Arnold Rutkin is one of the most accomplished and influential divorce lawyers practicing in Connecticut today. That's according to peers and rivals, because Rutkin - wise, mild mannered, almost self-effacing - would be the last person to trumpet such a reputation. Indeed, the Bridgeport native, a veteran of complex divorce cases, has made a broad and valuable contribution to the law and the legal community. He has written on, lectured and taught all matters of matrimonial law for more than three decades. As a practicing lawyer for over 45 years, he remains the most prominent divorce attorney based in affluent Westport; he is certainly among the top attorneys in his field in the state, perhaps in the nation. Rivals say that, while he's mellowed, Rutkin remains a zealous advocate for his clients.
Reflecting on his career, Rutkin says "you could say I backed into this." His parents, who owned a high quality men's store in Bridgeport, had him running business errands as a youngster; "I was a pretty normal kid, well rounded." In fact he graduated first in his class from Milford Prep. He excelled in math ("I thought I might go to Wall Street"), and went on to Penn; among his business courses as a Wharton undergraduate was a psychology course; "I was surprised how much I enjoyed it." Friends say Rutkin (many call him "Arnie"), with great skills of practical judgment, strategy and creativity, has a knack for understanding people and their problems. Out of law school he focused on all manner of trial work; He spent more than a decade with a Bridgeport firm doing trial work before launching his own practice. By then, in his early 40s, Rutkin was already well known for handling complex divorce cases - "people came to me because they wanted a trial lawyer for their divorce case. Most people want to settle their case, and having a trial lawyer and creative negotiator at their side frequently results in settlements." In a sense his practice has evolved with the field itself, once a legal backwater and now a central, respected part of the profession, an evolution he helped foster. In 1992 he spearheaded the writing of a multi-volume treatise, Connecticut Family Law Practice, which remains a key legal reference (co-authored by Kathleen Hogan and his current partner, Sally Oldham, herself a member of both the American and International Academies of Matrimonial Law). Indeed, teaching and mentoring have been a large part of Rutkin's professional life; he continues to write "Rutkin's Rubrick" for a Family Law newsletter.
Over the years Rutkin has guided his firm to be a truly selective boutique: He insists on handling fewer than 10 cases at once, a tiny number for most. "People come to us looking for quality representation. And they know they are not dealing with a part-time divorce lawyer." For over a decade Rutkin & Oldham has been based at the firm's tastefully converted New England colonial on Imperial Avenue in downtown Westport. (Rutkin and Oldham have become partners in another sense; they wed not long ago.) Today their six-attorney practice is thriving, and Rutkin remains something of a traditionalist "With all the affluence, the reputation, the gratification, I think as a society we have to remind ourselves of what's important."