When looking for an attorney, one tries to find the best in that specific field. For The Adam Miller Group it’s a coup to have a lawyer like Denise Schoen who has been practicing since 1998 and holds a J.D. summa sum laude degree from University at Buffalo School of Law and an undergraduate degree summa cum laude in pre-law from Long Island University Southampton. Schoen’s legal specialty is in zoning, municipal, and real estate law — one of the most sought after and busiest sectors on the East End.
What made you pivot to the The Adam Miller Group after having your own practice?
While I enjoyed having my own private practice, I came to a point in my career where I felt collaboration with colleagues was the best way to advance my career. I have known Adam since he began working at a local firm and then opened his own firm in 2007. After working together for so many years on transactions together, it was evident to me that the Adam Miller Group was the place for me. The timing, for both of us, could not have been better. Adam has curated a dream team of professionals and I was able to pick up his land use and zoning practice and run with it with the full support of my colleagues. My goal as a partner with the firm is to grow its land use practice to its fullest potential while providing insight and experience to our existing clients to guide them through the regulatory approval process efficiently.
With everything the East End community has been through since 2019, what are some legal changes you saw that came from the aftermath of the global pandemic?
The East End of Long Island has become a permanent place of residence for many more people than ever anticipated since the pandemic. Faced with the reality of mortality, I believe many individuals decided to live where they love to vacation. That has changed the way families live in their residences and has resulted in a plethora of renovation or reconstruction of existing homes to become suitable for year-round living. In turn, this had led to increased activity for zoning and land use practitioners.
Tell us about your current roles in government? And what does your day look like, for example?
After 10 years working for the Village where I live, I am no longer employed by any municipality since that would create a conflict of interest for me in representing other parties before the local boards. Instead, I now appear on the other side of the podium and regularly represent private applicants before the regulatory boards in Southampton, East Hampton, Sag Harbor, and North Haven. That past municipal experience guides how I handle applications and how I make presentations to the Boards. It has proven invaluable when I advise clients in determining how to frame their applications for optimal success.
Attorneys have specialties like corporate, criminal defense, real estate, land use, etc. What is your concentration and can you deep-dive on what your work as a legal specialist in that field entails?
I focus my practice on zoning/land use and real estate transactions. These are the two practice areas I have focused upon for the past 26 years. Becoming proficient in zoning law takes time and patience because each municipality has its own set of rules and its own way of interpreting those rules. So while the Town Code may be written in black and white, interpreting what the Code means is the job of each building inspector. Not surprisingly, those determinations differ based on the individual inspector in each municipality. And, unfortunately, it’s a practice area that can lead to a lot of heartache if the practitioner is not familiar with local regulations. For example, a client recently engaged us because her real estate attorney was not aware that the property she was purchasing was already substantially over-cleared by local regulation. Accordingly, the sprawling green lawn that she loves and the “room for tennis and pool” which she fully intended to use, became impossibilities. A consultation with a land use practitioner might have saved this client from buying the wrong property for her.
As part of the Planning Board and Harbor Committee until 2020 it seems like a natural progression that leads to becoming the Village Attorney. But you’ve also served as a volunteer medical technician with the Ambulance Corps, the Community Housing Trust and the trust that financially supports art programs for children in the Village, the Donald T. Reutershan Trust. Can you tell us more about the programs you are involved in currently and what it means to you as a citizen of Sag Harbor?
Giving back to my community is something that is part of the fabric of our family. My entire family is committed to giving back to our community. My husband and both daughters have served as volunteers for many different organizations. Volunteerism is the bedrock of our small community in Sag Harbor and is what makes it so special and also a priority for me and my family.
What does citizenry mean to you?
Citizenry, to me, comes with a moral obligation to support the other individuals who live in your community in a way that works best for the individual without asking for anything in return.
What is it that you love about Sag Harbor so much and does your family have roots here?
Sag Harbor still resembles the place where I was born and raised. My family has deep roots in East Hampton but my husband’s family has deep roots in Sag Harbor. We selected Sag Harbor as the place to raise our family because we love it so much. My children received a top-notch education and were raised on a street where they could ride their bikes without safety concerns. What I love most about Sag Harbor is the way the Village comes together at times of celebration and times of crisis. There is a real sense of place and belonging in the community that makes you feel like you are part of something bigger than yourself.
Do you live by any mantra? What is it?
My mantra is Be Kind. I do my best to live by it every day even during summer traffic!
To learn more about Denise Schoen, visit deniseschoen.com.