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Lee C. Stoddard: A Successful Career Built on Empathy and Ethics


Lee C. Stoddard: A Successful Career Built on Empathy and Ethics

June 14, 2024
Lee C. Stoddard

Syracuse-based partner Lee C. Stoddard says he’s thankful for the many mentors he’s had throughout his career, lawyers from whose expertise he would draw to become the lawyer that he is today. There was trial and error, of course. But ultimately, the process for Lee proved to be the perfect path to success.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work with some outstanding attorneys in many different practice areas. And throughout my legal career, I’ve shifted how I approached my work, frequently trying to mimic what I see those around me doing who I looked up to,’’ said Lee, a member of Goldberg Segalla’s Workers’ Compensation group. “But just because something works great for one person and allows them to excel, does not mean that it is the ‘end-all-be-all’ for the next person. I’ve fallen on my face many times trying to be like an attorney I looked up to. Thankfully, I’ve been able merge the qualities of the mentors I’ve had over the years into what works for me.”

One particular quality that drives Lee’s practice is empathy, which, he said, plays an integral role in earning the trust of his clients.

“I let my clients know that I see the issues they are facing and frankly, because I am representing them, they are the issues that are eating away at me too,” he said. “Seeing how a certain judge may be applying case law in a way that we feel is incorrect, or how a new initiative at a state level may be impacting their claims and exposure, and simply acknowledging that I see it and am with them, helps them to understand I am in their corner and helps build that relationship that is necessary to succeed.”

Before entering private practice, Lee was a senior hearing attorney with the New York State Special Funds Conservation Committee, as well as an independent closing attorney for residential real estate purchases. He also worked in criminal and family law, but the emotional toll involved in that area left him looking to make a change. Lee acknowledged that Workers’ Comp ‘found’ him, rather than the other way around. But once it did, he dug in.

“My husband has repeatedly told me stories about his grandfather telling him to ‘stop thinking and just do it’ while he was younger and working at their family business,” Lee said. “I think that’s probably the best advice I’ve received that I would give to others.”

Key to Lee’s success is setting realistic expectations for his clients by providing insight on how the opposing party might approach or view an issue, how existing case law might impact their case, and what could possibly transpire at trial.

Also critical, said, Lee, is asking questions.

“Early on in my career, I thought that prying when a client was not giving what I would consider to be a complete answer to a question was a bad thing and that doing so could be viewed as me overstepping,” he recalled. “But that’s simply not the case. Ask the questions you need answers to, and if a client truly feels you are overstepping, they will say so, which is when you can try and help them understand the reason for the questions. The more you know about how they are approaching things and conducting business, the easier it will be to identify the best strategy to handle their matters moving forward.”

Lee credits Goldberg Segalla with providing its attorneys with the time necessary to prepare a case.

“There are many attorneys and firms that have the ‘churn and burn’ mentality, which is one of the most detrimental traits that attorneys and firms could possibly have. Getting to know the clients and their underlying strategy allows me to easily get the buy-in needed from my clients to handle their claims with a little more autonomy, which is needed to arrive at the desired end result, in a timely manner. In fact, taking that time to build relationships is what sets GS apart. It’s the attention we provide to our clients. We are not afraid to spend time having our attorneys travel to our clients to meet with them and see, firsthand, their operations and obtain a better understanding of their underlying rationale.”

What also sets Goldberg Segalla apart, Lee noted, is its commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, an area in which the firm is seen as a leader in the profession.

“Early in my career, quite frankly, I was afraid to allow others to know I was/am a member of the LGBTQ+ community for fear of retaliation or backlash. After some time, I was able to see that, thankfully, I am part of an organization that is open, welcoming and supportive of the LGBTQ+ community,” said Lee. “I continually see more and more attorneys and other members of the legal community openly express they identify as LGBTQ+ and be welcomed without question.”

For Lee, it’s about being his true self — a father, a husband, and a successful lawyer who aims to serve as an example for others.

“Being a person that prides myself on my ethics and knowing that I am contributing to the profession in a positive manner, gives me a sense of accomplishment and hopeful path for others to follow. I constantly keep my end game in mind, which is wanting to achieve being an ideal role model for younger generations, especially my daughter.”