I think that people have a right to know something about the lawyer they hire, so this is my story.
I was born in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. My parents were hard-working people who struggled to get by. They worked at low-wage blue collar jobs from the time they were teenagers – both of them quit high school to go to work – and they were “working poor” long before there was a word for it.
My parents did such a good job taking care of me that I didn’t understand until much later how hard it had been for them. They taught me that hard work is something to be proud of, regardless of whether your work is to design a beautiful building, to lay the bricks that build it, or to empty the trashcans inside. My parents taught me that knowledge is power, and they made sure I understood that a person’s bank balance has nothing to do with his or her real worth.
Right after high school my plan was to move to Southern California and become a rich and famous rock guitarist. Instead, I stayed in Northeast Pennsylvania and became an impoverished, obscure rock guitarist. I spent a few years playing with local bands in NEPA bars, nightclubs, basements and gyms. Sometimes we actually got paid. Sometimes. By this time I was helping my parents make ends meet, so I financed my “music career” – and paid the bills – by working for whoever would hire a wanna-be rock star – gas stations, factories, retail, sales – I did just about everything you can legally do for money.
I eventually found my way into the social services field and worked my way through college by helping developmentally disabled adults who were adjusting to life in the community after years of institutions. My career in social services later led me to a position with a Job Corps program, helping young people from urban areas finish school and learn a trade. I’m proud to say that I was actively involved in a successful effort to bring union representation to my workplace. I really enjoyed helping to empower the young people at Job Corps. I always root for the underdog.
Eventually I went to law school at Temple University in Philadelphia. At Temple, I participated in the nationally recognized trial advocacy program, and earned membership in the Moot Court Honor Society.
I live in Northeastern Pennsylvania with my wife and son, the future President of the United States. I still play guitar, but mostly at home and in my friend’s basement once a week.
So why does all that matter? Maybe it doesn’t. But I think that my background helps me to understand my clients, and I think that makes me a better lawyer. Unlike many members of the bar, I am not a third or fourth generation lawyer. I was the first in my immediate family to finish high school, let alone go to college or graduate school. I know what it means to struggle. I know what it feels like to believe that you are powerless. I know how hard it can be to fight back. But I also know that you can fight back, and that you can win. I believe that there is justice in the world, but it takes work.
I will never forget watching my Mom be reduced to tears by a bill collector on the telephone. My parents weren’t wealthy or well-educated,so they had to take a lot of abuse from people – employers, bill collectors, landlords, etc. Bullies, all of them.
I don’t like bullies. I don’t like people or companies that push others around or that think they are above the law. I don’t like people who think they can put others down because of their economic status, race, age, gender, language, culture, disability or sexual orientation. The very best part of my job is when I can help to hold those kind of bullies accountable. My Dad taught me that the best way to handle a bully was to fight back. He was right.
I have been blessed with the tools and experience to help good people fight back, and it is my privilege to do so.