Tell us a little bit about your career.
I have been a private practitioner my entire career and have practiced in both a small and mid-sized law firm in my hometown, Cincinnati, Ohio. I was admitted to the Ohio Bar in 1987 and started out as a general practitioner handling a wide variety of matters, including but not limited to, divorce, criminal law, bankruptcy, personal injury, workers’ compensation, estate planning, probate and business law. I pretty much did it all. I worked for a small firm which eventually came to be known as Hardin, Lefton, Lazarus & Marks. Approximately 12 years ago, I had an opportunity to merge my practice with a mid-sized Cincinnati firm, Barron Peck Bennie & Schlemmer, where I am an equity partner. Today, I concentrate my practice in the area of estate planning and probate and handle business transactional matters.
Intertwined, and part of my career, has been service to both the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) and the American Bar Association (ABA). Today I am a Member of the OSBA Board of Governors, Chair the OSBA Membership Committee, serve on the OSBA Council of Delegates, am Treasurer of the OSBA Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Section and am a two time past Chair of that Section. At the ABA, I have been very involved in GPSolo chairing numerous committees, serving multiple times as a Division Director, an Officer and am Past-Chair of the ABA GPSolo Division (FY2017). Most recently, I became involved in SLD and Chair SLD’s Member Benefit Committee. I’ve found that many years of membership, participation, and leadership in the bar association have offered me the opportunity to serve the profession while collaborating with other members, many of whom have become close friends. Thus, I consider service to the profession a significant part of my career.
What has been the highlight of your career?
There are a number of significant highlights including the honor of holding the positions outlined in my career. However, if I had to pick one case as a highlight, it would be a wrongful death trial I was involved with in Portugal. The case involved clients of mine that were traveling in Portugal. While traveling in Portugal, they were involved in a motor vehicle accident. Unfortunately, the wife passed away due to injuries from the accident. The probate for the deceased wife was in Cincinnati where the couple resided. However, the cause of action for wrongful death was in Portugal. On behalf of my client, I was able to retain counsel in Portugal and we jointly prepared the case and obtained a successful result. The highlight was experiencing the court system in a foreign country. I realized real quickly how different the Portuguese Court system is than our system. A few of the differences include defendants in the criminal system are not entitled to a speedy trial, there is not a right to a jury trial, and the criminal and civil case were combined into one trial before a judge. It was fascinating to be involved and observe the criminal and civil case being combined the trial and the experience is thus far the highlight of my career.
If you could go back to the beginning of your legal career, would you have done anything differently?
I don’t think so. This is an interesting question to ponder. I am very happy where I am today and if I went back to change something, there would be no guarantees I’d be in the same place today or as happy.
What advice would you give to someone considering law school today?
Learn the business of law. Law schools do a great job of teaching the law to students and preparing students for the bar exam. To thrive in private practice, I recommend learning and acquiring marketing/ entrepreneurial skills related to acquiring and keeping clients. I was fortunate to have earned a business degree in undergraduate school and worked in my father’s business during college summer breaks. I feel that entering the profession with a business and entrepreneurial background was helpful in growing and developing a law practice. If your law school offers it, take advantage of taking any class related to the business of practicing law and entrepreneurism.
What were the biggest changes you saw in the legal profession over the course of your career?
When I first started practicing computers, fax machines and the technology we have become accustomed to, were not present in law firms. Although there have been a number of significant changes, such as, relaxed rules with respect to attorney marketing, in my experience, the change that technology has brought to the practice of law is without a doubt the biggest change. The speed at which we can deliver services today is remarkedly faster and simpler. As one example, when I first started practicing a Will or Trust had to be typed, which took a legal assistant a fair amount of time. Today with Word and other programs, these and many other types of documents can be created much more quickly.
When did you first become a member of the ABA and why did you decide to join?
I first became a member in 2003 when I became an officer in the OSBA Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Section. At that time, the OSBA Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Section funded section officers to go to the corresponding ABA section meetings to share and develop resources. That was the reason I initially joined, but quickly learned of the significant resources the ABA had and have since been an ongoing active ABA member.
What has been the highlight of your work with the ABA?
The highlight of my work at the ABA occurred during my year as Chair of GPSolo. During my year as Chair the Division started the process of rebranding and creating new member benefits for Division members. I worked closely with former ABA Chief Revenue Officer, Steve Cone, who worked with me and our branding taskforce to develop a new tagline, improve our communications with members and explore and create new relationships with affinity partners to offer new member benefits to GPSolo members, all of which continue today.
If you had not become a lawyer, what do you think you would have done?
I would have gone into the family business. I learned quickly in college, I did not like the business and became interested in the law while taking a business law class in undergraduate school.