Monthly Feature: Get to Know... Stephen Sharkey
October 31, 2018
Stephen Sharkey is what you might call a problem solver who turns to litigation as a last resort. And that can be a very good thing for his clients. As Steve puts it, “My goal is always to fully understand my clients’ particular needs and what they want out of a given dispute, and then act accordingly to resolve the dispute. Oftentimes a smart resolution is an early resolution. It’s also less expensive. Disputes can get intensely personal. While lawyers may be good at telling clients about results and winning, if they don’t explain the downside, such as potential problems, pitfalls or what might happen if they don’t prevail in litigation, they’re not acting in their client’s best interest. My advice: Get out of a dispute as quickly, reasonably and economically as possible.”
A Buffalo native, Steve represents financial institutions, businesses, insurance companies and individuals in a wide variety of litigated matters in both federal and state courts.
His practice focuses on business and commercial litigation, employment litigation, real property litigation, insurance litigation and class action defense. Steve also has experience in litigating professional liability claims and attorney fee disputes. In addition, he regularly represents lenders and other creditors in workout matters and adverse bankruptcy proceedings. Steve also counsels a number of small businesses on corporate and business-related issues.
“I have a general litigation practice, which is somewhat unusual today, with a niche in business and commercial disputes. I enjoy my work because much of the time, I’m helping people whose businesses could potentially live or die based on the outcome of the case. It is very rewarding to help them navigate through their difficulties and achieve a resolution that allows them to succeed in their business. I forge a strong connection with my clients."
Getting back to the idea of litigating as a last resort, Steve points out the value of Alternative Dispute Resolution. “Costs to clients are a huge consideration in any litigated matter. A $50,000 dispute could cost significantly more than that to litigate. Being able to firmly counsel clients to avoid litigation, particularly if they’re passionate and may be blinded by their emotions, is helped by experience and the relationship you’ve formed with them. You have to be able to tell them what to expect and lay out the potential consequences. ‘If you think you’re unhappy now, imagine how unhappy you’ll be if you spend X and then lose…’ is often how I put it.”
When Steve is not negotiating on behalf of his clients, he applies his maneuvering skills to coaching his two sons’ hockey and baseball travel sports teams. “It’s a tremendous way to be involved with my kids and our community. It’s time consuming and labor intensive, but it is rewarding and my best opportunity to spend quality one-on-one time with them, particularly given the time demands of my profession. Not only do I enjoy the sport and the culture, but our family has made close friends through youth sports.”
Although Steve always had his sights set on a career in law, he finds that his undergraduate degree in psychology is often beneficial to his practice. “Sometimes my education gives me added insight into the human mind and behavior, which is helpful as you come up against all types of characters in litigation and negotiations. Everyone is typically always looking out for their own interests so it pays to be leery of the statements that others make. If something seems too good to be true, it almost invariably is.”