Alyce Wittenstein

Episode 007

Alyce Wittenstein

Firm: Wittenstein & Wittenstein


Subscribe to receive the latest episodes in your inbox

Show Notes


In this episode of “Celebrating Justice,” Alyce Wittenstein, senior partner at Wittenstein and Wittenstein, a premier New York City personal injury firm, shares stories about her background in film production, her journey to becoming a trial lawyer, and the history of her firm. Alyce emphasizes the importance of treating clients with respect and meeting their needs and shares a memorable case involving a young woman injured in a rollover van accident. For her “Closing Argument,” Alyce highlights the significance of contingency fees in providing access to justice.


1:18 – Why did you want to become a trial lawyer?
7:18 – What makes you unique?
9:12 – A case that matters.
11:26 – Alyce’s “Closing Argument”

Key Takeaways

  • Treating clients with respect and meeting their needs is crucial.
  • Contingency fees play a vital role in providing access to justice for individuals who cannot afford legal representation.
  • Personal injury law allows lawyers to help regular people and make a positive impact on their lives.
  • Expanding access to legal services, particularly in divorce cases, can help protect the rights of individuals with limited financial resources.


[Theme Song Plays]

Alyce Wittenstein: They just perceived her as some kind of a lowlife…. I just love the clients in addition to my negotiation skills, which are really good too…. What do unsophisticated new immigrants want from you? They want you to treat them like they’re people. 

Narrator: Welcome to Celebrating Justice, presented by the Trial Lawyers Journal and CloudLex, the next -gen legal cloud platform built exclusively for personal injury law. Get inspired by the nation’s top trial lawyers and share in the stories that shape our pursuit of justice. Follow the podcast and join our community at Now here’s your host, editor of TLJ and VP of marketing at Cloudlex, Chad Sands. 

Chad Sands: Welcome back friends to Celebrating Justice, where we share powerful stories from prominent legal minds who are on missions for their clients. In this episode, we’re privileged to welcome Alice Wittenstein, senior partner at Wittenstein and Wittenstein, a premier New York City personal injury firm with a legacy spanning over six decades. I wanted to learn more about the history of her firm. So I asked her, why did you want to become a trial lawyer? 

AW: Well, it started definitely not in a traditional way. I went to Boston University. I studied film production and I also had a minor in political science. And then I made science fiction films that I showed all over the world. They’re kind of like political extrapolations, social justice, science fiction films. 

CS: And you directed these? 

AW: I wrote, produced, and directed these films. 

CS: Did you guys shoot on 16 millimeter back in the day? 

AW: Yes. But when I was in film school, we shot everything on lousy quality video. And that’s why when I graduated, I wanted to make 16 millimeter films. And they were shown at film festivals and small cinemas all over the world and Europe and Japan. And my father was a not aspiring actor, but he liked to act. So my father was acting in the films and was very involved with them. My parents came to Toronto Film Festival with us. He also helped me finance these films. So, when he had a big problem trying to find somebody to work in his office and manage his office while he went to play tennis in Boca six months of the year, he noticed me when I was wearing this red Dior suit my mother got me, speaking French at the French Institute, introducing my film, BetaVillel He said, “You know, why don’t I ask Alice if she wants to work at the office?” So I worked there managing the office. I wasn’t an attorney yet. I was a paralegal managing the office and learned the business. And eventually, I went to CUNY Law School, which was also very exciting in its own way. 

CS: Tell me a little bit about that. 

AW: I was in the 13th graduating class of CUNY Law School. It was a very new school with a very unique mission. And it was just very, very left -wing and very, very radical. At a regular law school, a class that would be called “Contracts” there was called “Law in a Market Economy.” And the constitutional law curriculum was very much focused on civil rights. 

CS: It says on your website, you guys are a 60 -year -old purse laundry firm. Tell me a little bit about the origin story of the firm. 

AW: The firm was founded originally by my dad, Frederick Wittenstein on Utica Avenue in Brooklyn. It was originally called Friedman & Wittenstein. And the reason he founded the firm was because when my father graduated from law school, they simply did not hire Jewish lawyers at any of the firms, any of the decent firms. He had actually worked briefly at a collection firm and said that was just the most horrible thing he ever did because at this collection firm, they would get the people that owed money to go to jail. So you say they don’t do that in this country, right? You don’t put people in jail just because they owe a couple of hundred dollars. It was when they didn’t respond to the lawsuits and they would be found in contempt and literally hauled off to jail essentially for being poor. So he didn’t want to do that. Instead, he founded this firm with Harvey Friedman. 

CS: Were they focused on personal injury back then? 

AW: Personal injury. And the great thing about personal injury, if you’re starting a firm and you don’t have contacts among wealthy people, is that you don’t need clients that have money to pay fees. The way investment advisors have to have proof of a person’s financial ability before they sell a risky security. I’ve heard of situations where a woman that was in a divorce and the attorney took all of her money, literally all of her money to the point where she couldn’t borrow any more money from her parents. And the attorney said, “Well, can’t you just pay me with a credit card?” And she said, “But I’ve run up all my credit.” He just wasn’t even on his radar. Of course, he said “Just use a credit card.” But what if you run it up paying lawyers and now have no more credit, no more money? And he suggested I can refer you to a bankruptcy attorney. And what can you do? Attorneys, they can drop your case and the judges will back them up. Oh, “She can’t pay anymore.” So they’ll just leave you high and dry after they’ve taken literally all of your money. That’s the wonderful thing about being a PI attorney. I really feel like I’m on the right side of things. Even if I’m just handling a small auto accident with an injured person, they just feel so good that they can get professional services. They come into an office and they get professional services, which they couldn’t do. Otherwise, they just couldn’t afford it. So, I just feel very, very good about that aspect of our legal system. 

CS: So what would you say makes you unique as an attorney then and what you bring to the practice? 

AW: What I think I bring most to the practice, in addition to my negotiation skills, which are really good too. I just love the clients. I love the people. And I really appreciate the opportunity to meet these regular people that I never would have had the opportunity to meet otherwise and to treat them like everybody else. And that’s what I’ve discovered. What do unsophisticated, not highly educated, new immigrants want from you, they want you to treat them like they’re people. And it’s amazing how far that goes and how few attorneys know how to do that or even have it on their radar. And to gauge the person that comes in, I think of them as the general public. Even if they have no education, I can tell when somebody’s very bright and I’ll speak to them on a higher level. And then if somebody is on the lower end, I’ll just work really hard to explain things to them without offending them, without speaking down to them, but just making sure that they do get it. 

CS: And I mean, they’re going through a pretty emotional, traumatic time in their life, especially in personal injury law. And so that relationship that you can build with them is even more important than ever right then. 

AW: That’s what brings me joy from this work: working with people. 

CS: Well, speaking of working with people, do you have one case that kind of stands out in your mind over the years? 

AW: I do. I had a client who was a young woman, a medical student, and she was involved in a rollover van accident and very badly hurt. And the car rental company, it was a one car accident caused by the driver. She was a passenger. And the rental car company would not offer anything to settle her case. And they just perceived her as some kind of a low life. And it was so frustrating because there was just nothing to support that attitude they had about her whatsoever. She was just so sophisticated, so well-spoken, so bright. So I second chaired the trial for that case. We had to take the case for trial and right after she testified, they offered a ton of money to settle the case. 

CS: What was about her testimony that changed their mind?

AW: Well, they could see that she was everything I said she was. She was smart. She was successful. She was articulate. She wasn’t what they perceived an African American young woman to be. Like I said before, all she did was be herself and be the person that she is, and that’s what got us the settlement.

Narrator: At Cloudlex, we understand the challenges personal injury law firms face every day. That’s why we’ve built the legal cloud platform to help you stay productive and keep your cases moving forward. Cloudlex provides a comprehensive suite of applications and features to support every stage of intake, pre -litigation, trial, and more. From innovative case management to insightful analytics and HIPAA secure client communication. Cloudlex empowers your firm with the technology to thrive. Build your firm of the future and see for yourself at Now here is this episode’s closing argument.

AW:  I remember all throughout my life, because my father was a personal injury lawyer, how they were coming to take away our contingency fees and how, the same people that are now walking around with pitchforks supporting the orange guy were always trying to get rid of contingency fees because they’re dangerous. They’re dangerous because they hold corporations in check. Without contingency fees, people that didn’t have a lot of money couldn’t afford to hire attorneys to go up against big companies. It’s interesting they had these congressional hearings about social media and I was very surprised to hear Lindsey Graham talking about the importance of contingency fees and the ability to sue social media companies when children are harmed because of the lack of safeguards. That’s the problem with a lot of the other aspects of the legal profession. I think that they should allow contingency fees for divorces, which they don’t in New York. Which means that the poor person in the couple, which is usually the woman, and the woman is usually also saddled with juggling, working, and the care of the kids, even though they say it’s joint custody, the women end up most of the time still doing most of it. And having less money, and then they have to pay an attorney, but they don’t have the money to pay an attorney. So the wealthier person ends up completely screwing them. I think that contingency fees should be expanded so that more people have access to the law. One of the things I’d like to do, it’s on my bucket list, is to try to get some grants to handle these types of cases so that they can be prosecuted without charging people money they don’t have.

CS: That was trial lawyer Alyce Wittenstein, Senior Partner at Wittenstein & Wittenstein in New York City. Thanks for sharing your stories, Alice. To learn more about Alice and her firm, visit her website, 

Narrator: You’ve been listening to Celebrating Justice, presented by CloudLex and the Trial Lawyers Journal. Remember, the stories don’t end here. Visit to become part of our community and keep the conversation going. And for a deeper dive into the tools that empower personal injury law firms, visit to learn more.