Monthly Feature: Get to Know... Daniel J. Pautz
August 1, 2023
As a young boy growing up in New York’s Southern Tier, Daniel Pautz remembers watching his father, a former prosecutor, prepare for trial and thought it was “the coolest thing ever.”
“As far back as I can remember, this is all I ever wanted to do,” said Pautz, a litigator with Bond, Schoeneck & King since 2008.
Although born in Fort Hood, Texas, while his father was stationed there with the U.S. Army, Dan spent most of his childhood in Elmira, located about 90 miles southwest of Syracuse in Chemung County. Dan and his four siblings enjoyed an “absolutely perfect childhood” there. I had supportive and loving parents, a built-in best friend in my older brother and a neighborhood full of other kids.
“Looking back, it was like growing up in the movie Pleasantville,” Dan says.
After leaving the Chemung County District Attorney’s Office, his father operated a small general law practice and his mother taught high school English. While a student at Notre Dame High School, Dan honed his competitive edge by participating in multiple sports (baseball, basketball, football and golf) and plotted his path to becoming a lawyer.
He ventured to Western New York, first for his undergraduate studies at Niagara University, and then to the University of Buffalo School of Law. During law school, he worked as a summer associate in Bond’s Buffalo office, spending most of his time there with the labor and employment practice. But he knew his future lay in trial work – an area of the law ruled by objective wins and losses.
“I played sports my whole life. I love to compete” he explains. “At some point , though, competitive athletics is no longer feasible – particularly when you are old and out of shape like I am.
But working as a litigator comes pretty close.
“There are very few situations that can replicate the nerves and anxiety you feel right before a game ‒ trial work is certainly one of those situations,” Dan says. “Waiting for a jury to return a verdict – that certainly gets your blood pumping.”
By the time clients seek out Dan’s counsel, many already have arrived as some kind of seminal event (read: low point) in their lives. That timing often casts him in the role of psychologist/problem-solver/advocate.
“One of the biggest misconceptions people have is that I spend all day yelling and screaming at people” Dan says. “But 90% of my work is trying to understand what makes people tick and exercising empathy. When someone is in a crisis, it’s understandably hard for them to think about anything else. My job is to listen, understand my client’s concerns and objectives and fashion a solution that is best for them.”
As the years passed and he continued to build his practice in Syracuse, Dan frequently toyed with the idea of a homecoming. His father’s generation of lawyers was starting to age out, and Dan’s generation didn’t move back.
“There are wonderful lawyers in the Southern Tier – there just is not enough of them,” he says. “The people there are extraordinarily warm, hardworking, proud people. There’s also a level of business sophistication that most would not expect. After spending more and more time there during the last several years, it became very apparent that demand for the type of legal services that Bond provides was far outpacing the supply. I saw an opportunity.”
This perceived opportunity became apparent to Dan around the same time COVID-19 was changing the way law was being practiced, particularly as it relates to remote work.
“It seemed to me that the days of needing to have hundreds of lawyers in one physical location were coming to an end,” he says. “We were forced to be much more creative in how we practice. That includes setting aside any predispositions about expanding into previously underserved markets.
So Dan pitched an idea. What if Bond opened a small office in Elmira that could serve as a conduit to the rest of the firm?
“It’s less than a thousand square feet of office space,” says Dan, who’s been dividing his time between Syracuse and Elmira since June. “It is a difficult concept to grasp at first, but when a client walks into our Elmira office, they are not just sitting with me – they have immediate access to 300 attorneys spread out across more than 30 practice areas and industry groups. No matter the legal issue, Bond almost certainly has somebody who does it and does it very well. A primary part of my role is to connect our clients with the right person based on the need and available expertise.”
Although his home remains in Syracuse – where wife Wendy works as a school psychologist and their two children attend school – Dan loves being connected to his hometown in a new way.
“My heart has always been there,” he says. “This is a perfect way to remain a part of that community and hopefully be a part of the exciting revitalization taking place.”
His father, now retired, even sometimes refers clients to him.
“I think he’s thrilled that I am carrying the torch, so to speak. I hope to do things in a way that makes him proud,” Dan says.