She Knows When to "Speak Softly" and When to "Carry A Big Stick"

Image When she graduated from the law school in 2001, the economy had taken a hit and then September 11 happened. Petek Günay was looking for a job in corporate law when a great deal of corporate activity had virtually stopped. She responded to a job listing that said, “Get an opportunity to work on cases you read about in newspapers.” A week later, she had her first job in litigation. Günay answered TurkofAmerica’s questions.

Could you tell us about your background?
I was born and raised in Istanbul by two wonderful parents whose careers were as diverse from one another’s as could be: my Mother is a talented artist and textile designer; my Father was a successful attorney. After graduating from Robert College in 1992, I went to Pennsylvania, where I attended and graduated from Franklin and Marshall College with a degree in economics.  I subsequently accepted a job as an Operations Analyst at the New York branch of VakifBank. I knew in my heart that I wanted to be a lawyer, like my Father (Mom understands; I am not half as artistic as she is!). I picked Brooklyn Law School. Upon graduating with honors in 2001, I took a job working for Judd Burstein, a powerhouse litigator. Subsequently, I became associated with the prestigious law firms of Meister Seelig & Fein LLP and Salon Marrow Dyckman Newman & Broudy LLP where I practiced general civil litigation. In April 2013, I started Gunay Law, P.C., a general practice law firm in Manhattan with a focus on litigation, contract, business and employment matters.
What kind of cases you are handling?
Having my own firm has allowed me to be more flexible with the kinds of matters I handle.  In addition to litigation matters, I also counsel individuals and small businesses on compliance and contract issues. As for my litigation work, a good portion of my practice consists of representing parties in actions to pierce the corporate veil and restaurant owners against employee claims of overtime and tip violations. Both the biggest advantage and disadvantage of litigation is its adversarial nature. While the constant challenge is extremely rewarding, being in a field where your failure means your opponent’s success can be unduly taxing. You often deal with attorneys who confuse zealous advocacy with pettiness, and take extreme positions simply to advance their clients’ positions, even if those positions ultimately hurt their clients. If I have learned one thing in this business, it is when to “speak softly” and when to “carry a big stick”.
Would you share some of your interesting cases with us?
One of the very first cases I ever worked on was a lawsuit over the ownership of works created by the legendary dancer, Martha Graham, who is considered to be Mother of Modern Dance and was Time Magazine’s Dancer of the Century. I served as part of the legal team that represented famous boxers such as Lennox Lewis and “Terrible” Terry Norris. I worked on a series of litigations involving players in New York’s famous diamond district where gems worth millions of dollars exchange hands based on a simple handshake.  One of my most recent cases was over the ownership of a Ukrainian TV station.   

We see very few Turkish American lawyers in your field, what was your main reason for focusing on litigation?
I originally got into litigation unwillingly.  I graduated in 2001, when the economy had already taken a hit. And then September 11 happened. Here I was, looking for a job in corporate law when a great deal of corporate activity had virtually stopped.  With less than a year left on my F-1 visa, I knew I had to find a job sooner rather than later. So, I responded to a job listing that said “Get an opportunity to work on cases you read in newspapers about.”  A week later, I had my first job in litigation; a month later, I was hooked. I have a background in improvisational theater and I sang a capella in college, so having to perform under pressure ultimately proved to be a good fit my personality.
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07