chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.
March 03, 2021 Profile

Editorial Board Member: Agnieszka (Agnes) Wilewicz

“I come from an insurance family,” says Agnieszka (Agnes) Wilewicz, the newest member of The Brief’s editorial board. “My mother was an underwriter before she became a broker, and my father has been a high-exposure ‘major claims guy’ for 30 years. We used to debate AI endorsements and anti-subrogation over Thanksgiving or Christmas. In fact, the running joke at the dinner table when I was a kid was that I would complete the trifecta by becoming a coverage attorney, and that’s exactly what happened. Since then, even my younger brother has become an insurance premium auditor.”

Agnes’s path to The Brief was a fairly straightforward, albeit eventful, one. Soon after starting law school in January 2005, the American Bar Association (ABA) was the first legal professional organization that Agnes joined. Knowing it to be a vast resource for education, networking, and professional development, she wanted to get involved as early as possible in her career. At the time, Agnes was attending St. John’s University Law School’s accelerated program, which permitted students to complete their juris doctor degrees in two and a half years (the credits from the traditional first semester were spread over the subsequent 1L and 2L summers). As fate would have it, however, just a few months later, at the start of her second year, Agnes and her partner found out that they were expecting a little girl. Agnes spent her second year of law school preparing and focusing her efforts on studying, while putting extracurriculars and networking on hold. She gave birth during finals week at the end of her 2L year, and later managed to graduate on time in May 2007.

After passing the New York bar exam the next year, Agnes began as an insurance defense litigator at Ahmuty, Demers & McManus. She handled cases throughout the NYC and Long Island areas, focusing on general commercial defense and environmental matters. She quickly discovered insurance coverage and was hooked. A voracious reader with an undergraduate degree in linguistics, she loved the nuance, detail, and exactitude that came with analyzing insurance contracts. “I find it fascinating that a case can hang on the placement of a comma,” she explains. “The fact that a rogue punctuation mark or difference in definitions can make or break a case always astounds me. I also particularly like that coverage has answers. It’s supremely satisfying when a court is convinced by your written arguments and adopts the analysis you had from the outset of a case.”

By 2009, Agnes began to grow restless and found that she missed academia. She started studying for graduate entrance exams and eventually enrolled in Penn State’s master of education program. While still practicing law full-time, she went on to earn her master’s, with a focus on adult education and a certificate in distance education. She would subsequently use her degree to start in-house continuing legal education programs in the law firms at which she worked.

To that end, opportunity came knocking one day when a colleague recommended that she explore a move to Upstate New York. Numerous firms in Buffalo, for instance, had robust statewide coverage practices and sought experienced lawyers with Downstate experience. Agnes was born in Poland, but her family moved to Syracuse, New York, when she was five, so she grew up in Central New York and then attended undergrad at the University at Buffalo. The thought of a different lifestyle, but one with ready access to New York City, was so appealing that she and her family made the move. Her partner, Jesse, had been working from home as a computer programmer for many years by then, so the logistics were fairly simple.

Now, and since 2015, Agnes has been with Hurwitz & Fine, where she practices primarily in the NYC metro area, but out of the Buffalo office. Before the pandemic, she would shuttle between her house in the Elmwood Village neighborhood near downtown Buffalo and her place in Melville on Long Island on a weekly basis. She was recently promoted to shareholder of the firm and continues to focus her practice on complex insurance coverage litigation, with a particular penchant for environmental coverage and defense.

In recent years, Agnes has been active in a number of professional organizations. She is a member of the Erie County Bar Association, the New York County Bar Association, and the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York, and she previously served as the chair of the Long Tail Toxic Tort Substantive Law Group of the Insurance Law Committee of DRI, the Defense Research Institute. She is also a member of the International Association of Forensic Linguists, which studies the language of the law, including how laws and legal documents are written, as well as how the words used by the police or lawyers influence witnesses or juries. However, she kept feeling the pull of the ABA and started to reconnect with contacts she had there. With the support of her firm, she was able to get very active, very quickly in TIPS.

Currently, Agnes serves as a vice-chair to the Insurance Coverage Litigation Committee, and was recently appointed the diversity vice-chair for the Excess, Surplus Lines and Reinsurance Committee. “I particularly love attending the Section conferences and the midyear committee meetings,” Agnes says. “They are a wonderful opportunity to meet people from every facet of the insurance industry, from other coverage lawyers to policyholder counsel, in-house representatives, or even industry leaders like IRMI and different states’ insurance departments. On a personal level, my engagement in the ABA brought me to places like California and Hawaii for the first time—memorable experiences for which I will be forever grateful.”

Outside of the practice of law, Agnes spends as much time as she can spare engaged in her favorite hobby—reading. She averages about 60 books a year and reads pretty much anything. Beyond that, she loves to travel with her daughter. They are also both active in their communities, and together in 2012 they cofounded the Girls Empowerment Movement, Inc. ( with their friends in Melville. This organization is principally an after-school program focused on the multigenerational empowerment of women and girls around the world. It has chapters throughout the country, as well as in India, and one of its current projects is funding and coordinating the building of a school in Umroi Madan Village in India. Agnes can be reached at [email protected].

The material in all ABA publications is copyrighted and may be reprinted by permission only. Request reprint permission here.