By Jane Schmitt, originally published in Buffalo Business First on Sep 23, 2019, 5:10am EDT.

RISING STARS: This year’s Legal Elite nominators lauded acumen, work ethic and wherewithal of these lawyers who have made a name for themselves in Western New York

The 2019 Legal Elite Rising Stars The 2019 Legal Elite Rising Stars (from left): Timothy Kucinski, Katie Kestel Martin, Nicholas Romano, Justin Andreozzi, Courtney Williams and Jennifer Behm. (JOED VIERA)

It’s a crowded field and often a thankless job for young attorneys.

Long nights at the office likely make many wonder why they chose the career in the first place.

For others, the light at the end of the tunnel remains the constant goal. And this year’s class of Legal Elite Rising Stars certainly recognize that, according to how others in the community view their work.

Peers who nominated the class said these attorneys have something special that separates them from the pack as they build their practices.

Below is a glimpse at this year’s Rising Stars. For more on the group, grab a this week’s Buffalo Law Journal.

The annual Legal Elite supplement is available now in both the Law Journal’s weekly print edition and Buffalo Business First.

Justin Andreozzi, Senior associate, Andreozzi Bluestein LLP

When did you know that law school was your calling? As a child I wanted to be a pet detective like Ace Ventura. That dream eventually changed to becoming a professional basketball player. I realized, however, that being a lawyer was my calling during a legal internship my senior year of high school, and I’ve passionately pursued that path ever since.

Thoughts on work/life balance: If you separate “work” and “life” on opposite ends of a scale, it can take tremendous effort to balance. But when much of your work involves collaborating with some of your closest friends and family members on things you love doing, there is enough weight on the fulcrum to stabilize just about anything.

Jennifer Behm, Partner, Berardi Immigration Law

What do you know now that you didn’t know when you graduated law school? Law school emphasizes research, writing and legal knowledge. However, these skills only get you so far with client service and satisfaction. Relationship building and connecting with clients on a personal and professional level is equally important to the transaction; it can lead to repeat business and referrals.

Advice for attorneys coming up the ranks: When you have questions for a supervising or mentoring attorney, ask them. But always provide them with your proposed answer/solution or an outline of how you think a situation should be handled. Take initiative to show them how you’re actively thinking through a problem instead of relying on someone else for an answer.

Timothy Kucinski, Associate, Phillips Lytle LLP

When did you know that law school was your calling? In college, although I didn’t know I wanted to be a transactional lawyer until I was a summer associate at Phillips Lytle.

Thoughts on work/life balance: A strong work/life balance is critical to a successful career, but you have to be proactive to maintain that balance. By staying ahead of deadlines where possible, I minimize the times that I have to miss something outside of the office due to work obligations. I’ve also found that by putting in longer hours when I can do so, clients and colleagues are more understanding whenever family life inevitably conflicts with work.

Katie Kestel Martin, Associate, Pusatier Sherman Abbott & Sugarman LLP

What do you know now that you didn’t know when you graduated law school? Helping people starts with listening, not knowing a solution. And the legal profession is one the most challenging and rewarding experiences I could have ever encountered.

Advice for attorneys coming up the ranks: Find a mentor, never stop looking for and developing your niche, be kind to your clients and opposing counsel and, above all, work hard, stay humble.

Nicholas Romano, Associate, Connors LLP

When did you know that law school was your calling? When I was a kid, I grew up watching Jack McCoy fight for justice on “Law & Order” with my mom. Watching him battle in the courtroom inspired me to stand up for others and fight for what is right.

Thoughts on work/life balance: Do not forget your most important client: you. Eat right, exercise, sleep and take some time off when you can. Taking care of yourself will make you a better lawyer.

Courtney Williams, Associate, Gross Polowy LLC

Thoughts on work/life balance: This is something I strive to maintain. I enjoy my work and I have a busy workload, but I am happier and more productive at work when I make time for myself and my loved ones and friends. Luckily, my firm encourages time off and mental and physical wellness.

Advice for attorneys coming up the ranks: The attorneys and colleagues in your office are a valuable resource. Use them whenever you can.

The 2019 Legal Elite Rising Stars The Class of 2019: The attorneys above were nominated by their peers as Rising Stars in the Buffalo area legal community. From left: Jennifer Behm, Courtney Williams, Justin Andreozzi, Nicholas Romano, Katie Kestel Martin and Timothy Kucinski. (JOED VIERA)