THE SMITH SOVIK LAW FIRM, THREE QUARTERS OF A CENTURY ON
Smith Sovik proudly celebrates our 75th year of continuous legal service to the Central New York community and beyond. In 1946, Laurence (“Larry”) Sovik and John Timothy Smith broke off from the Costello firm and established Smith and Sovik, primarily representing clients in commercial transactions. Well known advocates Bill Richardson and Professor Victor Lavine joined the firm a year later. The initial office was in a small corner of the Wilson Building on Salina Street in downtown Syracuse. Smith Sovik then transitioned to larger accommodations in the Empire Building and later to our home office at 250 South Clinton Street, still in downtown Syracuse.
Larry Sovik was always known for his zealous advocacy in the courtroom as well as his exploits on the golf course, which included annual awards and accolades as well as playing in the first foursome to tee off at Green Lakes State Park with the course designer Robert Trent Jones. He became known too for successfully challenging the monopoly of the Newhouse Broadcasting empire in the Syracuse news reporting industry and clearing the way for independent radio programming.
John Hart Terry, who was a member of the New York State Assembly and then a U.S. Congressman, joined shortly after the firm was formed in 1948. Mr. Terry established a practice in municipal law. He successfully established New York’s Helmet Law for motorcycles, the first of its kind in the country.
Similarly, Fritz Sovik, Larry’s son who also joined in 1948, established the common-law “seat belt defense” in New York. Fritz quickly became a legend throughout the State by winning cases that were not winnable.
Fittingly, Smith Sovik was known for its connections with the local beer industry. Marty Kendrick whose practice was largely as the “law man” represented the New York State Brewers Association—ironically as a teetotaler—winning grocery stores the right to sell beer. Joe Strodel, who joined in 1954, in addition to his practice with trusts, estates and real estate, also ran the Altman Bottling Company. Joe Drexler, who joined in 1946, litigated a town’s right to declare itself “dry” and was the first to focus on personal injury litigation. Joe’s practice grew and eventually led to the boutique nature of civil litigation practice.
Franklin Schwarzer joined and started a well-known and successful tax certiorari litigation practice. John Timothy Smith, and then Bob McAuliffe, worked tirelessly for the benefit of the Diocese of Syracuse and its charities into the early 1980s.
Beginning in the 1960s and progressing into the 1970s and 1980s, Fritz Sovik and Bill Sugnet oversaw the firm’s expanding transition into civil litigation both in defense of product liability and medical malpractice cases.
Smith Sovik, led by Jim Lantier in the 1990s and Kevin Hulslander since 2005, has grown slowly but surely into one of the most accomplished trial firms in the State. Our lawyers are routinely voted as excellent in their fields by their peers.
From Buffalo/Rochester to Utica/Albany and from Watertown to Binghamton and beyond to the courts in and around New York City and Long Island, Smith Sovik lawyers aggressively and tenaciously represent individuals, doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects and other professionals as well as manufacturers and corporations of all kinds in courtrooms all across the Empire State. Our partners continue to win when prosecuting or defending personal injury and commercial disputes in all the state and federal courts.
75 years indeed and looking forward to at least 75 more!