When Passion and Dollars Soar

Paul Masinter practices at Stone Pigman Walther Wittmann, LLC in commercial litigation. He describes his practice as “the ugly side of business, where money or prestige or both are at stake.” Issues in Masinter’s cases have touched on fraud, securities, product liability and environmental law. Although his practice has centered on businesses and their legal disputes, almost all his cases have involved serious allegations of a dishonesty or wrongdoing. “These are often ugly cases because at their core they are not only about money, but also human conflict,” he says. “I see disputes between former business partners who now hate each other because a transaction didn’t go as planned.”

   He also offers the example of a federal criminal prosecution against the executive of a company. While the allegations against the executive related to company conduct, the government also sought criminal penalties against the executive. “These are highly contentious situations involving people’s real emotions and passions,” he says. In another case, Masinter represented condominium owners against the developer following an undisclosed water leakage; in addition to money for home repairs, the clients also wanted justice following the deception they believed they endured. In the end, although substantial sums were at stake, an apology helped to resolve the case.

Currently Masinter and some of his partners are involved in a high-stakes litigation case with the state of Louisiana involving allegations of criminal wrongdoing against his client. “A lot of people think litigation is about dollars and cents, but there are humans involved, and their credibility, ethics and honor are being challenged. It’s very natural for them to want to fight.” Because emotions and passions run high, Masinter says that it’s very important that an attorney balance zealous advocacy for the client with the realities of the case. Recently, he assisted in a securities dispute, where a large company being accused of securities fraud sued his client for the failed investment. In this case, Masinter and his colleagues had to tailor the case strategy to the client’s available resources. “Everyone just wants to fight. You have to work with your client to find the best solution, rather than solely working to win at all costs.”

In such high-stakes litigation, Masinter says, “attorneys often forget that the judges, the jurors and the court staff are people too, and they’re all trying to do their jobs the best way they can. Sometimes as an attorney, you get so wrapped up in your case, your position, and your issues, that you forget that.” He thinks the most effective attorneys in court speak about the issues in a straightforward, direct and genuine matter. “There is a certain talent to being genuine with people, especially in a high-pressure setting such as a courtroom.”

Around the time of Katrina, doctors diagnosed Masinter with AION, a deteriorating eyesight disease. Because of this disability, his involvement in cases has changed, but he continues to assist on cases, advise clients and has become more active in firm business development efforts. “The firm has been and continues to be very supportive and generous with me,” he says, “both with my disability and with my efforts in the community,” which includes work with City Park, Lighthouse Louisiana, NOMA and Trinity Episcopal School. “Providing good counsel has always been very satisfying to me.”

26 Years in Practice
J.D. Paul M. Hebert Law Center – 1984
Native of New Orleans

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