March 16, 2018
President’s Message By Hal Coffey
The role of ACBA president requires attendance at a number of conferences that at times blend together. The same ideas, same motivational verbiage, same concerns for the future, same goal of connecting with millennials and social media. While sitting at the Conference of County Bar Leaders in Lancaster, I was ready for the possibility of falling into the same rut, but then I saw the theme of the conference: baseball. With seminar titles such as “Put Me in Coach” and “Moneyball” and “Working the Umpire,” my interest was piqued. Add in Joe Lunardi talking about “Crafting the Perfect Response” – and a little bit of college basketball to boot – and I really enjoyed the sessions.
One of my colleagues who I have met through the years in PBA and related events saw me wearing a Pirates shirt at one of the social functions and remarked “oh, you’re a baseball fan?” In that moment, I realized that not everyone knows about the interests and activities for which I dedicate my time and passion outside of the practice of law and bar association. Though it is a bit late in my term, now might be as good a time as any to let you in a little more into my world.
Beyond watching (and crying over) the Pirates, my baseball passion has been coaching my twin boys’ youth baseball teams through the Squirrel Hill Baseball Association. I was an AWFUL player as a kid during my two years of playing in Monroeville, where the only chance I had for setting foot on first base was to get hit by a pitch. But it has been an absolute blast coaching my boys and others for the in-house and summer tournament teams for the past four years and counting. As so much of my life comes back to the ACBA, what really makes any of our success and fun possible is my coaching partner, Irv Firman of Tucker Arensberg, and tremendous helping parents like Luke Paglia of BNY Mellon and Joshua Farber of Clark Hill.
While being a terrible team-sports athlete as a kid (a trend that didn’t get much better in ACBA Basketball – just ask Mark Gubinsky and Stuart Sostmann), I may have found my niche in running and triathlons over the last 10 or so years. A chance at the Summer Olympics isn’t in my future, but I have really enjoyed participating in the EQT Ten Miler, a couple of marathons and a handful of triathlons at various distances. Even more so, commuting to work by running through Oakland and Uptown or biking along the Eliza Furnace and South Side Trails helps me get ready for the day ahead or decompress from the work day. Some days, when I need a break, I have routes of three, five and seven miles set up around town, so if you have an interest, feel free to reach out to me.
When looking to recover from those runs, and after getting enough water, my beverage of choice is iced tea (never coffee – yeah, weird, given my last name and our Coffee with Coffey program, but work with me). And that also carries over to evening functions, which explains why I don’t attend too many happy hours or similar events. Though not a teetotaler, alcohol is not really my thing. Neither are pork, shellfish and cheeseburgers, but for those items, it is a product of my ala cart observance of Kosher dietary laws. That was a decision I made after my Bar Mitzvah many years ago but have carried forward as my own sacrifice and adherence to my connection with being Jewish.
The lessons I learned through my parents and Jewish education formed the belief system I carry today in my public service and volunteer efforts. Again, beyond bar association and pro bono work, what I enjoy doing to give back includes my time with the Josh Gibson Foundation, B’nai B’rith Youth Organization and Rodef Shalom Congregation. In between these activities, I love listening to podcasts (mostly via NPR shows and during workouts), reading fiction books by David Ignatius, Daniel Silva, David Baldacci and Dan Brown and nonfiction – mostly around diplomacy and U.S. history.
With all that being said, I am amazed by ACBA colleagues and their public service through sitting on their local zoning and municipal boards, lay leadership in their religious institutions, coaching numerous sports and academic teams for their kids, presiding on school boards and the multitude of other great work we all do each day outside the practice of law. I am given the space to relate my own experiences in this column, but I urge each of you to let others know of all the good work you do through social media and in regular discussions. It is not merely about self-promotion, it is about showing colleagues and others the duty that goes along with being a lawyer and inspiring others to commit to similar efforts. And it also leads to opportunities for us all to further connect as a legal community.