Steven Spiegel

Steven Spiegel (NY/Real Estate/'86) is a true renaissance man — solo practitioner, serial entrepreneur, environmental activist, author and musician. In recent months, he has argued a federal case involving endangered mussels before the Second Circuit, advised the developers of what will be Brooklyn's first modular skyscraper and factory using IP-protected technologies, and reviewed the interior proofs for his new novel. "I've always wanted to use my legal skills in creative ways — that's what keeps it interesting for me, whether it's a real estate development deal, IP work or an endangered species case," Steve explained. "Thomas Edison said he never did a day of work in his whole life, because it was all fun. That's my goal."
Steve describes his varied pursuits as the product of a single-minded career plan: to develop multiple skillsets that together allow the pursuit of a balanced, interesting life.
Steve left Skadden in 1991 and opened a law office downtown on Spring Street, sharing a SoHo loft space with another former Skadden associate, comedian Greg Giraldo (NY/Real Estate/'90). Steve handled the kinds of matters one might expect of a former Skadden transactional attorney — financings, leasings, acquisitions — but also founded an Internet company that harnessed new database search technologies. "That was an exciting project, though a bit too ahead of its time," he recalled.
By 1995, he decided to spend less time commuting and more time with his wife and three young children, eventually moving his practice, Spiegel Legal, closer to home, to an office building he developed in Orange County, N.Y. Applying his transactional and M&A skills, he began to advise entrepreneurial ventures, participating in some, especially in the area of "wellness" and its emerging sciences.
A successful fight against lung cancer in 2003 inspired him to dedicate more energy to "doing good." He has since collaborated on numerous "social entrepreneurship" projects, such as the nonprofit Changing the Present, an online marketplace that allows donors to make charitable gifts to more than a thousand causes, such as vaccines for children, legal counsel for migrant workers and meals for the homebound elderly. "I created a legal structure to raise money for nonprofits, through joint ventures with for-profits, in a way that didn't invalidate the nonprofit's tax-exempt status, which historically was a huge problem," Spiegel explained. "The structure passed the vigorous tests of the IRS, allowing for the support of so many good charitable enterprises."
He also began to litigate, including as a means to champion causes and people he believed in. His current litigation matters include the representation of more than 140 plaintiffs in a citizen-suit case under the Endangered Species Act, alleging that New York City's failure to properly operate and maintain a dam on the Neversink River in Sullivan County led to "tsunami-like" flooding in 2005 that decimated homes and businesses along with one of the largest remaining colonies of an endangered river mussel species. After the Second Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the city in September 2012, Steve sought certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court, which remains pending, and began to write a book on the lessons of the case. "The case is ultimately about the sharing and sustainability of natural resources, our simple usufruct in the water," Steve says. "The city caused the devastation by hoarding surplus water, keeping its reservoir overfilled even as spring rains approached. In the post-Hurricane Sandy era of climatic weather events and flooding, how we as a society manage our reservoirs and resources is a compelling issue."
Steve also plays music — guitar, keyboards and blues harp, among other instruments — and believes that art and law are "synergistic pursuits, expressions of the same creative impulse." He is currently pursuing several writing projects, including a series of historical essays and his soon-to-be-published first novel, (((Tuning Jack FM))), which explores the source of inspiration and innovation, drawing on lessons learned from his entrepreneurial ventures (and the intellectual property system) and the profound effects of surviving lung cancer.
Steve's calendar for 2013 promises more of the same. He's wrapping up the book and working on a few new start-up businesses, like a scalable plastics-to-fuel technology, while waiting on the cert petition. "I'd like to think I'm part of a new generation of entrepreneurs, pursuing a wider dream," Steve says. "What's making us tick, is not merely the allure of great wealth, but the socially conscious desire to help the planet and to be of service to others."