Malcolm Taub has long been one of Manhattan's best known independent divorce lawyers, a classic litigator who has prevailed in some of the city's toughest and highest-profile cases of his generation. Now in his 60s, Taub - thoughtful, professorial in manner, yet still intensely competitive - brings a calm stature to his craft. To his many subordinates and even to clients he is one of the gurus of matrimonial law. After years working in small boutique firms, himself the principal rainmaker, Taub last fall joined the 47-lawyer firm of Davidoff Malito & Hutcher, a robust practice widely known for its government relations and political-consulting practices. Like Taub himself, the firm operates discreetly and often under the radar, but it's perhaps the most politically influential firm of any its size in the state. He co-chairs the firm's seven-lawyer Matrimonial and Family Law department. Moreover, Taub crafted a practice that dovetailed with one of his own interests - exceptional works of art. Today he lectures and writes widely on the legal issues of art as an asset class. (There's a YouTube video of Taub lecturing on "art condition reports.") He is now the principal editor of the Lexis/Nexis Art Law Form Book.
The youngest of three sons, Taub grew up in Brooklyn's Brownsville and East Flatbush, playing stickball and following the Dodgers. (He still owns a 1957 Dodger yearbook with 29 autographs from the last Dodger team that played in Brooklyn.) He looks back fondly on his youth, "a wonderful time." The law lured him largely because of his interest in politics, he says. Even as a teenager Taub was already forming progressive views; after graduating from Brooklyn College, in an age of upheaval and ferment, he worked at the New York Civil Liberties Union. Yet, as a college biology major, his first job was teaching science at Erasmus Hall High School and elsewhere in the city for two years before attending law school at night. One of his first mentors was Morton Robson, the colorful and controversial criminal and commercial litigator whose powerful personality left a huge impact on the young Taub. "They'll say what they want about Mort, but he was one of the best trial lawyers on the planet." (Robson prosecuted Adam Clayton Powell and other major parties, while ultimately being appointed by President Eisenhower as the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.) In many respects Taub learned from Robson the power of conviction and principal in taking stands, that "sometimes in the law, like in politics, courage is all that matters." In one of his first divorce cases, Taub represented Robson in his messy and high-stakes split. Over the years Taub also tackled high-profile commercial disputes, including a 1980s price-fixing claim against Bloomingdale's and Saks Fifth Avenue. He represented the tenants of Tudor City in their Class Action against Harry Helmsley and was successful in saving the Tudor City Parks for posterity. He built too a specialty in real-estate syndications, primarily in New York City, and has lectured widely on the subject. Once on his own, Taub took on more and more divorce cases, almost by accident, he says: "Once you put your nose in the tent, your nose is in the tent." Taub represented the wife of Tavern on the Green owner Warner LeRoy, and was a major player on the winning team that obtained her a $20 million verdict. (In Taub's office today a NY Daily News front page says it all: "Mogul's Wife Wins Divorce." The case led to one of Taub's guest appearances on Late Show with David Letterman.)
Today Taub remains accessible, taking most of his own calls and responding to his own emails - a rarity among many senior lawyers with high-profile cases. He's adept, too, at technology, retrieving obscure case law in a few keystrokes. His compact Third Avenue office once housed his Marilyn Monroe Warhols and a Rauschenberg, but "insurance was becoming a problem"; he now must fill his blank walls with less conspicuous works. Taub, himself married "more than once," he says wryly, remains a fierce competitor who "still knows how to settle cases." He adds, "I think two good lawyers are better than the courts at delivering a reasonable outcome." Taub sits on the board of two schools specializing in education of special-needs children. He lives in Manhattan.