The Return of Lenny Sanz

Employment plaintiff attorney Leonard H. Sansanowicz learned empathy as an actor opposite (among others) Steve Carrell

Published in 2015 Southern California Rising Stars — July 2015

In his third year of law school, Leonard H. Sansanowicz was riding the elevator in the U.S. Attorney’s Office with friends and fellow externs when an assistant U.S. attorney stepped into the elevator, took one look at him and exclaimed, “You’re my criminal!”

Sansanowicz, formerly an actor with the stage name Lenny Sanz, had done a training video some years earlier for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in which he played a criminal defendant. “The assistant U.S. attorney had written the script and immediately took me and the other students up to a conference room and made us watch this 45-minute training video. Apparently, it had won some award.”

After graduating from the City College of New York with a B.F.A. in 1993, Sansanowicz dabbled in film, stage and television. “I was the kiss of death for every show I appeared on,” he says. “In the premiere episode of a comedy Come to Papa, I had a scene with Steve Carrell. The episode aired in June 2004, and by August I was sitting in torts class.”

Sansanowicz likes to say that he went to law school to buy his 5-year-old daughter a dog—but first he needed to get the house with a yard.

He started out in employment law working for “wage and hour guru” Steven Pearl. In January 2014 he joined Feldman Browne Olivares, where he’s built upon his practice representing clients in employment disputes.

In a five-week trial in Riverside County last fall, he was on a team that secured nearly $1.7 million for a 63-year-old man, originally from Mexico and now a U.S. citizen, who worked for Costco’s distribution warehouse and alleged wrongful termination, disability discrimination and defamation. The case is currently on appeal. 

“Earlier in my career I was at a mediation with three plaintiff construction workers, all from Central American countries,” Sansanowicz recalls. “One of the guys sits down and says he had worked all night, running on fumes and Coca-Cola. He said that ever since he got here, he’s been scraping and saving to send money to his mother so she can buy milk. And with this settlement, he’ll be able to buy her a cow. It was a good reminder to me of how these settlements make a tangible difference in people’s lives.”

Sansanowicz says wage-and-hour litigation is a fertile area of the law. “We see the effects of larger companies and outsourcing,” he says. “Everyone’s trying to do more with less.” There are also serious attempts to erode people’s access to the legal system, he says, with a big emphasis on arbitration as an alternative to trial.

“My experience as an actor taught me empathy for those who are powerless,” he says. “I know what it is like to be looked down upon, to be treated as if I were fungible and as interchangeable as a ballpoint pen. I was fired from jobs, I was rejected frequently, and I worked in my fair share of low-paying positions. … We all have to ask ourselves what kind of society we want to have.”

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