When it comes to heart-wrenching inspirational stories, Adam Leitman Bailey’s could give a Hollywood underdog flick a run for its money.

Today, Bailey’s voice is one of the most resonant and influential in New York’s real estate legal sector. He helms an eponymous law firm that, under his direction, has inspired new legislation across every facet of real estate law. Over twenty-plus years of practice, Bailey’s capable hands have done much to shape the very way that New York practices real estate law.

Consider his track record. Even at its briefest, Adam Leitman Bailey’s resume encompasses a few of the most recognizable and influential real estate cases of the new millennium. He reminded New York City courts of the constitutional imperative of religious freedom in the Ground Zero Mosque case; he inspired a new law protecting underdog tenants when his arguments compelled the Appellate Division to grant standing to a non-shareholder who sued a cooperative board for religious discrimination after it illegally rejected a Holocaust survivor; and, he even penned his name in New York’s pizza history after he helped his client, Patsy’s of Harlem, compel another restaurant using the same name to change its moniker.

But before all that, Adam Leitman Bailey was just a kid from Queens who faced more than his share of hard knocks. He was bullied, forced to endure family strife, and subjected to the constant stresses and anxieties of extreme financial insecurity. He dreamed of fixing the injustices he saw, only to be dismissed by those who believed that a kid like him would never achieve success.

And yet, he overcame.

How did Adam Leitman Bailey, an overburdened child from Queens, vault societal barriers and become one of the foremost names in New York City real estate? As he tells it, his success stems from three essential characteristics that anyone can adopt, regardless of their circumstances.

Secret #1: Unyielding Discipline

For Adam Leitman Bailey, self-control isn’t a goal — it’s a lifelong philosophy. He doesn’t drink, partake in extravagant social events, indulge in unhealthy food, or even curse. His social life is, by his own description, quiet. He divides the vast majority of his waking hours into two pursuits: working and spending time with his family.

Bailey views his self-discipline as a significant driver behind his professional success. He reasons that he can apply the lion’s share of his creative energies to his work because he dedicates so little of his energies to frivolous pursuits.

While it’s true that not everyone can align their lifestyles within Adam Leitman Bailey’s strict limitations, there is a lesson to be learned in his example. Think: are there any frivolous activities in your schedule that can be pared back or removed? What can you do to maximize the time and energy you spend furthering your career?

Secret #2: A Merit-Based Philosophy

As an underdog who worked himself into near-exhaustion to overcome socioeconomic barriers and prove himself as a lawyer, Adam Leitman Bailey has an understandable lack of patience for unearned success.

Adam Leitman Bailey P.C. has made a practice of recruiting top-performers from local law schools in New York and New Jersey, disdaining the industry’s notorious preference for Ivy League schools and their rich, legacy-appointed graduates. He seeks to nurture those he calls “street lawyers” — the people who are smart, dedicated, and hungry for success. It’s a strategy that fosters diversity and team achievement; today, nearly 50 percent of the firm’s lawyers are female, and its staff collectively represents several races, ethnicities, and countries.

The success of Adam Leitman Bailey’s merit-based philosophy demonstrates that prestige is a poor marker of potential. As you pursue success in your career, judge yourself and others by the strength of their efforts and the breadth of their accomplishments, rather than by the gloss of their appearance.

Secret #3: Self-Respect Above All Else

Adam Leitman Bailey wholeheartedly believes that if you don’t respect yourself or your work, no one else will, either.

Bailey learned this lesson early. During one of his first appearances in housing court, Bailey was shocked to see that the other lawyers in attendance wore wrinkled suits and crooked ties; he could tell at a glance that they cared little for the professionalism of their attire. More than once, Bailey was scoffed at for his crisp, pressed suits and asked why he took real estate law proceedings so seriously.

In an interview, Bailey says that he remembers thinking, “My client is paying me a lot of money to represent them. This is our job. Aren’t we supposed to take this seriously? Aren’t we supposed to fight for our clients’ rights?”

Those early experiences inspired him to view himself as a new kind of real estate lawyer: one who offered a high caliber of service and took pride in his work. His clear sense of self-respect spread through his firm and, ultimately, across New York’s real estate law sector. Today, few real estate lawyers are subjected to scoffs because of their profession.

The lesson here? Respect is important — and it starts with you. Don’t let others’ sneers degrade your perception of yourself or your work. Present yourself to the best of your ability; respect will follow.

Over the two-plus decades that Adam Leitman Bailey has spent in New York real estate law, he has established himself as a force to be reckoned with. His successes are self-evident, his expertise unassailable. And yet, Bailey isn’t superhuman. His achievements stem back to these simple, common qualities: discipline, merit, and respect. If you can adopt those three principles as thoroughly as he has, you too can shatter expectations and find success.

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