Life Upended: without a case, a lawyer begins to cook in the midst of a pandemic


Life turned upside down. The coronavirus outbreak has had a devastating impact on our nation and has affected the people of Staten Island in countless ways. In this series, journalist Tracey Porpora will share the stories of those who were plunged into unimaginable situations just a few months ago, those who have seen their lives completely turned upside down. This is the twentieth story of “Life turned upside down.

STATEN ISLAND, NY – Danielle E. Caminiti, 45, lawyer and single mother, has not spent a day in a New York courtroom in seven months since the coronavirus (COVID-19) closed the courts .

Before the global pandemic, Caminiti – owner of a litigation law firm called Have U Covered LLC – said she was working hard and earning a living wage to support herself and her son. As a lawyer who has covered a range of civil court appearances and attorney depositions across New York City, her job has depended on the volume of appearances and the openness of courts.

“Frankly, I was very busy and doing pretty well. … I have a business where I represent other attorneys in court all over New York and the State. Because lawyers can’t be in five counties on the same day, they use per diems or independent contractors appearing for them, ”she said, noting that she previously worked for other law firms. attorneys and was an attorney in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, but chose to start her per diem business so that she could be more present for her son.

With many legal proceedings now virtual, law firms that use Caminiti on a daily basis hardly use its services. And Caminiti pays monthly rent for an office in Queens across from the Supreme Court that she can’t even use.

“A lot of cases are just adjourned. Nothing gets done. Many cases are in limbo where clients fail to sort out anything. With virtual procedures, you can only spend a certain number of days. They don’t really need per diem lawyers anymore because they [law firms] manage everything internally, ”she said, noting that she had up to 30 cases per day. “I can count on my hand how many virtual conferences I have given [during the pandemic]. “

Caminiti has not spent a day in a New York City courtroom in seven months since the coronavirus closed the courts. (Courtesy of Danielle E. Caminiti)

To help pay her bills, Caminiti received a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), but it ran out. She said she received unemployment money on days she was not working, but it was not enough to pay for her expenses.

“Financially, it was a big blow. You can get by with unemployment and the P3 loan for a while, especially since I have to cover my medical expenses, rent, and other expenses. The expenses have remained the same, but the income has changed, ”Caminiti said.

With the need to earn money to support herself and her son, she tapped into “what else she could do.”

‘COVERED IN THE KITCHEN’

“Italian-American on both sides of my family, I have always had a passion for cooking, and lately since COVID-19, I have had time to actively pursue my dream a lot more,” Caminiti said. “My grandparents grew up in Little Italy in Manhattan. And although we were Americans, we still have many Italian traditions, like Sunday dinner, Christmas food and recipes. I grew up in a family with a lot of cooking.

So she decided to put her passion for cooking into action.

Caminiti recently became a “culinary artist” and launched Have U Covered in the Kitchen, which offers family recipes and cooking classes for everything from appetizers to desserts. She also sells some of her specialties online.

A self-proclaimed “type A” personality, she already has a website, YouTube channel, Instagram and a Facebook page to attract customers. She has just started Zoom cooking classes and is working on a cookbook.

“Unless you go on to graduate from Nana University and Grandma’s College, I have no formal cooking training and all of my cooking was done at home. People who know me love my cooking almost as much as I love cooking. I joke with friends that most of my net worth is in kitchen appliances, pots and pans, ”Caminiti said.

“I am formally trained in law and motherhood. The kitchen was just an outlet for me. Now it has become my daily subsistence, my life support, so to speak,” she added.

Its specialties include a range of pastas, including crab sauce, as well as many non-Italian-inspired delicacies like hot sauce and homemade jam, caramel, and Asian-inspired dishes.

And in some ways, Caminiti said she was grateful that the pandemic gave her this opportunity to find a way to monetize her favorite hobby.

“I believe that life gives you these breaks as gifts sometimes to be more introspective and try to cultivate other passions and interests,” she said.

The hobby-turned-business has also helped Caminiti overcome the feelings of isolation and confinement that the pandemic has caused many people.

“Cooking keeps me sane in these uncertain times, feeds my family and allows me to be creative and free. I don’t know if and to what extent my [law] business will come back. But for now, I have told my clients, until I can cover you again in the courtroom, I will cover you in the kitchen, ”she said.

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