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Boston Criminal and Civil Litigation Lawyers

At Zalkind Duncan & Bernstein LLP, we are experienced trial lawyers who specialize in criminal defense, employment law, students' rights, and other civil litigation.

Experience. Our legal power comes from decades of experience and a breadth and depth of knowledge, skill, and creativity that is unmatched. For over 50 years, our Boston criminal defense lawyers have defended clients in courtrooms in Massachusetts and across the country. Our Massachusetts employment attorneys have won multimillion-dollar jury verdicts. Our experience in criminal and civil litigation gives us confidence in the courtroom and the skills necessary to craft strong, creative, and persuasive legal arguments. While we have no shortage of impressive credentials, we are also grounded. We use common sense and an understanding of human nature – honed over years of representing individuals in Massachusetts and around the country – to work to get the best possible results for our clients.

Advocacy. Our lawyers are passionate and dedicated advocates for our clients. We understand that our clients' lives are affected by the legal problems that they face. They need and deserve strong, effective advocacy and representation. Our firm grew out of founder Norman Zalkind's work in the civil rights movement in the 1960s. The ideals of freedom and equality that motivated Norman's visionary work representing criminal defendants in Mississippi and protestors, radicals, and draft resisters in Massachusetts continue to motivate our lawyers today. Each of our lawyers brings to this firm a background in different areas of the law; they choose to work here because of their commitment to justice and to helping those who have been treated unfairly, whether that means representing criminal defendants struggling to protect their liberty, employees fighting for workplace rights, or students asserting their educational rights at schools and colleges.

We understand that many of our clients come to us during extraordinarily stressful moments in their lives, and we are privileged to fight with our clients to protect their rights in these circumstances. Our attorneys provide close personal attention, thoughtful judgment, thorough preparation, and a creative approach in every case. We leave no stone unturned in serving our clients. Whether the fight involves ensuring that the constitutional rights of criminal defendants are not violated; standing strong to ensure that civil rights, workplace rights, and students' rights are respected; or taking a stand for freedom and equality – we bring our passion to bear for our clients.

Success. We have a winning track record. In a criminal case, nothing beats the sound of a jury saying “not guilty,” and our Boston criminal defense attorneys have stood beside many clients who have heard just those words. In civil cases, too, our Massachusetts employment attorneys are known for achieving some of the best jury verdicts in the state in our employment discrimination lawsuits. Our ability to win at trial enhances our ability to resolve cases by agreement. We have represented many clients who have had their cases resolved, without going to trial, with excellent results.

Criminal Defense

Unlike some criminal defense attorneys, we are not former prosecutors but instead are long-time advocates for the rights of defendants, a passion many of us have had since we first started the journey of becoming lawyers at the best law schools in the country. We represent individuals accused of misdemeanors and felonies in state and federal court, both at trial and on appeal. Our representation is motivated by a sincere dedication to the rights of the accused, academic excellence, and practical know-how. We zealously advocate for our clients to protect their rights and to hold the prosecution to its burden to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. The criminal defense lawyers at our Boston firm will investigate your case thoroughly to uncover any applicable substantive or procedural defenses, identify relevant evidence and witnesses, and present the most favorable case possible to the prosecution, the judge, and the jury.

Drug Crimes

We often represent people accused of drug crimes. Drug crimes may involve crack, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, marijuana, amphetamines, oxycodone, and prescription drugs. Activities that are criminalized include possession, distribution, possession with intent to distribute, trafficking, and importing controlled substances. Complex federal and state laws cover drug crimes, which range from regulatory infractions to felonies that carry the potential for a life sentence. Penalties can be drastically different under federal and state laws, with federal laws involving particularly harsh punishments. Even possession of small quantities of marijuana may be penalized with prison time under federal law. However, there may be defenses available. For example, it may be possible to move to suppress evidence of drugs in situations in which the police conducted an unconstitutional or illegal search and seizure.


We also defend people who have been accused of drunk driving. Operating under the influence, or OUI, may be charged when an individual operates a motor vehicle on a public way while under the influence of liquor or drugs. Significant penalties may be imposed for an OUI, even if it is a first offense. If you have prior OUI offenses, the penalties are particularly serious. Each situation is different, and our Boston criminal defense lawyers will look closely at a client’s circumstances to determine the strongest possible defense. For example, it may be possible to contest the validity of the initial stop of the vehicle.

White Collar Crimes

We have a record of especially notable successes in the area of white collar crime. Many white collar crimes involve violations of federal laws or regulations. For example, we obtained a judgment of acquittal from a jury in a federal tax fraud case involving millions of dollars and a four-week trial. We also successfully persuaded the government to retreat from prosecuting our clients in a $20 million Medicare fraud case, and they received only a six-month probation term. For another example, we represented an attorney charged with stealing over $1 million, successfully negotiating with the government for a probation term. Often, the issues in white collar cases are complex, necessitating representation by an attorney with substantial experience. The criminal defense attorneys at our Boston firm have a thorough understanding of these types of charges and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

Employment Law

U.S. News and World Report has recognized us as one of the best law firms in Boston for the representation of individuals in employment disputes. Disputes may arise in connection with employment discrimination, sexual harassment, and severance, among other issues. We have won multiple trials resulting in substantial jury verdicts for plaintiff employees. These include verdicts of nearly $11 million, $7.6 million, and $2.2 million. In addition to litigating employment disputes, we review employment documents for executives and negotiate with employers on behalf of our clients.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a type of sex discrimination prohibited by federal and state laws. Title VII is the federal law that prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace. Chapter 151B is the state law prohibiting sex discrimination. Sexual harassment may involve unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, touching, groping, visual memes, and other conduct. It can be categorized as quid pro quo harassment or hostile work environment harassment. It takes immense courage for an employee to step forward and accuse a coworker, supervisor, or employer of sexual harassment. Sometimes this step comes with substantial economic and emotional consequences. We work with each of our clients to understand their needs, and we tailor our legal strategy in sexual harassment litigation to make sure that their interests are our priority.

Gender Discrimination

Gender discrimination occurs when an employer takes an adverse employment action against an employee due to the employee’s gender. An adverse action can take the form of terminating, failing to promote, demoting, or otherwise varying an employee’s terms and conditions of employment, based on the employee’s gender. Gender discrimination lawsuits are often brought on behalf of women who are adversely treated due to their sex or gender. However, gender discrimination against both women and men is prohibited under both federal and state laws.

Pregnancy Discrimination

As a pregnant employee in Massachusetts, you are entitled to work under the same conditions as other employees. Both federal and state laws prohibit pregnancy discrimination. Chapter 151B expressly prohibits pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. Employers are required to give employees reasonable accommodations based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions, as long as providing the accommodation does not present an undue hardship for the employer. Certain accommodations are required for pregnant employees and employees who have just given birth, even if there is no medical documentation. We represent employees who have been subjected to adverse employment actions due to a pregnancy or a related condition.

Severance / Pay Negotiations

Our employment lawyers counsel and represent individuals handling pay negotiations or negotiation of severance. There are situations in which it may be possible to negotiate greater pay when an employer requires certain clauses that are unfavorable to an employee, such as a non-compete clause. Other restrictive covenants that may require particular attention are those involving confidentiality and non-solicitation. We help executives and other professionals hired into new jobs negotiate favorable contract terms with regard to issues like salary, equity interest, bonuses, stock options, and other benefits. Severance is sometimes negotiated as part of an employment agreement. The federal Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA) entitles employees over 40 to certain protections, including when they are asked to sign a waiver of age discrimination claims.

Student Rights and Title IX

Our attorneys work with students in primary school, secondary school, and higher education to ensure that their rights to a discrimination-free education are respected. We represent students who have experienced discrimination because of race, disability, sex, sexual orientation, religion and other protected categories. Our firm has decades of experience protecting students’ rights in campus criminal cases, disciplinary proceedings, and appeals. We are recognized as though leaders on Title IX, the law that protects students from discrimination based on their sex in educational activities and programs that receive federal financial assistance. Our attorneys routinely represent students involved in campus sexual misconduct proceedings (“Title IX” proceedings), either because they have experienced sexual misconduct or have been accused of engaging in sexual misconduct. When necessary we file lawsuits on behalf of students against their schools to assert their rights to receive an education free from discrimination and harassment. Since 2013 alone, our firm has represented hundreds of students involved in school disciplinary proceedings.

Consult an Experienced Boston Attorney

Our peers and clients recognize us as leaders in the legal field. U.S. News and World Report ranks us in their Tier 1 ranking for white-collar criminal defense, non-white-collar criminal defense, and employment law on behalf of individuals. Our lawyers and our of-counsel attorneys are listed in Best Lawyers in America, Massachusetts Super Lawyers, and New England Super Lawyers. Fortune Magazine recognizes the firm as one of its top-ranked law firms, and Martindale Hubbell lists our firm in its “Preeminent” category.

We recognize that no two cases are alike. For every client whom we represent, our goal is to achieve the best possible results, and we bring our passion, skill, and experience to that effort. If you are interested in speaking with us about your case, call us at (617) 742-6020 or use the contact form to consult a criminal defense attorney in the Boston area or seek guidance in an employment, students’ rights, or Title IX matter.

Client Reviews
I hired Mr. Duncan to deal with a very sensitive issue that my daughter had. Since the first contact, I had a very good impression of him. He transmitted confidence and appeared to know exactly what to do. I called and emailed him many times, he was polite and comprehensible with the anxiety of a father and appeared to know every step to solve the case. I strongly recommend Mr. Duncan. Flavio Lajoia
If you are reading this review, it means either you or a family member is in trouble and needs immediate legal counsel. Please know your search can end right now because Zalkind, Duncan & Bernstein is the law firm to hire. They are honest, responsive, compassionate and have the experience and expertise to bring... Client
I contacted Zalkind Duncan & Bernstein to assist with a Title IX case. From our initial conversation, Naomi Shatz had a strong understanding of Title IX policies and conducted each step of the process with professionalism, honesty and a responsiveness that did not disappoint. Ms. Shatz displayed confidence and just as important, compassion when needed. Client
I worked with Emma Quinn-Judge and Monica Shah. And from my first contact on the phone, on to my first meeting in their office and during the trial, I found them and the firm's entire team to be a group of consummate legal professionals who are very knowledgeable, patient, dedicated, fair, honest and caring... Chantal C.
I am forever grateful to all the staff at this firm, but in particular, Ms. Shah, Mr. Zalkind and Mr. Silverglate. They represented my son who was being sought for extradition to Scotland. The case took years to fight, covering new legal ground, setting precedence. But each one of these legal eagles went above and beyond the duty of office... Suzanne D.
Attorney Spotlight
Ana Muñoz

Ana represents clients in employment, criminal, and civil cases. Ana has been selected to the Rising Stars list by Super Lawyers every year since 2018. Ana habla español y tendria mucho gusto de servirle a clientes que hablen español.

Boston Lawyer Blog
Case Results
Boston Jury Awards Nearly $11 Million Verdict Against the City
Emma Quinn-Judge and Monica Shah won a nearly $11 million verdict in a race discrimination and retaliation case against the City of Boston...
Acquittal on All Charges in First-Degree Murder Case
In a first-degree murder case, which included charges of armed assault with intent to murder and possession of a firearm, Norman Zalkind and Rachel Stroup won...
$7.6 Million Verdict in Employment Case
Inga Bernstein and Norman Zalkind won a $7.6 million verdict in a case charging the MBTA with retaliation against its former Chief Administrative Officer...
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Contact Us
  1. 1 Dedicated Advocacy
  2. 2 Over 50 years of Experience
  3. 3 Ranked as a Tier 1 Firm in U.S. News & World Report

Fill out the contact form or call us at (617) 742-6020 to schedule your consultation.