Real Property Law Section: Attorney Professionalism Award

Each year, the Real Property Law Section has honored an outstanding individual real estate practitioner with its Professionalism Award. The Section’s Award Committee will be seeking nominations for the 2024 award, to be presented virtually at the Section’s Annual Meeting in January.

Some of the criteria which are used to identify an individual are as follows:

  1. The nominee possesses in her/his practice a continuing civility and appreciation for others.
  2. The individual possess an outstanding level of competence ­legal ability ­and achievement.
  3. The nominee has in her/his practice made a strong contribution to the development of the practice of law, the improvement of the practice of law, particularly in the field of education ­frequent lectures in CLE programs­ writings­ publications.
  4. The nominee over the years has engaged in mentoring of younger attorneys.
  5. The nominee has involved herself/himself in Bar activities, both on the local level and the State level, holding positions as an officer or chairing committees, etc.
  6. The nominee has been a voice on legal issues.
  7. The nominee has throughout his/her career maintained the highest ethical standards.

Multiple nominations for the same individual are welcome, as are endorsements by local county bar associations.

Completed nomination form and supporting materials should be sent to:

Thomas J. Hall, Esq., Partner
The Law Firm of Hall & Hall, LLP
2555 Richmond Avenue, Suite 230
Staten Island, New York 10314
Email: [email protected]

Nominations for next year’s award will be accepted Fall 2024


Marin N. Bagwell, Esq.
Old Republic National Title Insurance Company

I was born, raised and attended the public schools in Accomack County on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. As a senior in high school, I almost won a National Merit Scholarship but “almost” attracted the attention of a Harvard Law alum based in Norfolk who invited me to lunch.  That invitation led to a scholarship offer to attend Harvard.  I did well at Harvard and graduated with an AB degree magna cum laude in American Government which led to being accepted to Harvard Law School.  I worked my way through Law School as a proctor in the Yard (“resident adviser” everywhere else) and as a teaching fellow in American Government.  At Law School, I developed an interest in public finance law.  My classmates, Michael Evans Mark Neilsen and I co-wrote an article on public bond financing of private projects that was published by the Harvard Journal on Legislation and that well received in financing circles.  That led to job offers by bond firms first in Richmond, Virginia and then in New York City.

Unfortunately, the Reagan Administration caught on to the loss of revenue to the government as well as certain unseemly practices in the south, ended the favorable tax treatment of IDA financing. Give me enough time and drinks, I will bore you with my experience of having a developer in Louisiana pulled a gun on me at a closing and threatened to shoot me if I did not sign the tax-exempt opinion letter.  Finding myself out of a job and looking for work, I saw an ad in the New York Law Journal by a title insurance company looking for title claims counsels.  I applied, got the job and became a title claims attorney.  As the result of a later corporate shake-up, I was booted out of the claims department and was offered the opportunity to become a title underwriter instead.

I quickly figured out that I knew next to nothing regarding real property law in New York and set about learning.  To that end, I discovered that the way my mind worked I had to research the law and then write about my findings so as to commit my thoughts to memory.  As so, my writing career began.  At last count, various publications have published 70 or so articles that I written.  And the more I wrote, the more I learned, the more I became involved in the industry.  I have had the honor of serving as President of both the New York State Land Title Association (2001-2002) and of the Title Insurance Rate Service Association (2013-2014).  I was recently elected by my New York State peers as a Fellow of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers (ACREL).


Nancy Connery
Nancy A. Connery

Nancy Connery’s area of concentration is real estate law. She has a general real estate practice and has represented individuals, public and private companies, utilities, not-for-profit entities, government entities and public benefit corporations in a variety of real estate matters, including:

Leasing and Other Space Transactions: Ms.Connery has negotiated, among other things, office, loft, retail, and industrial space leases, garage leases, ground leases, easements, licenses, access agreements, tenancy-in-common agreements, and tenant buyouts. In 2020, she closed on the ground lease of an office/garage building in Harlem that included an office condominium unit, a not-for-profit unit, a retail unit and a retail unit.

Purchases and Sales: As part of her commercial practice Ms.Connery also has represented clients in the purchase and sale of office buildings, loft buildings, industrial buildings, and other commercial space; and overseen the real estate aspects of government-granted economic benefits. Ms.Connery also represents her private and corporate clients in the purchase and sale of residential real-estate, including cooperative apartments, condominiums, and houses. Transactions have included a sale of development rights coupled with grant of an easement for a roof deck and related access agreements, the conveyance of school buildings, and sale of a retail building.


Dennis Greenstein
Dennis H. Greenstein
Partner, Seyfarth Shaw LLP.

Dennis focuses his practice on cooperative and condominium law and provides counsel to approximately 125 cooperatives and condominium buildings located in New York City.

Prior to starting his practice, Dennis served as a New York State Assistant Attorney General in the Real Estate Financing Bureau, Cooperative and Condominium Section.

Dennis is currently on the Executive Committee of the Real Property Law Section of the New York State Bar Association and served as the co-chair of the Committee on Condominiums and Cooperatives of the section from 2006-2016. He previously served as a member of the New York State Bar Association’s liaison committee with the Department of Law (Attorney General’s Office) on co-op and condo conversions. He is a frequent contributor to, and often quoted in, publications such as The New York Times, addressing issues relating to cooperative and condominium law. In addition, Dennis has written articles for or lectured and conducted seminars and workshops on the subject of cooperatives and condominiums at the Real Estate Board of New York, CNYC, The Cooperator, HABITAT Magazine, New York University’s Continuing Education Program and the office of the Attorney General.


Leon T. Sawyko
Harris Beach PLLC 

A lifelong resident of Rochester, Leon graduated from St. John Fisher College and Columbia University School of Law.  Upon graduation he joined the firm of Harris Beach & Wilcox (now Harris Beach PLLC) where he spent his entire legal career. In 2014 Leon retired but remains Counsel to the firm.

Leon’s practice involved all aspects of purchase, sale and financing of real property. In addition, he had extensive experience in condominium and homeowner association filings.  He represented real estate developers in all areas, including acquisitions, financing, development, leasing, zoning and planning and subdivision development.  He also represented various not-for-profit and business corporations in County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency and Housing Finance Agency bond financing.

Leon has been an active member of both his local and State Bar Associations throughout his career.  He served as a member and chairman of the Monroe County Bar Real Estate Council and was a longtime member and chairman of that Bar Association’s Professional Performance Committee.  He also served as a member of its Board of Trustees.

On the state level he has been on the Executive Committee of the Real Property Law Section for over 25 years.  While on the committee, he has chaired the Section’s Development, Financing and Not-for-Profit committees.  He currently is co-chair of the Legislation Committee.  From June 2014 through May 2015 he served as chair of the Section.

Since April 2017 he has been a member of the Attorney Grievance Committee for the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, Seventh District.

Over the years he has served on the boards of various not-for-profits, including DePaul Group, The Catholic Courier, Nazareth Schools, and the Northwest Branch of the YMCA of Greater Rochester.  In addition he served on the Alumni Board at St. John Fisher College, including as its chair.  He also served on the college’s Board of Trustees from 1982 through 1987.

He continues to serve on the Boards of Seneca Waterways Council, Boy Scouts of America and on the Health Care Services Board of the Rochester Regional Health System.  In addition, Leon serves as co-chair of the Rochester Regional Health Foundation.

Leon and Anne, his wife of 53 years, have been blessed with five children and eleven grandchildren.

Leon says, “I enjoyed actively practicing law for 45 years; it enabled me to raise a great family and, perhaps, do some good for my fellow lawyers and the community.”



2000 – Eugene Morris
– James M. Pedowitz
– Bernard Rifkin
– John E. Blyth
– Harold A. Lubell
– John Hall
– Prof. Robert Zinman
– Mel Mitzner
– Lorraine Power Tharp (posthumous
–  Bill Colavito
Joshua Stein
– Karl Holtzschue
 – no award presented
– Michael J. Berey
2015 – Peter V. Coffey
2016 – Andrew L. Herz
2017 – Anne Reynolds Copps
2018 – Richard S. Fries
2019Francis X. Carroll
2020 – Carol A. Sigmond
2021Leon T. Sawyko
2022 – Dennis H. Greenstein
2023 – Nancy A. Connery