168th Commencement: Watch Live
After they spent nearly a year opposing each other in a
custody case, Kathleen “Casey” Copps DiPaola ’09 and Lorraine Silverman ’05 met
for lunch. Both appreciated the other’s approach and performance during the
case, and both of their clients felt that they had an opportunity to be heard.
The stamped influence of their shared mentor, Professor Melissa Breger, and
their experiences in the Family Violence Litigation Clinic, was evident.
“It was refreshing to work against someone like Lorraine,”
said Copps DiPaola. “As mentees of Prof. Breger, we were taught the same way:
strong ethics, listen, be prepared, respect family court like you would a
“After the case I asked Casey to dinner to see if she
wanted to join forces,” said Silverman, which eventually led to establishing
Copps DiPaola Silverman, PLLC. “We were starting a new business and everyone
was counting on us to succeed – and so those first few days were scary, but then
it worked, the risks we took paid off, and it has been an amazing experience.
But not for one moment have we forgotten all of the mentors who helped us along
the way, which is why it is critical to us to pay it forward by continuing to
mentor law students."
This wasn’t their first meal together. Twelve years
earlier, Copps DiPaola was heading to Duke Law School. But her mother, Anne
Reynolds Copps ’81, and her father, Carl Copps ’80, encouraged—“pleaded with”—their
daughter to at least look at Albany Law School. Silverman, at the time a fellow
in the Family Violence Litigation Clinic, was asked to take her to lunch with
“Everyone knew I loved the Clinic,” Silverman said. “I
never left the Clinic during law school. I told Casey everything that I did and
everything she could do, and that in two years she could be in front of a judge
advocating for a battered woman or protecting a child.”
Copps DiPaola enrolled at Albany Law School. The two kept
in touch through The Legal Project, a regional non-profit pro bono and civil legal services organization, but they mostly went their separate ways
over the years. Copps DiPaola went to Whiteman Osterman Hanna after law school,
then joined her mother’s firm concentrating her practice in adoption law.
Silverman stayed closer to her clinic work, serving as the managing attorney for
the Katheryn D. Katz Fellowship
Program at The Legal Project, a partnership with the law school that
served as an incubator to develop career attorneys in the family law sector,
and then transitioned to private practice with a small family law firm along
with two of her Katz Fellowship students, Kayla Molinaro ’14 and Joseph Williams ’15.
While in private practice, Silverman continued to volunteer time with The Legal
Project, taking on pro bono cases, and she joined Albany County Bar Association’s
Board of Directors, chairing its pro bono committee.
“I have always liked working
with the students,” said Silverman. “I think it’s important to let them see
that you can give back to the community while pursuing a legitimate career as
an attorney. All of our attorneys, law interns, and staff, do volunteer work –
it is encouraged and supported at our firm.”
That model of fellowships
and student apprentices continues at their law firm. Today, associates Kayla Molinaro
‘14 and Joseph Williams ‘15, who also spent considerable time in the Clinic, mentor
Rebecca Wager ’19, who the firm intends to hire after she graduates. Once Wager
is on board, the firm will pull up another Clinic student.
“We call Professor Breger, Professor Lynch, Professor Rogerson, or Professor
Jaya Connors for the next talented recruit,” said Silverman. “We hire directly
from the Clinic because we want a staff that shares our commitment to public
service. As a lawyer, it is a duty and
privilege to help people – we need to set the example.”
“The students bring high energy
to the office, and they have a great excitement for the law,” said Copps DiPaola.
“That is infectious.”
Both noted that family law cases
often involve electronic and social media evidence. “Our interns are wizards
around the social media of the day, which is important for our cases."
"The Clinic's partnership with The Legal Project provides a great pipeline for our students to experience the rewards of this kind of work," said Professor Breger. "To see two stellar students develop into successful attorneys and stay committed to this work is exactly why I teach."
“There is an enormous need
for legal services in the region for the population of victims that cannot
afford help,” said Frisch. “Casey and Lorraine provide a great model of service
that commits to a population in need and we are all grateful, and proud, of
“We still feel close to the
Clinic,” said Silverman. “We call them if we have questions, see them at
events, and they send us resumes. We are proud of our firm, and the kind of law
we practice, due in part to our strong foundation provided by the Clinic.”