James R. O’Connor

Partner Buffalo, New York City

Jim is an aggressive advocate and a practical advisor.

As a seasoned commercial litigator, Jim represents businesses in complex commercial litigation in state and federal courts, vigorously advocating for his clients. As an employment law counselor, he helps businesses navigate the ever-changing state and federal employment laws, providing practical solutions to a wide array of complex issues. From litigating business torts and corporate disputes, to counseling businesses on labor and employment law matters, Jim works in tandem with his clients to set measurable goals. He thinks strategically and collaboratively to achieve the best possible outcome.

Jim brings a unique skill set because of his diverse practice as both a litigator and general counselor. His experience in the courtroom helps guide his advice in the board room. In the board room, Jim works closely with human resources professionals, general counsels and business owners to manage risk and comply with the law, all while minimizing business disruption. Having litigated business and employment law disputes for nearly a decade, Jim is uniquely qualified to partner with clients as a practical advisor. He frequently gives presentations on emerging trends and topics in the labor and employment law sector, and he prepares for each speaking engagement with a “know your audience” mindset.

When litigation does arise, Jim leaves no stone unturned. He investigates, strategizes and collaborates with his clients at every step through trial and appeal. Jim has handled complex litigation for clients across multiple industries, including financial/banking, manufacturing, construction, not-for-profit, real estate, retail, hospitality and trucking. He has litigated in state and federal courts across the country. He has also represented clients at various administrative bodies and defended against government investigations. Finally, Jim has counseled businesses through internal workplace investigations and conducted investigations as a neutral third party.

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Honors & Awards

  • Named Upstate New York Super Lawyers® Rising Star, 2022-2023
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Education & Admissions

Education
  • Hofstra University School of Law, J.D., 2014
  • University of Detroit Mercy, B.S., summa cum laude, 2010
Admitted to Practice
  • New York
  • U.S. District Court, Northern, Southern and Western Districts of New York

Experience

Representative Matters
  • Successfully defended a New York county’s IDA and a New York State transportation corporation in a widely publicized Article 78 challenge that sought to derail a critical infrastructure build-out at an industrial mega-site that has received nearly a billion dollars in private and public investment, obtaining a complete dismissal of the Petition on the merits.
  • Represented a corporation seeking to enforce its patented laser decapsulation technology, and obtained a summary judgment ruling that a competitor committed patent infringement as a matter of law, dismissing all of the competitor’s affirmative defenses.
  • Represented a private investment corporation, and successfully tried a breach of contract lawsuit in the Commercial Division, obtaining a verdict and judgment in favor of his client, plus attorneys’ fees and contractual interest, defeating the defendant’s claim of a mutual mistake in the drafting of the agreements at issue.
  • Represented a law-firm partner in a business divorce involving claims of fraud, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and defamation.
  • Successfully defended a full-service construction firm against a former employee’s administrative claims of a hostile work environment, differential treatment and unlawful discharge on account of the former employee’s race, disability, and in retaliation, in part, related to a medical leave.
  • Represented a real estate developer in an action alleging fraudulent inducement, breach of contract and fraud.
  • Conducted a neutral investigation into allegations of workplace harassment, retaliation and financial improprieties at a not-for-profit (third-party investigation).
  • Represented a credit union through an internal investigation into allegations of harassment, discrimination and retaliation.
  • Represented a real estate developer in action against a municipality alleging civil rights violations related to revocation of permits.
  • Represented an industrial development agency (IDA) in obtaining certain easements through eminent domain.
  • Successfully defended a floorplan financing corporation in a Franchised Motor Vehicle Dealer Act (Dealer’s Act) administrative proceeding brought by franchisee dealership.
  • Prosecuted a direct and derivative breach of fiduciary duty action by a not-for-profit shareholder.
  • Prosecuted patent-infringement claims on behalf of a technology company.
  • Represented a motor-vehicle-dealer franchisee in a Dealer’s Act suit against manufacturer-franchisor and successfully obtained remand to state court.
  • Served as outside employment law counsel for a clothing manufacturer and a medical imaging corporation, and multiple clients in the hospitality and retail industry.
  • Served as outside general counsel for a large roofing contractor and countless small businesses.
Representative Cases
  • Control Laser Corp. v. Smith, No. 21-CV-01869-JST, 2023 WL 8587614 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 8, 2023)
  • Portville Truck & Auto Repair, Inc. v. Mack Trucks, Inc., No. 1:19-CV-01045 EAW, 2020 WL 419716 (W.D.N.Y. Jan. 27, 2020) (successfully obtained a remand of a franchisor-franchisee breach of contract matter)
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Speaking Engagements

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  • Presenter, “Labor and Employment Legal Update,” Phillips Lytle Breakfast Briefing Webinar, April 2024
  • Presenter, “U.S. Labor and HR Regulations Workshop,” Soft Landing New York Spring 2024 Cohort, April 2024
  • Presenter, “Legal Update,” Buffalo Niagara Human Resources Association (BNHRA), March 2024
  • Speaker, “Artificial Intelligence at Work: Employment Law and Trade Secret Considerations,” Inn of Court meeting, November 2023
  • Presenter, “AI in the Workplace: Navigating the Legal Frontier,” Buffalo Niagara Human Resources Association (BNHRA), June 2023
  • Presenter, “From Starbucks to Amazon and Beyond: Recent Developments Regarding Union Organizing,” Phillips Lytle Labor & Employment Law Seminar, October 2022
  • Presenter, “From Starbucks to Amazon: Recent Developments Regarding Unions in America,” Buffalo Niagara Human Resource Association (BNHRA), July 2022
  • Presenter, “Legal Update,” Webinar, Buffalo Niagara Human Resource Association (BNHRA), March 2022
  • Presenter, “Vaccine Mandates and Policies,” Phillips Lytle Labor & Employment Law Seminar, October 2021
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Activities & Professional Associations

Present Activities

  • Inn of Court, Board of Directors
  • WNY United Against Drug & Alcohol Abuse, Board of Directors, Secretary

Past Activities

  • New York State Court of Appeals, Volunteer Confidential Law Clerk, Justice Eugene M. Fahey
  • New York State Unified Court System, Cattaraugus County Family Court, Court Assistant
  • Hofstra Law Review, Senior Notes and Comments Editor and Staff Member

Professional Associations

  • American Bar Association
    • Labor and Employment Law Section
    • Litigation Section
    • Young Lawyers Division
  • Bar Association of Erie County
    • Commercial Litigation and Bankruptcy Law Committee
    • Federal Practice Committee
  • New York State Bar Association
    • Commercial & Federal Litigation Section
    • Labor and Employment Law Section

Articles & Publications

Articles

  • Co-Author, “Harnessing the Power of AI: Legal Considerations for Employers,” Buffalo Business First, September 2023
  • Co-Author, “Harnessing the Power of AI: Legal Considerations for Employers,” Rochester Business Journal, August 2023
  • Co-Author, “What Employers Need to Know About OSHA’s COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate and Testing Alternative,” Buffalo Business First, October 2021