At Weiss & Associates, PC, we are encouraging motorists to email paperwork and hire us by phone in order to keep them and our staff as safe as possible. Nowadays we have less walk-ins than ever, but when we do have walk-ins, we make sure to provide everyone wears masks and follows safety protocols like social distancing. In order to be contactless, we take a photo of your ticket so that no potential germs need to be spread by touching the piece of paper. I think our business and travel businesses alike will need to continue to follow professional guidelines and adjust practices in order to keep staff and employees safe.
As part of my series about “developments in the travel industry over the next five years”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Matthew J. Weiss, Esq. He graduated Hofstra Law School in 1984. He was Law Review and won the law school’s prestigious Procedure Award. Upon graduation, he became one of the first Hofstra Law School graduates to work at the New York State Court of Appeals (New York State’s highest court) working on various appellate matters.
Mr. Weiss then worked for two years at Rivkin, Radler, Bayh, Hart & Kremer, a 200-plus attorney law firm, representing various clients, such as municipalities, insurance companies and large corporations, in various litigation matters. He also continued to do substantial appellate work.
In 1991, Mr. Weiss co-founded his private law practice eventually buying out his former partner in 2000. Through the years, Weiss & Associates, PC has successfully resolved 10,000s of traffic tickets and trucking tickets for its clients throughout New York State. Mr. Weiss has written many articles on vehicle and traffic law, and lectures other lawyers on this subject. His blog “Confessions of A Traffic Lawyer” regularly discusses various vehicle and traffic law issues.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
As a kid I got my license and as a teenager I was a little wild and got a lot of tickets. It was funny because I would always get a different violation, I never got the same offense twice, and I would joke about how I learned from my mistakes. I learned that it’s important to fight your tickets and that you can improve upon your status with your license by pleading not guilty and showing up in court. When I graduated law school, there was an attorney who had a fair amount of traffic work. I was new to the field and my partner and I didn’t have a lot of clients at the time, so we started helping him, appearing in traffic court. By helping his clients, we built up our practice and built up the 888 Red Light brand.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
One of the most interesting things that has happened to me recently has been getting elected to serve as the President of a non-profit group of traffic attorneys known as the Association of Motor Vehicle Trial Attorneys Inc., or AMVTA. The group’s mission is to protect ensure fairness in the adjudication of vehicle and traffic law matters. As my first act as President, we brought suit against the DMV seeking to end unfair hearings by telephone. I coined the term “speakerphone justice” to describe the policy put into place when the court re-opened following a COVID-19 closure. We argue that police officer must appear in person per the DMV’s own rules and that the failure to produce the one prosecution witness is a denial of due process. The goal of the lawsuit is to require the DMV to return to the prior status quo and require police officers to appear in person to present their cases. We expect a decision by the end of 2020.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When my partner and I first started our law firm, we had no clients and little money. We were smart in that we kept our overhead as low as possible so that we could minimize our “burn rate”. We ended up renting an office that was the size of a closet. The space was so small that I would literally would have to get up out of my chair so that my partner could get passed to get to his desk. In actuality, it’s a good model for entrepreneurs when you are starting out, to be mean and lean as much as possible so that you can stay in business and grow without blowing through all of your capital. The mistake I made I made would be choosing the wrong desk!
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”? Can you share a story about that?
In my opinion, for businesses to thrive, you need to grow an organization where the right people on the bus and those people are in the right seats. If there’s a role that involves being personable, then you need to make sure to hire someone who is outgoing. Our law firm’s staff consider one another family. Even though we’re not related by blood, we treat each other like family. We laugh together, we work hard together and treat each other with respect. Everyone who has worked at our firm has been with us for at least 12 or 13 years. In my opinion, having a steady staff gives us a competitive advantage when compared to firms that have a revolving door approach to hiring and retaining.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My father always wanted to go to law school. He worked for his father in the funeral service industry. He was a very bright man and felt that his career wasn’t challenging enough for him. But at the time, his only opportunity was to work for his father, my grandfather. Through the years of working in that role, it became less and less stimulating, arguably even boring for him. He was hoping to go to law school himself, took the law school entrance exam a few times but never scored high enough. Ultimately, he abandoned that goal. When I got into law school, he was so excited. It was actually like WE were going and vicariously we went together. I was living at home at the time and he was able to share with me his thoughts and be a part of what I was working on. Allowing him to fulfill his dream through me, his son, was a tremendous honor.
Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?
Our law firm helps motorists fight vehicle traffic law matters throughout New York state. We handle thousands of cases each year, many of which are for travelers from out of state. Out of state visitors to New York who get tickets here can visit our website and find a free tool called a Ticket Analyzer. What we’ve come up with uses artificial intelligence to analyze a motorist’s ticket and provide feedback on whether they should fight it and how they can fight it. For out of state travelers who receive a New York traffic ticket, this tool will also tell them the interplay between New York State and the state where he or she resides. Travelers from Connecticut, for example, need to know that points do not transfer from New York to Connecticut. At the same time, a motorist from New Jersey gets two New Jersey points for any New York moving violation, even if it carries more points in New York. There are various interplay rules among the various states, and there is nowhere else that travelers can find the answers to that question in one spot (ie, all 50 states). We are very proud of that travel innovation and it is totally free.
Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation?
Motorists who receive a traffic ticket are often scared, nervous, angry and/or lacking in knowledge of what to do. Our travel innovation demystifies the process by giving clear advice to travelers so they can make an informed decision.
How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?
No other traffic ticket law firms in New York have this unique and free tool. We hope that it is successful in generating greater brand awareness for 888 Red Light and, more importantly, educates motorists whether they should fight their New York moving violation (or not). We see many people who do not do enough, or any, research and end up pleading guilty to a ticket that they should not have. This ultimately leads to issues with their driver’s licenses in the form of fines, fees and possibly suspensions. Often these issues can be avoided or minimized.
As you know, COVID19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share 5 examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers will prefer to travel?
- Consumers prefer private cars to avoid being exposed to COVID-19. As a result, during the pandemic, more people are commuting and traveling by car rather than mass transit. Needless to say, the more miles you drive, the more likely you are to get pulled over for a moving violation.
- Police officers are less inclined to engage with motorists that they stop, because of the fear of coming into close contact with someone who may have COVID-19.B By minimizing engagement, it is now much harder for a driver to talk him or herself out of the traffic violation.
- Similarly, police officers are spending less time explaining what the motorist should do. This creates greater uncertainty and confusion in the minds of travelers who have received a ticket but lack experience in this area.
- With more people traveling by private car, I believe travel companies should spend more effort to sanitization. They also should let travelers know that they are taking efforts to avoid the spread of germs. For years, people haven’t had to think about this issue but those times are over.
- At Weiss & Associates, PC, we are encouraging motorists to email paperwork and hire us by phone in order to keep them and our staff as safe as possible. Nowadays we have less walk-ins than ever, but when we do have walk-ins, we make sure to provide everyone wears masks and follows safety protocols like social distancing. In order to be contactless, we take a photo of your ticket so that no potential germs need to be spread by touching the piece of paper. I think our business and travel businesses alike will need to continue to follow professional guidelines and adjust practices in order to keep staff and employees safe.
You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?
For me, a perfect vacation includes great food, unique activities and special sites, whether they are historic or geological, I love to see and experience things created by mother nature and human beings. Some of my favorites have been the Mayan Pyramids and Eiffel Tower.
Can you share with our readers how have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I have reached a level of success in my business where I don’t need to be involved as much with day-to-day decisions. This has freed up my time to be a part of other opportunities that mean a lot to me. I ended up hiring a new banker to help me with my law firm’s banking, and over time getting to know her, she told me the story about her son, a hero and victim of 9/11. His story inspired me so much that, with his permission, I spent the next six years writing, directing and producing my first film about this incredible hero, named Welles Crowther.
I created Man in Red Bandana to share the story of this incredible hero who gave the ultimate sacrifice to save total strangers because I hoped others who saw the film would be encouraged to do likewise … think a little less about themselves and more about others.
Welles Crowther passed away on 9/11 and his family didn’t know right away. It took almost a week before the family realized he didn’t make it out, and they were devastated. No parent should ever lose a child, he was their only son and a great young man who always looked out for others first. His mom relentless searched for any information for eight months about how he died and how he spent his last hour. She would read newspapers and watch documentaries, trying to find any information that she could.
Eight months later, in May of 2002, the New York Times published an article about a series of survivors describing what they saw and how they got out. In there, she “found” him. In there, she read about two woman who said they were saved, led up and out, by this man with a red bandana on his face. As soon as she read that she knew they were talking about her son. Welles always carried a red bandana ever since the age of eight, and she knew in her heart that this man was her son. She sent Welles’ photo to both of these woman who positively identified him as the one who saved them. Through their accounts and the New York Times article, the family was able to piece together how Welles spent the last hour of his life, his finest hour.
They learned that he extricated people that were trapped, put out fires and carried a woman down 17 flights on his shoulders. He went and and down the stairwell 3 times ultimately saving at least ten people. He truly was an incredible brave and selfless hero, a role model for us all.
It was an incredible gift for the Crowther Family to give me permission to make my film about their hero son. I will always be appreciative for being given this honor.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
My movement of encouraging more selflessness started with my release of Man In Red Bandana but continues today. I have also done a TEDx talk about Welles and we broke a world record for the total number of bandanas tied together end to end in a pilot TV show. I continue to share Welles’ story with as many people as possible. I hope it encourages them to personify Welles values (even if just a small bit).
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can keep up with Weiss and Associates, PC and Confessions of a Traffic Lawyer at NYTrafficticket.com. We are also on Facebook and LinkedIn. You can learn more about my film at ManInRedBandana.com.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!