July 7, 2017
Looking forward to a year of outreach, defending the rule of law and, yes, coffee
By Hal Coffey
Through my working life, I have had numerous titles: waiter, tennis instructor, newspaper reporter and commercial real estate attorney to name a few. When people asked the proverbial “what do you do?” just mentioning one of those monikers was sufficient. On July 1, I began a new venture: Allegheny County Bar Association president. With that title, I am going to have to provide a bit more of an explanation.
“What does the bar association do?” “What does being its ‘president’ entail?” “Why would you want such a position?” “Does this mean you can finally make a decent cocktail?”
The ACBA means different things to different people. But to me, it means finding my place in this profession. It means getting to know fellow attorneys from vastly different backgrounds, belief systems and spots on the political spectrum. It means discovering pro bono and public service opportunities within and outside my daily area of practice. It means reciprocal referrals of work and back-and-forth of the practice issues of the day. It means joining together to make a statement to support, protect and defend the rule of law, those less fortunate and the civility that being a Pittsburgh lawyer means.
As president, I intend to represent before the public, press, politicians and the bench those nearly 6,000 members of the ACBA – and those practitioners who have not yet, but soon will, make the leap into our midst. During my presidential year, I intend to reach out to our colleagues working in-house as corporate counsel and to those practicing outside of the central business district. This will include broad concepts such as planning panel discussions, CLEs and events in the suburbs.
And it will include Coffee with Coffey – what, you were expecting I wouldn’t stoop to such a level with my last name? At each Coffee with Coffey get-together, I will be joined by leaders of our various sections, divisions and committees for breakfast, coffee and tea in an outreach to members and nonmembers in a variety of suburban communities. We will kick off on Wednesday, July 12, from 7:30 to 9:00 a.m. in the Panera Bread at Montour Church Place in Robinson Township. Subsequent visits will be at the same time on the first Wednesday of each month in great morning spots in Monroeville, the East End, Mt. Lebanon, Sewickley and other communities. I hope you will join me to talk about the ACBA and legal topics and concerns of the day either before heading downtown for work or within your own work community.
Those type of interactions are why I sought to become the 131st president of the ACBA. It is also because I want to continue and expand our work in gender equality and diversity in the practice, workplace and pipeline to the profession. As a transactional attorney, I hope to educate the public and our profession on the varied role of counselors at law while not losing sight of the importance of maintaining and enhancing the bond between the bench and the bar.
That being said, we cannot lose sight of what taints our profession’s image in the community at large. It is not lawyer jokes but rather lawyers and judges acting unethically and unprofessionally – and our own failures to speak up and put a stop to it. As officers of the court, we cannot rely on others to put a stop to these continuing issues. Be vigilant in your own practice and in the interest of the profession.
Though I may be the last person you want to mix you a decent martini or to pair a wine with a shared meal, I plan to share my other interests with those already so inclined as well as those willing to give it a try. That includes joining me on some of my running routes downtown, playing some tennis, commiserating over the Pirates or discussing world religions.
If you see me running along Penn Avenue or biking in to work on Grant Street or milling around downtown and the Koppers Building or at one of the Coffee with Coffey events, please say “hi” and let me know how the ACBA and I can enhance your practice and our shared profession.