Saundra M. Gumerove, Esq. of The Law Offices of Saundra M. Gumerove, Esq.
Lifetime Achievement Award, Attorney
When Saundra M. Gumerove’s first child, Lauren, was born in 1981, she was diagnosed with Sturge-Weber syndrome, which causes developmental disabilities, seizures, blindness, and learning disabilities. Previously solely a corporate lawyer, Gumerove refocused her legal practice in 1990 and devoted herself specifically to special needs law, striving towards helping disabled individuals and their families. “For me, I live it,” says Gumerove. “Not just because it’s my career, but it’s very personal to me because I need to make sure my daughter’s taken care of.”
Gumerove often works with other attorneys, including divorce attorneys, personal injury lawyers, and trust and estate lawyers, in cases involving individuals with special needs and their families. Her counsel is also sought by those not in the legal field, including accountants, financial planners, physicians, and insurance agents, among others.
Aside from her legal work, Gumerove is very involved with advocacy for the developmentally disabled, working with organizations such as NYSARC and AHRC Nassau, nonprofit agencies that support individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She frequently gives presentations to bar associations on special needs issues, as well as presentations for disability organizations on the legal issues that individuals with disabilities face. She has also testified before the state legislature and before other state and federal agencies. She speaks publicly at schools and other organizations several times a month and estimates that she takes on about one pro bono case per month.
Because of her own individual experiences with the types of issues that her clients face, Gumerove recognizes the dangers of getting too emotionally involved with her work, which can negatively affect the client. “I understand the pressure my clients are under because I live it every day,” she says.
Her ability to empathize with her clients and understand their difficulties has been one of the reasons for her success. “There’s no question that my focus on my niche has made me successful,” Gumerove says, “and that I credit to my daughter.”
Salvatore Gandolfo of Gruber Palumberi Raffaele, P.C.,
Accountant of the Year
Sometimes, going above and beyond for clients means not letting the little things slide. “I’ve heard a lot of people complaining that their accountants aren’t returning phone calls and emails, which is really absurd, because we’re in the service business,” says Gandolfo.
Gandolfo makes sure that he’s able to get back to his clients as soon as possible, because he knows how important it is for them to have the reassurance of a responsible, knowledgeable accountant. “I make myself available even when I’m not in the office. I try to get back to clients within one business day, but usually within hours. I’ve been known to email at 11 o’ clock at night. To them, it’s very important to get an answer.”
Gandolfo has been an accountant for 24 years, and with Gruber Palumberi Raffaele, a full-service CPA firm, for the last three. The firm works with clients in a variety of industries, from sole practitioners to businesses of up to 500 employees. Gandolfo deals with approximately 25 clients regularly, but during tax season, that number can be as high as 100. No matter how large or small the company, however, Gandolfo makes a point to treat each one equally.
A good accountant shouldn’t just show their face at tax season. In fact, the best accountants can actually help their clients with business strategy, whether it’s by finding them money or helping them plan for the financial year. “There are a lot of tax credits that a lot of accountants don’t know about,” says Gandolfo, “such as payroll tax incentives, new hire incentives, and utility credits. If you don’t check whether a client qualifies for those, there could be a lot of money left on the table.” That money, in turn, can help a client grow their business.
“We don’t want the clients to pay a big tax bill,” says Gandolfo. “It’s all about planning and not waiting until the year’s over to make certain decisions.