Over his more than two decades of practice, trial attorney Joseph Tacopina has become known as a lawyer who thrives in the courtroom. As the founder and managing partner of the Manhattan-based law firm Tacopina Seigel & Turano, P.C., he has tried nearly 100 cases to verdict, often representing defendants in high-profile criminal cases.
“From the beginning I gravitated toward trial work because of what comes with the territory—high stakes and a lot of pressure,” Tacopina says. “The work is challenging, but I need to be passionate about what I’m doing in order to do it well, and there’s nothing more satisfying to me than having a jury come back in my client’s favor.”
Tacopina is widely recognized as one of the country’s premier criminal defense lawyers. Some of his most well-known cases include representing former New York State Senator Hiram Monserrate, who was acquitted of assaulting his girlfriend, and achieving an acquittal for a former NYPD officer accused of rape and burglary in a case that garnered national and international media attention. Tacopina is currently representing Yankees star Alex Rodriguez in his appeal of a 211-game suspension imposed by Major League Baseball for allegedly using performance-enhancing drugs.
“When I represent someone, especially someone under siege like Alex, I try to embrace them and walk in their shoes; I take personally anything that is done unfairly to them, and that helps me to really fight with everything I have,” Tacopina says.
Tacopina first became interested in handling criminal cases as a college student after reading Fatal Vision, the true crime book by Joe McGinniss about an Army doctor who killed his pregnant wife and two daughters. Fascinated by the book’s courtroom drama, Tacopina decided to work as a prosecutor in the Kings County District Attorney’s Office following law school, where he prevailed in 39 out of 40 trials.
In 1994 Tacopina went into private practice, and he quickly displayed a talent for both criminal defense and civil litigation. Indeed, he recently secured one of New Jersey’s largest monetary civil verdicts of the past five years. “The issues are obviously different in criminal and civil cases, but ultimately trial work is trial work,” Tacopina notes. “I have a sixth sense when it comes to cross-examination, and then coming from immigrant parents and having never left my roots, I’m comfortable talking to jurors from all different walks of life, from professionals to bus drivers.”
Tacopina also attributes his success to the dedication he brings to his clients’ cases. “Whether I’m representing someone in a civil or a criminal case, my goal is to always work harder than anyone else,” he says. That commitment led GQ Magazine, in a six-page profile for its Power section, to describe Tacopina as “the best-dressed, smoothest-talking, hardest-working criminal-defense attorney going.” Another profile in The New York Times referred to Tacopina as “the Donald Trump” of the defense bar.
Among his peers, Tacopina has been recognized with an AV Preeminent® rating from Martindale-Hubbell™ and the Italian American Bar Association’s Man of the Year Award, following the previous year’s recipient, Justice Antonin Scalia. Still, Tacopina says of these recognitions: “While I have a competitive streak in me, at the end of the day my motivation is being able to make a difference in my clients’ lives.”