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Paying Tribute to Partner, Michael T. Colavecchio

It is with profound sadness that we announce the passing of our great friend, colleague and partner, Michael T. Colavecchio, on November 6, 2020.

Over the past 29 years, Mike enjoyed an outstanding career as a trial lawyer, and has been a successful and respected partner at Lewis Johs Avallone Aviles, LLP for 23 of those years.  Regardless of his workload or trial schedule, Mike always had time for anyone in need of assistance or advice.  His skill, knowledge, and patience mentoring and supporting our attorneys was legendary, and his presence within our firm can never be replaced.

Mike was an incredibly dedicated and devoted husband to Laura, and father of his two wonderful children, Matthew and Grace, who simply were the light of his life.  Not a day went by without Mike sharing a story about his family and the great pride they gave him.

A graduate of Hofstra University School of Law, Mike’s many accomplishments and daily presence helped grow the firm to what it is today.  His leadership, good humor, and tireless dedication spread beyond our firm to the wider legal community, as Mike lectured at numerous CLE programs for various bar associations and received several industry honors and awards throughout his career.  He departed far too soon with so much left to accomplish.

Mike left a life-long impact on the Lewis Johs family; he will be greatly missed.

Below are a few heartfelt words from some members of our team:

DEBORAH AVILES, PARTNER: My memories of Mike are too numerous to recount.. he was by far one of the most talented trial attorneys I’ve ever met.. I told him on numerous occasions that if I were a party to a lawsuit, I would want him to represent me.

One of our favorite “debates “ was which Pink Floyd album was the best… Dark Side of the Moon (me) or Wish You Were Here (Mike)… we would go through each song and why our respective positions was right… Mike, I’m ready to make a big concession… you were right because…Wish You Were Here…

JEFF PINCUS, PARTNER: There simply are not enough words to describe what Mike meant to me. We all have that person in our life that will make things right.  Mike was that guy for me.  I loved him like family and always will. 

Mike was the embodiment of the notion, “Treat others as you want to be treated.”  It was impossible not to be friends with him.  A lawyer who worked with us many years ago said to me recently, “If someone had a problem with Mike, the problem was them.”  He was brilliant as he was kind.  Mike came to the firm in 1997.  In all of our years together, I never once heard him treat anyone with less than absolute respect and dignity.   Mike’s office constantly was filled with lawyers waiting to run things by him, untangle a sticky situation or just get some advice.  He took on others’ problems as if they were his own.  Once you involved him in an issue, he adopted it entirely.  The issue now was his to solve.  He valued the opinion of others.  We often bounced ideas or cases off each other.  He truly was interested in seeking another’s perspective.  Each idea was ripe to be analyzed and discussed.  He had the patience of a man who knows he has everything to gain by listening. 

Mike was a gentle soul and a fierce friend.  There was no one more reliable or loyal.  I will miss our morning talks about everything and nothing at all.  I will miss his easy smile.  I am grateful to have had him in my life for 23 years.  I will love him always.

JASON KATZ, PARTNER:  The walls here at Lewis Johs are paper thin.  My office and Mike’s office were separated by one of those walls.  When Mike would lean back in his chair, I could hear him twirling his hair with his fingers.  One evening I was working on a document and it was one of those where I just could not get it to read the way I wanted.  So I called my wife and told her not to expect me home for dinner and to not wait for me because I wasn’t leaving until I got this thing done right.  I got up to go to the men’s room and then get coffee or water and got sidetracked by someone with a question, so it was a bit before I got back to my desk.  When I returned, the document was different — it had been changed.  Naturally, my immediate reaction (I know this will come as a surprise) was to curse and pound the desk because I thought I forgot to save it or did something that screwed it up.  Then I heard Mike’s voice, through the wall, “Just read it.”  And then a bit of a pause before I heard, “I made it better.”  And so it was that Mike sat at my desk, unbeknownst to me, and cleaned up what I was working on.  And of course he made it better.  And he finished with, “Now you can eat with Allison.”  It’s just who he was.  Mike consistently represented the best in all of us.

TOM DARGAN, PARTNER:  I met Mike in 1999. He welcomed me immediately and we became friends right away.  Mike was my “go to guy” about legal issues, life issues and pretty much everything under the sun.  I will miss him.  He was the guy you would want to be in a foxhole with you, and all would agree on that.  Mike had a great sense of humor as well and he was a lot of fun to be around.  Even though he once unabashedly claimed at the lunch table that Isiah Thomas was a good GM for the Knicks, I forgive him for that momentary lapse in judgment.

EILEEN LIBUTTI, PARTNER:

M – Magnanimous
I – Intelligent
C – Caring
H – Humble
A – Astute
E – Engaging
L – Loyal

Mike was the person who would call to see if you needed a ride or needed a hand.  He was the person who stayed late to help clean up, and picked you up on the side of the road when your car broke down.  He was fun, serious, helpful and generous.  Mike was never afraid to be the softy, often professing his love for his wife, son and daughter.  He loved a good laugh or a fun story.  Mike will live on in the way we comport ourselves as we strive to be the kind, generous, compassionate soul that he taught us to be.

MICHAEL MILCHAN, PARTNER: Mike was not only the consummate lawyer but, most importantly, one of the best people I have ever known.  I have never so much as heard him raise his voice.  Not a mean bone in his body.  I will miss him greatly!

MARK ALEDORT, PARTNER: Words cannot express what Mike meant to everyone at this firm.  In addition to being an excellent attorney, he was a leader, a mentor and, most importantly, an amazing friend to all partners, associates and staff.  The firm will not be the same without him and all will miss him terribly.

CLAUDIA BOYD, PARTNER:  Mike was so much more than my law partner and cherished friend.  He also was a brilliant and highly respected attorney, and a knowledgeable and patient mentor.  Mike cared deeply about his family and friends, and he expressed that affection without hesitation.  I feel very fortunate to have had Mike in my life.

LARRY FREEZE, PARTNER:  There are a few thoughts that come to mind when I think about Mike.  He was kind and giving of his time.  He was a smart and talented lawyer.  If I had a legal question, Mike was usually the first person I would call.  He was unafraid.  When we started to expand the areas of our practice, Mike would take on the new practice areas when others were reluctant to work outside their comfort zone.  When we talk about the culture of Lewis Johs, we talk about talented lawyers who are also good and decent people.  Mike was the embodiment of the Lewis Johs culture.

ANNE BRACKEN, PARTNER:  Mike was one of the most capable and kind people I have ever had the honor to work with. I will miss our friendship, his sage advice and amazing sense of humor.

CHRISTINE HICKEY, PARTNER: Mike embodied the essence of Lewis Johs.  Always ready with a warm smile and a quirky sense of humor to offer his perspective and wisdom to help others.  A brilliant attorney; fiercely loving husband and father; mentor to so many, myself included; loyal friend; and an amazing man of character and conviction.  I am forever grateful for his friendship and guidance and pray that the values he always demonstrated will live on in those who were blessed to know him and that we, in turn, carry on with his memory as a beacon.

JOHN SAVILLE, PARTNER:  Having worked with Mike for the last 17 years, I can say without hesitation I had the pleasure of working with one of the brightest legal minds in the industry.  Mike took great pride in mentoring younger lawyers at the firm.  After he did all of the heavy lifting, he was always first to give the credit to others for his many accomplishments, which speaks, more importantly, to how Mike was as a person than as an attorney.  His legacy will live on in the careers of every attorney that he worked with, both within and outside the firm.

ANNEMARIE JONES, PARTNER:  Mike was instrumental in developing the careers of young lawyers at Lewis Johs.  He did so by imparting his vast knowledge of the law, and life, at the exact moment it was needed.  Discussions with Mike always were stimulating and challenging.  I will treasure my time with Mike. Moving forward, it will be my honor to channel my grief in losing Mike to helping young lawyers the way Mike helped me — by not merely giving me the answers, but by providing the tools to help me grow and find the way.

JOSEPH CHARCHALIS, PARTNER:  During my ten years of practice, I can’t count the number of times I was discussing an issue with a colleague when one, or both of us, would decide that it was a “Mike Question.”  At that point, we would walk down the hallway to Mike, who would stop whatever he was doing, listen to the case background, ponder the issue, ask a few questions, and then provide the answer.  In the rare scenario where he didn’t immediately know the answer, we would often get an e-mail from Mike a short time later, giving the answer that he looked up immediately after we left his office.  As a young lawyer, his approachability and generosity with his time as a senior partner were a big part of why my “problem cases” were never too daunting.

CAROLINE HOCK, ASSOCIATE:  They say people will forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.  Mike made everyone feel like family.  It is hard to imagine Lewis Johs without his smiling face.  Mike was all the things everyone has said about him – smart, patient (our go-to guy for any question imaginable), funny, and most importantly, extraordinarily kind. He will be missed by everyone who was lucky enough to know him.

JORDAN PALATIELLO, ASSOCIATE: Mike not only epitomized what it was to be a well respected and brilliant trial attorney, but he was selfless with his time, truly cared about others, and was a role model for all attorneys in our office.

ROBERT YENCHMAN, ASSOCIATE: I’d go into Mike’s office with a legal question and walk out with the answer, a strategy on how to rebuild the Knicks and a family pass for my upcoming Disney vacation.  That’s what made Mike, Mike.

ROSA FEENEY, OF COUNSEL: Mike is an inspiration.  Outwardly loved his family and was an incredibly insightful attorney and mentor.  Will be so missed.

ROSE FESSELMEYER, BILLING DEPT. MANAGER: He was so dear to my heart.  I remember when he started out at LJAA.  I can hear him talking in my ear.  Friday bagel morning discussions in the kitchen about cases and asking my opinions.  He often said he wished I was on his jury because of my views on personal responsibility for consequences.  And lively discussion about movies and TV shows and music.

Memories of how his family always came first.  Watching his son Matt and daughter Grace grow up from year to year at our holiday parties and seeing his devotion to them and his wife, Laura.  I always felt he was the best example of a wonderful husband and father.  Totally supportive in word and actions.

He had my greatest respect because of his fairness and kindness to others.
True to form – talking to me about his illness and medical issues in such an upbeat way.  He had such great hope.

MARCIA CZERNIAWSKI, BILLING DEPARTMENT: Mike was a great person and attorney.  I remember walking pass a conference room and there was someone who was adamantly speaking to Mike.  And I’ll never forget, very calmly and professionally, Mike replied, “Let me tell you why you’re wrong.”  I can still hear his words like it was yesterday, even though it was years ago.  He will surely be missed.

I also remember having Mike for a Secret Santa for a Christmas present at Lewis Johs.  I had gotten Mike a putt putt golf game with a green mat and ramp.  And I remember seeing pictures of Mike & Bob Avallone playing with it in the hallway of our office, after hours of course.  He also found out that I was his secret Santa, and thanked me so much for the gift.  He was so excited, he said it was so much better than any other gift.  It shows what a fun loving guy he was.

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