Get to Know MCCM Managing Partner Peter J. Weishaar
Did you ever wonder what made us decide to become lawyers? Maybe you wondered what we do when we’re not practicing law? Welcome to our inaugural post from our new “Get to Know Us” series, featuring different members of our MCCM team, where we answer those questions. Our first post features our Managing Partner, Peter J. Weishaar, who last month celebrated 25 years of practicing law—all of them with the firm.
Why did you become a lawyer? I blame Mrs. Bartolotti. I’m joking of course. But, I really do credit her. She was a middle school social studies teacher who lived around the corner from me growing up.
Even though I loved American History, and grew up wanting to become a lawyer, by the time I started college, I decided to major in physics and pursue a career in science and math because I believed there were already too many lawyers. But, after three semesters, it was clear to me that physics wasn’t where my passion was.
Later that Spring, while home on a break, I ran into Mrs. Bartolotti. She asked me what I was studying. After I told her I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, she said, “I thought you always wanted to be a lawyer?” I explained that there were already too many lawyers, and I’ll never forget Mrs. Bartolotti’s response. She said, “Yes, but we could always use more good lawyers.” That was just the spark I needed to nudge me to do what I always wanted to do. Later that semester, I changed my major, and the rest is history.
What do you do? When I joined the firm in 1996, I began as a litigation attorney. I was lucky to be exposed to a wide variety of cases in state and federal court right away. I was also fortunate enough to argue an appeal within the first six months on the job.
Over time, my practice evolved. I still handle a wide variety of business litigation, including disputes between business owners and defense of employment claims. But one of my real passions is defending employees accused of violating non-compete agreements. Even though we are typically the underdog in these fights, we often have the law on our side and can argue that the agreements overbroad and unenforceable as written.
A significant amount of my practice now includes land use and zoning matters. I represent planning and zoning boards—some on an ongoing basis and others on a special counsel basis. I also represent developers/applicants and sometimes neighbors opposed to developments. My litigation background enables me to handle these matters from the initial appearance before the relevant board, all the way through the conclusion of an Article 78 Proceeding.
My municipal work also includes representation of fire districts and other local governments, and I also defend municipalities in tax assessment litigation.
What work are you most proud of? Our clients are often individuals, closely-held businesses, or members of a local government board representing the community where they live—people who have a real stake in the outcome of what we’re doing. I have had many memorable cases over the years, and I am sure I will have many more. But, there are three cases that stand out as I look back on the first 25 years of my career.
The first case was a reverse discrimination case against the Urban-Surburban Interdistrict Transfer Program, one of the oldest voluntary desegregation programs in the country. I was still a relatively new associate when this case came to our office. We represented one of the school districts sued, and were discussing this case at one of our attorney lunches. After lunch, I asked if I could help, and I was brought in to help with the research. Ultimately, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the program by a 2-1 vote.
When I hear stories in the news about this program, I am proud that I had some small role in helping the program to survive. At the time we handled the case, six suburban districts participated with the city school district. Since that time, the program has expanded to include additional suburban districts.
A few years ago, I represented a long-time client of the firm in a dispute with an estate of the majority shareholder of a business that the two had owned. The estate had deep pockets, and even though we believed the valuation methodology in the shareholder’s agreement was clear, the estate was not willing to transfer the shares without a fight. Eventually, we were able to move for summary judgment, and it was rewarding to read the Surrogate Court’s decision, which cited extensively from our brief in ruling in our favor.
The case that has had the biggest impact on me, however, is an unlikely case. After being appointed pro bono to represent a prisoner in a pending civil rights case, I obtained a verdict in favor of my client against two corrections officers. The jury determined that the defendants violated my client’s Eighth Amendment rights by failing to protect him from a violent assault by another inmate.
I will never forget the feeling of dread I had about traveling to Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora to meet my client for the first time. I had never been inside a maximum security prison, and I had no idea what to expect. But, the lectionary reading from the Sunday morning before I left for my trip north included words from Matthew 25:36 that must have been meant for me to hear (“I was in prison and you visited me”). After I heard those words, my perspective changed.
Years later, I reconnected with my client. He earned a degree while in prison, and was able to continue his studies after his release, and is now a social worker. We were the ultimate underdogs, and we were able to prevail. I’ll never forget this case.
Tell us a little known fact about you. After more than three years of training, I earned my first degree Black Belt in Taekwondo at the end of October 2020. I received my official embroidered belt in February.
Before starting Taekwondo, I never would have thought that I could learn a new sport in my late 40s. My children and I attended the family classes together at Master Kim’s Taekwondo Institute in Penfield. Unlike other activities my children are involved with—where the parents are spectators—I love being out on the mat with them.
When the pandemic closed the school to in-person instruction, we were able to continue our studies on Zoom through the school’s MKTKD Live Program until in-person instruction resumed over the summer. My daughter and I are continuing our studies with Grand Master Kim.
I am also an aspiring 46-er. Although I have only climbed 24 of the Adirondack High Peaks, my goal is to eventually climb all 46 peaks. This summer, we’re planning to take the kids up their first High Peak.
What about your family? My wife and I grew up in and around Rochester, and even though our siblings have moved elsewhere, we returned home. All of our parents are also still local, so we see them quite a bit (when it is not a pandemic). My wife and I have two middle school-aged children, and we reside in Penfield.
This publication is intended as an information source for clients, prospective clients, and colleagues and constitutes attorney advertising. The content should not be considered legal advice and readers should not act upon information in this publication without individualized professional counsel.
McConville Considine Cooman & Morin, P.C. is a full-service law firm based in Rochester, New York, providing high-quality legal services to businesses and individuals since 1979. With over a dozen attorneys and a full paralegal support staff, the firm is well-positioned to right-size services tailored to each client. We are large enough to provide expertise in a broad range of practice areas, yet small enough to devote prompt, personal attention to our clients.
We represent a diverse range of clients located throughout New York State and New England. They include individuals, numerous manufacturing and service industry businesses, local governments, and health care professionals, provider groups, facilities and associations. We also serve as local counsel to out-of-state clients and their attorneys who have litigation pending in Western New York courts. For more information, please contact us at 585.546.2500.