Sandy Balick, Attorney & Family Mediator, New YorkThough Sandy Balick did not develop an interest in being a lawyer until he was in college, the law was definitely in his blood. He has relatives with law practices including several who became prominent in the judiciary. One relative gave Joe Biden his first job out of law school, so there is a strong family heritage behind him.

Two of his relatives were prominent judges in Delaware. Helen Balick was a Federal Bankruptcy Judge and had some very prominent bankruptcy cases. Bernard Balick retired while on the Delaware Court of Chancery which in the annals of American law is a highly regarded, very, very unique and highly specialized court.

“They started out as a public defender and legal aid lawyer. They are deeply modest individuals who are not only very giving, but fervent believers in fairness and the law, and practice that in all that they do.”

Another relative, Herbert Cohen, after defending John Blymire in the famous 1928 Hex trial, went on to become a prominent local attorney and served as Attorney General of Pennsylvania. At his death, he was a justice on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

“I always heard a lot about him. My mother imagined that he traveled around in a limousine, and on one occasion, he was invited with his wife, to our house. I offered to go with them to show them the way so they wouldn’t get lost but I will confess that my real desire was to show up in a limousine. Imagine my surprise when it turned out he drove an ancient Rambler!

He was a very self effacing and highly regarded individual. I felt myself privileged to know him.”

The Hex Trial

As a newly minted lawyer, Herbert Cohen hadn’t done much, if any, criminal work. At the time, people who couldn’t afford counsel were provided it. The Bar handled the cases on a rotating basis and this one just happened to fall to him. It was a capital case. John Blymire claimed he had been hexed. He knew precisely who had placed the hex on him and set about carefully planning that individual’s murder. Cohen mounted a defense based on the strength of the local folk belief in hexes, which didn’t save Blymire from being convicted of first-degree murder, but did spare him from capital punishment which was a great accomplishment considering that Blymire was guilty.

While this may be a famous one, many of Cohen’s cases are still studied by people all over the United States.

Sandy received a Bachelor of Business Administration and J.D. (Juris Doctor) degrees from Temple University in Philadelphia. Having had a life long love of trains, he embarked on a successful career in transportation law, eventually also specializing in maritime law, earning his LL M. (Admiralty) from Tulane University School of Law in New Orleans, LA.

In the legal profession, some of Sandy’s most significant professional achievements stem from his role as a consensus-building lawyer. This included his negotiation of terms that lifted a roadblock to the funding of 1000 new transit buses for Los Angeles. He played a pivotal role in persuading the U.S. Department of Transportation to fund new rolling stock and facilities for the Illinois/Indiana South Shore Line, without which the Line would likely have met its demise. Ridership has nearly doubled as a result of the investment decision.

Some of Sandy’s other professional accomplishments were seen in a major federal suit regarding the insurance of a tanker fleet, in which he persuaded the court to depart from an important point of ruling law, a major victory for the industry. Earlier in his career he helped a major bulk shipper negotiate the numerous agreements necessary to support a three-legged voyage strategy that dramatically lowered the company’s transport expenses. While doing graduate study at Tulane law School he ran the Coast Guard’s New Orleans office for insuring that drilling vessels in the Gulf of Mexico were adequately insured for federal pollution liability exposures.

Sandy’s given many presentations on matters relating to law and transportation. He once had the honor to be a keynote speaker at a major insurance conference when the scheduled speaker, a well-known public figure, cancelled at the last minute.

After many successful years specializing in transportation and maritime law, Sandy says that for technological reasons, the need for lawyers in this area was shrinking so he felt the need to change direction and “re-invent” himself. On many occasions while in the area of commercial law Sandy had to work things our between warring factions, so drawing on those skills of the past, he decided to become a Mediator.

It is gratifying when you are able to work out disputes between people and particularly if they are matters of some difficulty. You feel like you have accomplished something. I am sort of naturally inclined to try to find a reasonable work-out.”

When asked why he chose Mediation instead of becoming a divorce lawyer, he explains that he is not interested at all in the kind of heated litigation that seems to go along with being a matrimonial lawyer and that what is right often gets lost in the wash.

Though having spent years in commercial law, Sandy is not without experience in marital law. In Pennsylvania if you have completed two years of law school you can start representing clients in Legal Aid. Sandy did handle matrimonial related issues there and won a pro bono social security case before the Federal District Court.

Proud of his business accomplishments, Sandy is equally thrilled with experiences he has had in pursuit of his life-long love for trains and ships. Playing a RR mogul, he has rented private train cars, like the President would ride in, to have parties and even ran a party on the “El” (Elevated Train) in Chicago. Another highlight was when he spent a week in Poland running steam locomotives with real trains and real passengers.

Believing ships are the trains of the sea, one of his most exciting trips ever was not on a train but aboard the flagship of Archer Daniels Midland down the Mississippi from Baton Rouge to New Orleans with 30 barges of soy beans. He says it was great fun and felt like a modern day Mark Twain experience.

“It was 18 hours and they gave me a very nice room, but I didn’t sleep at all.”

In the late 70’s, Sandy volunteered in a program modeled on the Big Brother/Big Sister program and sponsored by the juvenile court in Chicago to work with at risk youth. In addition to his work with the program, he also served on the board of the organization. He continued his interest in at-risk youth in New York, where he trained and worked on the Covenant House hotline for run-away children. These kids included run-aways, kids who were depressed, and kids engaging in acts of self mutilation.

Sanford Balick, Attorney & Mediator, Park Slope, NYIn his spare time, Sandy is an avid hiker and has organized numerous hiking excursions for both adults and kids. He also struggles to play the banjo.

Sandy is a member of The Maritime Law Association of the United States, the Bar Association of the City of New York and Beta Gamma Sigma (an academic business honorary society). He has also authored various articles on transportation law and worked on pro bono projects for two maritime museums.

Print Friendly