President’s Message
November 24, 2017
This time of year about more than Thanksgiving
Annual traditions include honoring longtime practitioners, admitting new lawyers
By Hal Coffey

This is the time of year where we all take stock of what leads us to give thanks. That and a ridiculous amount of starch-laden side dishes while communing with cousins and friends we see too infrequently. Or in some cases, seeing those folks once a year is more than enough.

Traditions are a part of our collective way of life. The diversity of our communities enable us to learn new traditions from cultures, religions and faiths of all different sorts. One great tradition in the ACBA is the annual celebration of our colleagues who have been practicing law for 50 and 60 years. We convene this celebration at the Duquesne Club each year, led by speakers representing each group. This year’s celebration is Nov. 27.

The stories told at this reception run the gamut from tales of being the only woman in the entire law school class to entering law school just after fighting in World War II to learning to adapt to the changing landscape that is the practice of law. Having an appreciation for those who came before many of us in the bar is one thing, but getting to hear the tales of the road to today’s practice is eye opening.

On the other end of the spectrum, this time of year also brings a new crop of admittees to the bar. I relish the opportunity to address the newest class being admitted to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania on Dec. 12. My favorite part of the proceeding is getting to talk to the families of the admittees in the breakfast reception before the swearing in. It is wonderful to feel the pride beaming from the parents and siblings, meeting the children who grew up while the parent made it through night school and listening to second-career barristers who relish the opportunities that await in their next experience.

The past few weeks have taken me back to my first career: journalism. Before law school, I was a sports reporter and desk editor at a small newspaper in Lynchburg, Va., and then covered some eastern suburbs for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and did some stringing here and there. My flashback came while appearing on Ellis Cannon’s NightTalk program on PCNC and being interviewed for KQV and WESA on the radio front. All of this was in support of the ACBA’s efforts to inform the public about our judicial ratings and the Judicial Excellence Committee’s retention campaign. In the end, I’m very pleased to see all six of our recommended judges and justice retained through the tireless efforts of committee Chair Melaine Shannon Rothey and the entire Judicial Excellence Committee.

As to the day job, this time of year also brings surprise clients and deals that need to get under contract and closed before the calendar reaches January. My work as a commercial real estate attorney and past life as a reporter carry some significant parallels. Both require me to be an expert on a new topic each day and to be able to toggle between a variety of business worlds, many at the same time. But the critical similarity is the adrenaline rush and really constant need for the deadline fix. Nothing gets the creativity – and stress level – going like staring a deadline right in the face.

So as we all find ways to get those A/Rs paid up to date or get that one last push of billable hours to reach an annual goal or rush to the recording office (or more likely, hitting “send” on a filing) to close that one last big deal for 2017, make sure to take account for what you give thanks and let those who support and cheer you on know that you appreciate their efforts through the year.

Allegheny County Bar Foundation Lawyer Referral Service