After working as a successful Realtor for 13 years, Dom Chieffalo knew it was time for change and pursued a career in law. "It was a little scary to start a law practice at age 42, but from a career standpoint, it was the best decision I've ever made," said Chieffalo. "I've always been interested in law and it's always intrigued me."
In 2002, he opened the Law Office of Dom Chieffalo in Danbury. A solo practitioner, Chieffalo works with a support staff of three, receptionist Peggy Chavez and paralegals Joann Mailman and Michele Olam. Most of Chieffalo's practice involves real estate closings, refinances, and criminal law, but he also handles wills, living wills, leases, personal injury, and zoning. The varied workload keeps each day challenging.
"Real estate closings are so interesting because you meet so many different people and their situations are different. Corporate transferees who've moved several times are usually veterans of the process and see the closing process as just a necessary function of the job. What they want most is for the process to go smoothly and to be able to talk to their attorney, get answers, close on their home, and move on," explained Chieffalo. "A first-time buyer has very different needs and is very excited about owning a home. They have a lot of questions and need more information on a day-to-day basis. But what you see in their faces when they get their first deed at the closing table is priceless."
A criminal case is entirely different. "People are generally not in a good place when they need a criminal defense attorney. Whether it's someone who was just arrested for a first-time DUI or someone who has been in trouble before, they need someone they can talk to and who can give them good advice," said Chieffalo. "They want someone who will give them the best representation possible and will advocate for them vigorously."
Switching careers was the right choice for Chieffalo. "Being an attorney is incredibly interesting. I've learned so much since my first day of law school," said Chieffalo. "The practice of law is so different from what most people think it is or what they see on various television legal shows. Television usually portrays an attorney's practice as going from one dramatic climactic moment to the next. The reality is there's a lot of hard work, mostly behind the scenes, negotiating, renegotiating, paperwork, and a few dramatic moments here and there."
But Chieffalo thrives on courtroom presentations. "I will say that when I'm in the courtroom in front of a judge arguing for a client or when I'm on trial, there's nothing like it. I love it and it's the most exciting part of my job."
Chad Nivens of Danbury hired Chieffalo to represent him when he bought his house.
"I moved here from North Carolina and was purchasing a town home. Especially for me, we had a slight hiccup in the paperwork on the day of closing and he was able to resolve that immediately, and I'm not sure anyone else would have been able to do that. He got on the phone, got in contact with the bank and revised the terms, got the paperwork and took it to closing all in the same day," said Nivens. "He's a nice guy to work with. He's very friendly. He took time to explain the legal issues and went through the contract page by page, explaining every detail and how it affected me and what I needed to do. It was very good, exceptional even."
Chieffalo was born and raised in Danbury and attended Henry Abbott Regional Technical School. He received a Bachelor of Business Administration from Western Connecticut State University and in 1999 received a law degree from Quinnipiac University in Hamden.
"I decided to go back to school in my mid-30s because I wanted to pursue a different career. As a Realtor I was working weekends, nights, holidays, and every spare moment I had. Realtors have a very hard and stressful job. I wanted something different," said Chieffalo who attended school part time and worked full time as a Realtor. "That was a challenge but I got through it. I took extra classes and spent two summers in Italy taking courses abroad. That was a phenomenal experience."
Upon obtaining his law degree, Chieffalo worked with a local attorney for a few years. "It was a tough decision going out on my own but I felt like I didn't have any decision-making ability where I was as to how I wanted my business handled so I left and hung out my own shingle. I liked the attorney I worked for and appreciate the start he gave me but felt the time was right to start my own practice," said Chieffalo.
"I went through a downturn in the economy in the early 90s in real estate so I wanted something that was going to be more financially lucrative and stable."
Chieffalo is active in the community, volunteering a large amount of time serving as chairman of the Danbury Housing Authority. "I was asked by the mayor a couple years ago to help out with the authority because they were having some problems. There were bond issues and system-wide failures in its day-to-day operations. Some very talented people really stepped up and donated a lot of time to help the Housing Authority get back on track," said Chieffalo, who also served 13 years on the Danbury Zoning Board of Appeals. "I've always given back to the community. I feel you always have to give a little to get anything back." He also appreciates being a member of the Danbury Chamber of Commerce. "It's a good community organization and it's business-to-business. It's good exposure and I get to meet other professionals in town," he said.
Away from the office, Chieffalo enjoys sports to relax. "I love to play tennis and belong to a club in Ridgefield. I like to golf but don't seem to get enough time to play very often. I'm an avid hunter and fisherman and try to spend as much of my free time as possible hunting in the fall. It's great to get out in the woods where it's so peaceful and quiet," said Chieffalo. "I love the outdoors and will try pretty much anything that involves the outdoors, including kayaking and hiking, and I love Candlewood Lake in the summer and spend a lot of time boating on weekends in July and August."
A hobby Chieffalo picked up from his father and grandfather is making homemade wine. "It's an Italian thing. I remember helping my grandfather when I was 6 or 7, and the same with my dad. I picked it up somehow. I bought state-of-the-art equipment and make Merlot and Cabernet. It's a fun hobby." Some of Chieffalo's wines have won gold and silver medals at the Connecticut Amateur Wine competitions.
Whether You Need A Real Estate Or Personal Injury Attorney In The Greater Bethel, Ct Area, Trust The Law Office Of Dom Chieffalo.
Article from The News-Times: Inside Business
Business to Pleasure. Attorney Dom Chieffalo: Change in career leads to success.
By Pamela Brown. 2006-03-22