Top Lawyers: Anthony J Enea of Enea, Scanlan & Sirignano On The 5 Things You Need To Become A Top Lawyer In Elder Law
Be a good person. What goes around comes around! Being a resource and helpful to others goes a long way. I always respond to inquiries for information from fellow attorneys.
The legal field is known to be extremely competitive. Lawyers are often smart, ambitious, and highly educated. That being said, what does it take to stand out and become a “Top Lawyer” in your specific field of law? In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Become A Top Lawyer In Your Specific Field of Law”, we are talking to top lawyers who share what it takes to excel and stand out in your industry.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing elder law attorney Anthony J. Enea, Esq.
For over 35 years, Anthony J. Enea, Esq., managing member of Enea, Scanlan & Sirignano, LLP in White Plains, N.Y., has devoted his practice to educating and protecting the rights of seniors, the disabled and their families from the costs of long term care and estate taxes. An “AV” Rated Preeminent Attorney (Martindale-Hubbell), Mr. Enea is president of the Westchester County Bar Foundation and past chair of the Elder Law and Special Needs Section of the New York State Bar Association. His practice areas include wills, trusts & estates, elder law; Medicaid asset protection planning; Medicaid applications (home care and nursing home) and special needs planning.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit more. What is the “backstory” that brought you to this particular career path in Law? Did you want to be an attorney “when you grew up”?
I always wanted to be an attorney when I was growing up. I am a first generation Italian-American. I am fluent In Italian and the first in my family to go to college and become an attorney. I am definitely an overachiever.
Can you tell us a bit about the nature of your practice and what you focus on?
Enea, Scanlan & Sirignano LLP is a boutique Elder Law and Wills; Trusts & Estates firm. We focus on preserving the life savings of our clients from the cost of long-term care and federal and New York estate taxes. We do so by encouraging our clients to be proactive planners and by assisting them in accessing both the Medicaid Home Care and Nursing Home program.
You are a successful attorney. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? What unique qualities do you have that others may not? Can you please share a story or example for each?
The three character traits that were most instrumental in my success were hard work, perseverance and always wanting to help others who were in difficult circumstances.
The thought of helping someone preserve their life savings and life’s work for their loved ones is something I always found fundamentally compelling. Some 30 plus years ago, when Elder Law was not yet even considered a practice area, I immersed myself in learning as much as possible about Federal and State programs that the elderly and disabled are entitled to, or can make themselves eligible for. I did the same with estate planning.
A unique quality I believe I have is my ability to solve problems. Perhaps, because I grew up in an immigrant family, I was thrust into having to solve many of the day to day issues my family would encounter. I learned about banking before the age of 10 and started investing my family’s savings before I was 18.
Do you think you have had luck in your success? Can you explain what you mean?
I have definitely had luck in my career. It was truly fortunate that I strongly believed some 30 plus years ago that Elder Law and long-term care planning would be significant issues in the lives of the vast majority of seniors. Without advance planning, the costs of a nursing home or home care can easily deplete one’s life savings.
Do you think where you went to school has any bearing on your success? How important is it for a lawyer to go to a top-tier school?
My decision to attend a local law school was driven by the need to remain close to my family and other business factors. I am sure there are many advantages in attending an Ivy League law school and/or college. However, I have always been a believer that it is not the school, but the student that will determine their individual success. That motivation, persistence and ambition are critical factors in success.
Based on the lessons you have learned from your experience, if you could go back in time and speak to your twenty-year-old self, what would you say? Would you do anything differently?
If I were 20 years old again, I would advise myself to have more fun. Work hard, but find the time to enjoy life. You are only 20 once!
This is not easy work. What is your primary motivation and drive behind the work that you do?
My primary motivation is to instill in the young lawyers, paralegals and staff in our firm the importance of what we are asked to accomplish for our clients and their families. Every task, whether it be small or large, is to be treated as critically important.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Some of the interesting projects I am working on are related to helping clients prepare for possible significant changes in the rules regarding eligibility for various Medicaid programs as well as changes in the federal estate and gift tax exemptions. These are two important issues in the lives of our clients who are often in two differing economic worlds.
Where do you go from here? Where do you aim to be in the next chapter of your career?
The next chapter of my career will be focused on training the next generation of firm leaders on how to continue the success of our firm. A thriving law practice has many components that require attention on a daily basis. Understanding what those components are and how we can work as a team is an important objective.
Without sharing anything confidential, can you please share your most successful “war story”? Can you share the funniest?
Well, a small successful war story. For many years in addition to doing estate planning I handled litigated estates. My deposition of the objectant daughter of the decedent must have convinced her and her attorney that she did not have a case, that on the very next day she withdrew her objections to her father’s Last Will.
Ok, fantastic. Let’s now shift to discussing some advice for aspiring lawyers. Do you work remotely? Onsite? Or Hybrid? What do you think will be the future of how law offices operate? What do you prefer? Can you please explain what you mean?
We are now primarily working in our office, however there are associates and paralegals that spend some time weekly working remotely.
I enjoyed working remotely for a short time. However, in the long run it can be isolating. When you are not in the office you are kind of walled off from the daily issues that impact the firm and its clients. You don’t hear the conversations associates and paralegals are having with each other and the clients. It is much harder to mentor someone remotely.
I honestly believe a hybrid form will remain popular for law firms, especially where commuting is an issue for its employees. A law firm must adapt to changing business environments — including those affecting its modus operandi.
How has the legal world changed since COVID? How do you think it might change in the near future? Can you explain what you mean?
The pandemic has definitely impacted our practice. I find clients (including younger clients) being much more aware of their own mortality. It’s changed the legal profession by forcing us to accept technology and new ways of operating that we didn’t believe we would use for another decade or so. Prior to COVID, I don’t think many attorneys were doing consultations on Zoom or Skype.
We often hear about the importance of networking and getting referrals. Is this still true today? Has the nature of networking changed or has its importance changed? Can you explain what you mean?
I have always been a strong believer that marketing and networking are critical to a firm’s success. You can be the greatest, most brilliant attorney in the state, however, if the public and those in the profession don’t know that you are, it won’t do you much good.
I am still a big believer in meeting people face to face and pressing the flesh. Developing relationships with colleagues and referral sources is very important. However, social media and other forms of marketing and promotion such as speaking, writing articles, etc. are also of great value.
Excellent. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Become A Top Lawyer In Your Specific Field of Law?” Please share a story or an example for each.
In order to become a top lawyer in your field you need to:
- Totally immerse yourself in becoming an expert in the area you want to practice in. Learn as much as possible about the area of law. Attend as many CLEs as possible. Become the go to lawyer in your community.
- Lecture and write about the area of law. Share your knowledge with the profession and public. Public speaking and writing help reinforce and expand your knowledge.
- If available, become certified in the area of law. For example, one can become a Certified Elder Law Attorney as certified by the National Elder Law Foundation as accredited by the American Bar Association. In my case, becoming certified was like studying for a bar exam on Elder Law. It helped me thoroughly understand the underlying reasons for what we as Elder Law attorneys recommend.
- Be willing to help mentor others who want to practice in your field. Helping a younger generation of lawyers helps keep you and your practice relevant and important. I have heard many attorneys complain that they no longer want to educate their competitors. I believe this is wrong.
- Be a good person. What goes around comes around! Being a resource and helpful to others goes a long way. I always respond to inquiries for information from fellow attorneys.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
I would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with Tiger Woods. He is someone who has faced a great deal of adversity and bounced back from it on every occasion. I am confident it won’t be long before he is back playing golf.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!