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Robert N. Gottfried is One of New York’s Most Influential and Successful Immigration Attorneys

published October 28, 2013

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Professional Overview

Robert N. Gottfried is One of New York’s Most Influential and Successful Immigration Attorneys
Robert N. Gottfried is currently a partner at the New York of Hodgson Russ, LLP. In January 2014, he will move to Gottfried & Gottfried, LLP, where he will continue to practice U.S. immigration law with his son David. For more than thirty years, Mr. Gottfried has built a national reputation as an attorney who specializes in all phases of U.S. immigration law. His practice focuses on obtaining permanent resident status, work visas, and U.S. citizenship on behalf of foreign nationals from around the globe. Mr. Gottfried has obtained permanent residence for world renowned scientists, athletes, photographers, artists, and authors based on their extraordinary ability in their chosen professions. He currently represents members of the diplomatic community, United Nations employees, and the New York Jets in U.S. immigration matters.

Mr. Gottfried is a frequent speaker on various aspects of immigration law. Since 1999, he has regularly conducted a seminar called "U.S. Immigration Options for UN Retirees" at the United Nations. Mr. Gottfried has been a speaker at the national conference of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), where he discussed H-1 and L-1 visas in 2009, and the consular process and the Child Status Protection Act in 2007. He has also presented on individual case liaison requests at a 2007 AILA meeting; on family-based immigration at the New York State Bar Association seminar entitled "Immigration Law Update 2008 - Basics and Beyond;" on international adoption matters at the 2009 Adoption Policy CLE seminar hosted by New York Law School; on post-graduation U.S. immigration options for international students at Baruch College (twice a year in April and October since 2011); and on the topic of family-based immigration at the New York State Bar Association Conference on Immigration Law (May 2012).

Mr. Gottfried has participated in several panels, which include the AILA New York Chapter Conference, 2002, 2003, and 2007, on the Child Status Protection Act and naturalization matters; the Association of the Bar of the City of New York in 2006 and 2007 on the intersection of employment and immigration law and naturalization matters; and the PLI Basic Immigration Conference on naturalization matters in 2008-2010. Most recently he participated in a webinar on U.S. citizenship issues for AILA.

From 2005 to 2009, he was co-chair of the New York Chapter of the AILA District Office Liaison Committee. Mr. Gottfried is a mentor for AILA (Family and Business Issues).

Over the years, he has been recognized by his peers with numerous distinctions. Mr. Gottfried has been listed in New York Metro Super Lawyers every year since its inception in 2006 and in The Best Lawyers in America since 1995. He has held an "AV" (pre-eminent) Martindale-Hubbell rating, which shows that an attorney has reached the height of professional excellence and is recognized for the highest levels of skill and integrity. Mr. Gottfried is a member of Hodgson Russ' Immigration Practice Group, which was awarded a prestigious National Tier 1 ranking by Best Lawyers/U.S. News & World Report.

He was born in Brooklyn and raised in Valley Stream, N.Y. Mr. Gottfried graduated with a B.A. in History from State University of New York at Albany in 1972 and earned his J.D. from Buffalo Law School in 1975.

He has been married for thirty-seven years to his wife Ellen, who is both a lawyer and a social worker, and has three children (Douglas, Bradley, and David). Mr. Gottfried's father and aunts were refugees from Nazi Germany when they immigrated to the United States in August 1939. His father's parents were not permitted into the United States, because they were born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and U.S. immigration laws at that time favored Western Europe over all other areas in the world. They were deported to Poland, where they remained until they were killed by the Nazis as part of the extermination of Jews in Krakow, Poland. Mr. Gottfried's mother's side of the family immigrated to the U.S. as children from Kiev in Czarist Russia in the early years of the 20th century.

Mr. Gottfried's father contracted malaria and dysentery while a member of the U.S. army which liberated the Philippines in World War II. He was fifty-eight years old when he died. Mr. Gottfried has a picture of his father in his office, which reminds him of his family's history, which he recounts to his clients. In that way he both shares a connection with them and keeps his father's memory alive.

When not working, he enjoys tennis, cycling, and walks with his wife. Mr. Gottfried is an avid New York Yankees, Jets, Knicks, and Islanders fan. He is a frequent visitor to New York's Fabio Piccolo Fiore restaurant. Mr. Gottfried's favorite author is Ken Follett.

Mr. Gottfried's Memories and Motivations

When asked if he received any awards or participated in any internship that influenced his decision to go into the law, Mr. Gottfried replied, "No. I didn't see a law office before I got my first job."

Does he have a most memorable law school experience? "The connections you make will last your entire life. My connections impacted my life going forward." Mr. Gottfried recalled his law school study group, where he studied with two students who made a profound impact on his life: Pamela Heilman, who joined Hodgson Russ as a first year associate in 1975 and was responsible for introducing Mr. Gottfried to the Immigration Practice leader at the firm; and Joan Alexander, who first told Mr. Gottfried and his wife about the Chautauqua Institute at the 30th reunion of their law school class in 2005. The Chautauqua Institution is a non-profit adult education center and summer resort based on 750 acres in Chautauqua, N.Y.

Why did Mr. Gottfried decide to become an attorney? "I felt I could make a difference in people's lives."

So what is the best part of his job? "Making my clients happy. It's all about the benefits I can obtain for them."

What is Mr. Gottfried known for professionally? "My knowledge of immigration law. I am well known for working with the diplomatic community, United Nations retirees and their family members, and foreign nationals with extraordinary ability."

What area of the law is he most passionate about? "Immigration law."

In regards to his strengths and one former weakness, Mr. Gottfried asserted, "My strength is my ability to come up with a plan for fulfilling my clients' immigration goals, and following through until the matters are successfully concluded for them. I also communicate well with my clients." As for his former weakness, the candid attorney said he improved on his writing skills years ago, so he could accomplish the results he wanted.

What does he think about immigration law in the U.S. today? "I want Congress to enact immigration reform so children and adults can come out of the shadows and become legalized; the best and brightest can become U.S. citizens so they can contribute to the economic prosperity of the U.S."

If he weren't a lawyer, what would Mr. Gottfried probably be doing? "I would be teaching history for high school students."

Where does he see himself in five years? "My son, David, and I will be doing well in our firm. I will be working less, and I will spend more time at the Chautauqua Institution."

How does he want to be remembered? "As a person who cared for and helped my clients receive the benefits they sought."

What Separates Hodgson Russ from Other Immigration Firms, Achieving Success on Difficult Cases, Participating on Panels and Speaking Engagements

What separates Hodgson Russ from other immigration firms in New York City? "Other firms have multiple attorneys who represent their clients. Out of the two hundred attorneys at Hodgson Russ, I am the only person in the New York City office who represents clients in U.S. immigration matters. When a client hires Hodgson Russ in New York City, they essentially are hiring me to take their case from the beginning to the end. I will doing the same at Gottfried &Gottfried."

Is there a case that stands out? Mr. Gottfried explained that he represented a man who thought he was a U.S. citizen. Although his client was born in the U.S. and was issued a U.S. passport, the government said they had made a mistake in issuing the U.S. passport (the client was a child of a diplomat at the time of his birth) and refused to renew his client's passport. Mr. Gottfried successfully obtained permanent residence for his client retroactive to his date of birth, and he eventually became a naturalized citizen.

Mr. Gottfried has participated on numerous panels, What motivates him to participate on these panels? "You learn from experienced lawyers. I participate on panels to pay back for what was given to me. Immigration lawyers are friendly compared to lawyers in other fields. We stand out because of our ability to work well with each other."

Since 1999, Mr. Gottfried has regularly conducted seminars and been on panels regarding U.S. immigration law issues. What has Mr. Gottfried learned from these experiences? Will he continue his speaking engagements? "I learned that meeting people is a wonderful marketing technique. People who have heard me speak, even five years ago, often return to retain me." Mr. Gottfried will continue his speaking engagements. In October 2013, he will address international students at Baruch College regarding obtaining working visas after they graduate.

Pro Bono Work and Mr. Gottfried's Goals

Does Mr. Gottfried handle pro bono work? Through AILA, he has mentored young attorneys who represented detainees in immigration jails. Mr. Gottfried advised these attorneys on what strategy to use and helped them move forward with their cases. He has been an active mentor for AILA, answering questions of other AILA members, both new practitioners as well as experienced attorneys.

Does the New Yorker have goals? "Personally, I would like to live a long and healthy life with my wife. I will continue to visit the Chautauqua Institution, and I look forward to helping my son establish his practice. Professionally, I would like my peers to continue to select me to be included in New York Metro Super Lawyers and in The Best Lawyers in America."

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