February 2016 Alumni Highlight

Adrienne J. ArkontakyAdrienne J. Arkontaky’s (’03) journey to law school was unlike most others.  It was her personal life that inspired Adrienne to pursue a degree in law.  Thirty years ago, Adrienne married her husband, Peter. From there, they had three children, Justine, Jordan, and Jenna.  Now, 23, Adrienne’s daughter, Jordan has severe disabilities and is a young adult with special needs who is living a full life at the Center for Discovery in Harris, New York.  After having Jordan, she encountered issues with obtaining the services that Jordan was entitled to and deserved. At the urging of her friends and family, Adrienne decided to pursue a legal career in order to advocate for persons with disabilities.  She was (and remains) committed to “raising awareness of the unique needs of families with loved ones with disabilities.” 

Prior to attending law school, Adrienne received a degree in business administration from Iona College. Following her passion, she also worked as a Family Services Medicaid Service Coordinator at Family Connection located in the Westchester Institute for Human Development in Valhalla.  In this role, she was responsible for the coordinating services for families of children with disabilities and assisting families to obtain necessary supports through Medicaid Waiver programs. 

From there, Adrienne enrolled in Pace Law School. It was Pace’s location and flexible programming that were appealing to Adrienne, along with the curriculum.  After visiting the campus and meeting with (then) Assistant Dean for Admissions, Angie D’Agostino, she knew that Pace was a place where she could feel at home and also be close to home.  During her time at Pace, Adrienne grew close with Dean D’Agostino, who is now Dean for Students & Campus Affairs, along with her professors, in particular, Leslie Garfield and Michelle Simon.  She notes that “they encouraged me even when I was overwhelmed or stressed and I would not have been able to finish law school if it were not for their support. Aside from my daughters and my husband, they were my biggest cheerleaders.”

After graduating, Adrienne was first an associate with Duane Morris LLP in the financial products group.  She had spent time at the firm as a clerk during law school and helped spearhead several pro bono projects for the firm.  Those projects and her desire to assist families of loved ones with disabilities led her to other firms. There, she developed a practice devoted to special needs planning, guardianship special needs trust administration and litigation and special education law representing families to advocate for appropriate educational services for their children. 

It was the experience she gained in these positions, along with her self-motivating, not just “can-do”, but “will-do” attitude that landed her the position she had been waiting for – vice president and managing attorney of The Cuddy Law Firm’s office in White Plains.  At Cuddy, Adrienne manages and supervises attorneys and staff of the White Plains office. She also develops seminars, workshops, and training sessions for families of loved ones with special needs and professionals dedicated to serving individuals with special needs.  Adrienne is able to devote her practice to the laws surrounding special needs – special needs trust administration, special education advocacy and litigation, guardianship, Medicaid, and administrative appeals. The firm also takes on many special education cases on a sliding scale basis in an effort to assist low income families access appropriate special education services.

Currently, Adrienne is the co-chair of the Special Education Committee of the Elder Law and a member of the Special Needs Planning Committee of the Elder Law and Special Needs Section of the New York State Bar Association, Past Co-Editor of the Elder Law and Special Needs Law Journal, Co-Chair of the Education Committee and Past Co-Chair of the Lawyering and Parenting Committee for the Westchester Women’s Bar Association.  She is the statewide Co-Chairperson for the Special Education Update CLE sponsored by several sections and committees of the New York State Bar Association.  She is also a member of the Disability Rights Committee for the New York State Bar. She was named “A Rising Star” in Super Lawyers 2013 and one of the Top Attorneys in the Metro Region for 2014 and 2015.   Her story has been featured in several publications, most recently in the Special Need Moms Network- www.specialmomsnetwork.com/the-arkontaky-family.

Not one to sit still, Adrienne serves as the Chairperson for the Board of the John A. Coleman School, with campuses in New York City and White Plains. She is a member of the Council of Parent Advocates and Attorneys (COPAA).  Adrienne lectures frequently to advocacy groups and other professional organizations on special needs planning and the importance of understanding special education laws.

Adrienne lives in Hawthorne with her husband, Peter, and their three children. In what spare time she does have, Adrienne enjoys spending time with her family and her two rescue dogs.  Whenever possible, she loves to read and bake. 

In closing, Adrienne is eternally grateful to the faculty and staff at Pace.  “They gave me the skills necessary to succeed as a knowledgeable, very competent and zealous advocate for my clients.”  She is also grateful to her fellow classmates of ‘03.  “I had an incredible group of friends during law school who I still am in contact with even after all these years.”   Most of all she credits her perseverance through law school and her successful legal career to her family-as she puts it, they did it all “together”.