NEW YORK – The Hellenic Lawyers Association (HLA) honored Nicholas Karambelas as its Attorney of the Year at its annual gala on November 13.
While his career and contributions to Hellenism and the community are exceptional, Karambelas’ story is typical among children of immigrants.
Hard work, integrity, and education were driving forces Karambelas’ family experience. His sister Debbie is a retired psychiatric nurse and the law firm he cofounded, Sfikas & Karambelas, LLP: Areas of Practice, has offices law in New York and Washington, DC.
All his grandparents came to the U.S. from Laconia and both his parents were born in America, his father George in Ashville, NC and his mother Helen in Cambridge, MA.
His family roots intertwine with genuine 20th century Americana. His grandfather knew Thomas Wolfe, beloved author or You Can’t Go Home Again. “Thomas Wolfe used to go into his restaurant which was by the train station – it was called the Atlanta Quick Lunch – after an all-night bender.”
The same pappou joined the Garibaldi Division of Greek-Americans who fought for Greece in the Balkan wars. He then married Karambelas’ grandmother and had six children.
His parents, George Karambelas and Helen Darviris, met right after WWII when his father attended MIT on the GI Bill of Rights, introduced by a mutual friend.
After Karambelas’ father joined Price-Waterhouse, the family moved to Brooklyn, where Karambelas was born, and attended St. Constantine and Helen. His father was later asked to open offices in Puerto Rico – where they lived four years – and then in Athens in 1966, where he and his sister enrolled at the American Community School.
A passionate Hellene, living in Greece fired Karambelas’ dreams of becoming an archaeologist, but that was last postponed when he earned his Master’s in international affairs from Columbia University.
That led to his first job, working for Eugene Rossides at the American Hellenic Institute in Washington, DC in in 1979.
“My main duty was to work on the guide for investors titled “Doing Business in Greece” but as time went on I got involved in the policy end of AHI, participating in the lobbying effort, writing position papers and other research.”
After beginning to practice law – in the late 1990s he established his firm with Perry Sfikas – Karambelas’ AHI work was on a volunteer basis. As is well-known, such endeavors involve at least a blessing from, if not a something of a partnership – with one’s spouse.
“I met my sainted wife Deirdre in 1984 and we were married in 1988,” he said.
In response to TNH’s question “why do you call her sainted” he said, “so she won’t beat me up.” Asked if that had to do with the time and energy he pours into the community,” he replied quickly and simply: “right.”
Karambelas offered TNH his view regarding prospects for a Cyprus breakthrough, saying “I don’t expect anything from Erdogan.”
Karambelas is currently looking at what U.S. government programs are available to help Greece, including the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). Until now the community has been told they are for developing countries “but we have learned that there is a ‘carve out’ for Israel with all these programs and our objective is to create one for Greece,” as another U.S. ally with special needs.
His practice covers business organization – company law – securities, e-commerce, international trade, and franchising, and his books include a three-volume treatise on limited liability companies and an e-book for foreigners doing business in the U.S.
Politico recently published an article he wrote that explored the history – and corrected the record – of the debt crises of the modern Greek state – many exacerbated by actions of the Great Powers. There were times when they supported Greek economic development and industrialization, but sometimes they undermined it.