Harvey Weitz is never taken by surprise in the courtroom. Over his distinguished career as one of the country's leading trial attorneys, he's proven time and again that he's prepared to handle anything thrown at him - and win astonishing verdicts in the process.
"I've never been outworked or outfought", says Mr. Weitz, a partner in the law firm of Weitz & Associates in Manhattan. And while multimillion-dollar verdicts are de rigueur for Mr. Weitz, he takes the most pride in representing the proverbial little guy - often in tough cases deemed hopeless by conventional standards.
The results of many of his trials still resonate long after the final verdict has been read. Today, for instance, all public parks in Manhattan contain some kind of padding or protective material to reduce the risk of injury to the children that play happily in them - the result of a case Mr. Weitz tried and won in which a child was seriously injured on a water-spray tower. "I understand responsibility", Mr. Weitz says. "The word itself has been perverted by the establishment, and I turn that around. Simply put, we hold people responsible for their conduct, and this helps bring about positive change in society". Among many other high-profile suits, he was the lead trial counsel in the New York tobacco-industry cases. The impending trial helped to orchestrate a settlement that turned out to be one of the largest of its kind in the nation.
Mr. Weitz was a partner in the high-profile Cochran Firm Schneider, Kleinick, Weitz, Damashek & Shoot for 35 years before leaving to found a new firm with his sons Paul and Andrew in 2004. "I love working with my sons", says Mr. Weitz, adding that these days, he often goes to them for advice. "They have great insight. We're a family of trial lawyers, and we take great pride in the work we do for our clients".
Mr. Weitz says his background - he grew up poor in the hardworking Midwood section of Brooklyn - helps lend the perspective he needs to relate to his clients. "I know first hand the hard times that people go through", he says. "I know how the underdog feels and I am more appreciative of how tough it is to endure bad happenings".
But Mr. Weitz's work doesn't stop in the courtroom, and over the course of his career, he has become well-known as an author and lecturer. "I've written three books, one of which is considered the authority on the law of automobile negligence and no-fault insurance", Weitz says. "I've also done two volumes of The Art of Summation, which by law book standards is considered a bestseller". He's also an adjunct professor of Trial Law at Brooklyn Law School, of which he is an alumnus.
It makes sense then that Mr. Weitz's greatest strength may lie in the sheer breadth of this experience. "I've tried every major piece of civil litigation imaginable", he says. "I represent people against entities they couldn't go up against otherwise". In obtaining hundreds of millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements in so-called "impossible cases", Mr. Weitz is most proud of those which other lawyers felt could not be won.