’ And that’s really wonderful. It’s really collaborative, congenial and supportive. So, I love that about GS and that’s something that really attracted me to the firm.”

Jenn was also attracted to Goldberg Segalla by the presence of its Women’s Initiative, which provides female attorneys a network of support and mentorship to those just starting out in the legal profession. Committed to helping women build their confidence and skill set to advance in the legal profession, Jenn is a leader in the Women’s Initiative and is active too in the firm’s mentoring program.

“We need to spend time helping to support women in succeeding and becoming Equity Partners and rising to positions of power where they have real say and real input into their practice and how their firms are run,” she said. “I really feel very strongly about helping younger women and even just younger associates, men or women, trying to figure out what their path is and helping them build confidence. Even though they’re not where they want to be yet, they will get there if they do the work they need to and believe in themselves.”

Whether she’s guiding younger attorneys, or working to help clients achieve their goals, Jenn said she believes her social-work experience has informed her career as a litigator.

“I’m really good at listening,” she said. “My Number One objective is for my clients to trust me. When you take the time to express to your client that you want to understand their objectives, you are responsive to their ideas, no matter what those ideas are, and you could explain to them the outcomes of pursuing a particular path, I think all of those things really build trust.

“I just really love what I do,” Jenn added. “When I’m under pressure and I’m feeling tired or a little stressed out, I always go back to: ‘I really just love what I do.’ I love litigating. I am in the zone when I have to think on my feet. I like to do a good job for my clients. I think it’s important to keep that perspective because we all came into this for a reason, and we’ve got to focus on the positives of what we do because that brings you through the more difficult, more stressful times. If you do what you love, it’s not going to feel like work.”