Elias Fillas was about to graduate Hofstra Law School and take the bar exam in 2001 when he met Tonino Sacco, who had begun his own practice about three years earlier. At the time, Fillas was considering an offer from a large corporate firm in Manhattan, he said.
After speaking with Sacco, Fillas said he was drawn to to the already-practicing lawyer’s knowledge and experience with different branches of the law.
Fast forward a decade and the law firm that Fillas went to work for — then only run by Sacco — is now Sacco & Fillas, with three offices and a team of experienced lawyers that look to help their clients to the full capacity.
The firm currently provides services ranging from personal injury to commercial business law to federal litigation.
Sacco, a New York University and New York Law School graduate, began working as a lawyer in 1990. Eight years later he set out to start his own firm based out of his native Whitestone.
A mutual colleague introduced Fillas to Sacco, and the timing was just right.
When Fillas joined Sacco in 2001, it was the two attorneys and a receptionist in a 500-square-foot office, they said.
On September 1, 2004, Fillas became a full partner. During these early years, they said they would normally work close to 15-hour days – something they still do today.
The pair did not simply do this out of a love of working; the 11 p.m. nights were to accommodate small, local business owners who would not otherwise have the time to see their attorney.
Since then, Sacco & Fillas has expanded to Jackson Heights — with services focused on immigration law — and Astoria, where they have a large client base.
“So within eight years we grew probably by over 1,000 percent,” Sacco said. “That was all by our industrious efforts.”
The Astoria office’s grand opening is set for June 28. The day’s celebration is two-fold: the launch of the new location, and the announcement that Sacco & Fillas and the Vallone & Vallone law firm, voted “Best of the Boro” by Queens Courier readers, are now affiliated with each other.
Sacco & Fillas chose to make Astoria the flagship office based on the number of clients they serve in the area, as well as the neighborhood’s boom.
“We have been representing the residents and the businesses of Astoria from our inception,” Fillas said. “And out client base here is continuing to grow, so Astoria was the perfect choice.”
The firm currently has 14 litigators and a staff of about 40 people. These lawyers, partners included, will normally circulate throughout the three offices, based on client needs and appointments.
Throughout the firm’s history, the partners have always put the client before themselves.
The firm’s Jackson Heights location focuses on immigration law and providing services to the various populations blossoming in the area.
The office, they said, came through a current lawyer, Maria Barnett, who was running an immigration help center in the area. The partners integrated with her to provide even more services to immigrants in need.
What separates the firm from others, the partners said, is the well-rounded knowledge of the firm’s attorneys. They specialize in personal injury, real estate, leasing, commercial litigation, business law, wills, trusts and estates, criminal law, worker’s compensation, bankruptcy and immigration.
The expansion of the law firm is based on the needs of the community they serve. Once a need is identified, Sacco & Fillas will develop a practice group consisting of experienced attorneys and support staff to address the client’s specific needs.
“The fact that we are eclectic allows us to handle all of our clients’ needs,” said Fillas. “For example, a client had been in a serious car accident. The firm obtained a significant recovery for him, which he used to purchase a home for his family. We were able to handle the closing, and then made sure he had the proper estate plan in effect.
“Subsequently, he had issues with his tenant, which we resolved, and also had a family member who was arrested. The client was very impressed that we handled all these matters and produced favorable outcomes in each of the cases.”
He is still their client today, they said.
The partners also highlighted that they have never really had to advertise their firm or their services. Rather, they said the large client base has come from word of mouth by other clients who have been satisfied with their services.
“I think we kind of pride ourselves on how much we’ve grown in our eight years together,” Fillas said. “We have serviced over 10,000 cases. It’s all been word-of-mouth referrals.”
Sacco and Fillas said they want to make themselves readily available to clients for whatever the need may be. This includes being on call practically around the clock, they said, sometimes getting calls at 2 a.m. because of an accident or an arrest.
But the relationship extends beyond the courtroom. It’s a friendship that has formed over the last decade through the countless cases they have overseen and the long hours put in.
Now, they consider each other relatives as much as they are partners. It is a friendship that no litigator could object to.
“At this stage I consider Tony family and vice versa,” Fillas said.
“Its’ a rare occasion when we’re not on the same page,” Sacco echoed. “We work in rhythm with each other… and together the bond and strength that we have has produced a tremendous amount of results in the last 10 years.”
After growing in the few years – since the firm became Sacco & Fillas – all evidence points to a legal team that has made itself available to its clients, founded on the principles of hard work and dedication that they try to implement in the culture of the office.
Next up for the team is a Manhattan location in the Financial District, they said. According to the partners, the locale would provide better access to clients who may live or work there or in Brooklyn.
The partners pledge one thing will remain constant — their dedication to the communities they serve and the quality of legal services they provide.