By David A. Porter
A trial lawyer and litigator at Morrison Cohen LLP, Y. David Scharf is the “go-to” real estate attorney for high-profile clients, including the President, whom he represented prior to Mr. Trump’s presidency. Outside the office, and the courtroom, David’s days are about faith, family, and philanthropy, and if he isn’t in court you’ll probably find him on the court: “Tennis has been a huge part of my life since I was six-years-old,” he says.
What drew you to Real Estate law?
I was hired for my second job out of law school to work on the break-up of a family real estate empire. It was very emotional, with a lot at stake for the litigants, and I loved being in the fray. New York is all about real estate, and its real estate people who play hard and for keeps.
What is a typical day for you?
My mornings start around 5:30 when I review and send emails. I time my morning prayers to sunrise for a daily dose of thankfulness for my family, for my health and my good fortune, then I pray for others. By 7 am it’s time to get the kids up, fed, and out to school. Mornings have always been my time with my children. I have five, and two are still at home.
Once the kids are off to school, I’m off to court or to the office, where things are never typical and always challenging. I am blessed to work with really talented people who share my work ethic and my desire to excel. Once I get home I try to get some family time, exercise, and respond to emails. I usually get to sleep by 1 am, except on Fridays, when I shut everything down at sunset, have family dinner and get a decent night’s sleep.
What was it like working with Donald Trump?
I needed to be available and prepared for calls and meetings at any and all times. Donald knew what he wanted, was goal-oriented and loved to win. I do, too, and we had a great relationship.
How does it feel to be a New York Super Lawyer? It’s a peer review selection, and it’s very nice when it happens. Satisfaction for me is achieving excellent outcomes for my clients.
Tell us about the prestigious Leadership Award you received from the Ezer Mizion Bone Marrow Donor Registry.
I began providing pro bono legal services to Ezer Mizion at the request of a client who was a supporter, and through that project and another I learned about its mission. My law partner’s friend, a mother of three, needed a transplant, and she received one through my contacts at Ezer Mizion. Since then my family has started its own donor pool, and we’ve introduced our friends to this life-saving charity. It’s mind-blowing to be present when a marrow recipient meets his or her donor.
Tell us more about the U.S. Tennis Association Foundation.
I have been a supporter of the Foundation for 18 years, a board member for more than 10, and I am in my second term as Chair of the Development Committee. It’s my job to raise awareness of the Foundation’s mission and to engage supporters and celebrities to participate in enhancing the lives of under-resourced children through tennis and education. And, yes, I have attended every U.S. Open since I could drive a car!
What are your five favorite things about living in New York City?
The energy, first and foremost—this is really the city that never sleeps, which is a lot like me. I love the arts and culture here, particularly the Metropolitan Museum and our amazing Theater District. I’m also proud to live in a city with civic organizations that make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate, such as the Educational Alliance, which provides community programs and services to more than 50,000 New Yorkers, including children, parents and older adults. Also, the OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services, where more than 1,500 professionals and volunteers provide services to protect children and strengthen families. As a lawyer, I’m enamored of our storied courthouses and their legacy of great jurists and practitioners. And I love just about any New York sporting event. The passion of the New York sports fan is second to none.
What’s your favorite place outside New York?
South Beach. It’s where I spend winter break with my family.
In the middle of a high-pressure day, do you remember to eat? What do you do for lunch?
My partners joke that they never see me eat or drink during the day. When I’m in trial, I’m very regimented, and my food intake is planned right down to the green tea-infused, 80-calorie chocolate square I eat at the mid-afternoon break. When I’m in the office, the most I eat until I get home might be a handful of almonds and green iced tea! There is, of course, the occasional business lunch that can range from a four-course meal—unlikely—to the quick sandwich—very likely!
With all the pressure of meeting with clients and litigation, how do you unwind?
Seeing my family at the end of the day is the best unwind—they’re why I do what I do. Friday nights and Saturdays with them, as well as family vacations, are critical to my sanity, and I love family soccer or whiffle ball games at our weekend house. Getting to the gym is a bonus for stress relief.
What advice would you give young people just out of law school and looking to establish themselves in New York?
Outwork everyone else, be the person who always rises to the challenge, and stay humble.
And, lastly, what does the “Y” stand for?
The “Y” is for Yehuda, one of Jacob’s sons and the fourth of the twelve tribes in the Torah. Yehuda’s symbol was the lion, and he was King David’s ancestral grandfather. In some ways, my names define who I am.