Former Nassau Bar Association President Elena Karabatos: Fighting For Justice

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Elena Karabatos is the immediate past president of the Nassau County Bar Association and senior partner of Schissel Ostrow Karabatos.

Elena Karabatos has been a leader of Long Island’s legal profession for decades, including a stint as president of the Nassau County Bar Association. She is the group’s immediate past president and is a senior partner at the Garden City law firm of Schissel Ostrow Karabatos, where she practices  matrimonial and family law. She was selected as one of New York’s “Super Lawyers” in the area of family law.

What is the purpose of the Nassau Bar Association? I view the Nassau Bar Association as a very special place, not only for its members, but also for the community as a whole. It is a place that provides legal professionals with the tools to build and grow their careers, shape the future of the legal profession, and provide access to justice to the community through a variety of programs. 

What significant changes have you made as president? Some of my most significant changes were expanding the Bar’s diversity and inclusion initiative, increasing membership, securing the financial stability throughout the organization and expanding our community outreach to address the legal issues facing Nassau County residents. We held mortgage foreclosure programs and open house clinics, where our members volunteered their time to provide free legal advice to those in need. We also held free community education seminars on legal issues of concern to the general public, including, but not limited to, DWI laws, real estate taxes, elder law, workplace issues, housing, family and matrimonial law, discrimination, identity theft, special education, and home improvement contracts.

What are the biggest challenges for the Bar going forward? Keeping young lawyers engaged and actively involved in the Bar. It is crucial to our profession and to our Bar Association to encourage and support the next generation of lawyers.

The Bar rates candidates for judgeships and I believe this information is available to the public. But do you think the public is aware how these decisions are made? The NCBA publicizes the results before each election. We want to assure the public that the findings regarding the qualifications for each candidate are nonpolitical, and we seek input from our membership at large in achieving that goal.

I believe the general perception is that the Bar Association, any Bar association, is a stuffy, insulated club made up of good old boys who knock back a few drinks after a day in court. Do you agree with this perception? Not at all. The legal profession as a whole has and continues to become more inclusive, and the NCBA consists of a diverse group of nearly 5,000 legal professionals, both men and women. We also launched the LGBTQ Committee, which marched in the Annual Long Island Pride Parade for the first time this year.

What do you see as the Nassau Bar’s most significant accomplishment during your term? Furthering our diversity and inclusion initiative has been one of the most significant accomplishments, and one that I am particularly proud of. 

What made you choose law as a profession? I have always viewed the legal profession as an honorable profession that truly helps people and gives them a voice when they cannot advocate for themselves. 

You practice family law. Do you feel the divorce laws in New York State are fair to all parties? One of the wonderful things about the law, and particularly in the matrimonial field, is that the law is always evolving. Through case law and legislation, our courts and legislators are constantly trying to achieve fairness to all. I am fortunate to serve on various committees throughout the state that work on exciting projects regarding new legislation and helping to reform matrimonial law, which is something I am very passionate about.