AWBPC Quarterly News:
In Memorium: Previously, I have posted in remembrance of my parents William and Anne Barbin, my grandfather/mentor Andrew J. Gleason, and my friend and colleague, in law and politics, Jason Kutulakis. More recently the passing of my Father-in law, Charles P. Gerstenmaier, as good a man as I have known, and a second father for 32 years.Today I add a Giant of the GOP Summit County GOP Chairman for nearly 4 decades Alex Arshinkoff.
As summer ends, I continue to enjoy scenic vistas as I cross the Commonwealth for matters in Cambria, Centre, Snyder, Juniata, Mifflin, Huntingdon, Perry, Lebanon, Luzerne, and Montgomery counties, as well as enjoying a little more time closer to home in Cumberland, Dauphin, York and Lancaster counties.
En Banc argument in an Estate Case in Pittsburgh starts the fall season. Favorable decision in a prior appeal and two Preliminary objection matters has the litigation ball rolling. Several custody cases, an ADA accommodation matter, a non-profit dispute, contract and insurance issues in construction matters, disability insurance claims, business disputes and a Board of Claims matter along with the usual collection of employment cases will keep me busy through Fall.
I completed PBA Wills for Heroes in Lebanon, Cumberland and Dauphin Counties and a DCBA Homeless Outreach program this summer as well as Presenting the NBI Social Media program in Allentown this summer.
will be doing a Dauphin County
Wills for Heroes on September 9, 2017;
planning is ongoing for a Wills for Heroes event to cover Mifflin,
Juniatta and Snyder Counties in the spring, along with some traveling assignments in other counties.
I will be reprising an updated version of the National Business Institute "How to Get Your Social Media, Email and Text Evidence Admitted (and Keep Theirs Out)" in Harrisburg, Pa in November.
PBA Recognized my Pro Bono efforts:
Diane G. Barbin, Business Manager. Diane's necessary assistance following my long time office manager's retirement is being lightened following the new year to focus on business/payments matters, with our new employee picking up the other functions.
Jamie Braafhart, Office Manager. Jamie brings considerable legal, real estate and office management experience to the firm and will hand, reception, filing and litigation support activities.
AWBPC Practice Summary
Law and politics are the art of the possible, but often depend on the personal. Ethical lawyers do not make up facts (or allow their clients to do so). Lawyers also do not make up the applicable laws, or control their interpretation.
What lawyers actually do is apply their education, experience and creativity to determine options and maximize possible outcomes. Winning, whether it is a simple contract negotiation or full blown litigation, is generally about marshaling and organizing facts, law and theories to move the resolution from one end of the range of possibility/probability to the other.
While some clients, either from the nature of their business or their temperament, may be frequent fliers, the vast majority of clients are first time or infrequent fliers, and few are actually looking forward to the trip.
I am an Attorney and Counselor at Law. Counseling is an important aspect of the job, particularly with regard to litigation which will affect the individual his or her family, business and other relationships beyond the direct participants. Knowing it, and being prepared to meet the challenges, is essential to managing the impact of any litigation.
The most important thing an attorney can do at the outset is to summarize the general principles of law involved, assist the client in distinguishing grain from chaff, while putting together the initial narrative that will guide future efforts. The purpose is not merely triage, it is also to give the client the peace of mind that comes from knowing "what can be done, will be done."
In the first three decades of practice, I have generally sought out litigation with an unbalanced field, novel issues or a reasonable degree of legal or factual complexity. One simply does not earn a seat in Valhalla doing only "right angle" accident cases. Having just passed the speed limit (55) I now see some merit in balancing the dragon quests with lesser but still honorable quests. There will always be something in my Scots/Irish Viking heritage that loves a battle with difficult odds; but not every story needs to be an epic.
For that reason, I am now seeking and accepting more mundane matters that experience allows me to resolve with efficiency as well as creativity.
All I really require is that the mutually agreed goals for the representation be something I can accept as honorable. I do not judge; but I have a non-delegable duty to be a reasonable steward of the gifts I was given and have developed. Part of that stewardship obligation is performed in the screening of cases and clients. I am in no sense a gun for hire.
Even as to those clients I decline to represent, I can generally send them in a productive direction. There is a correct tool for every job, and if I am not the correct tool for a particular job and I can think of others who might be, I will refer the prospective client to them. A jack of all trades, can master none. That is particularly true in the practice of law.
In recent years, I have begun to accept some less complicated work closer to home. I have reached a point in my career where an occasional less complicated matter closer to home can seem an altogether pleasant break from the grind of circuit riding litigation. At the same time, I love the adventure involved in traveling to and practicing in the courthouses and communities of this great Commonwealth. Often the highlight of the day is not in Court but in the place I stop to eat and meeting people I have not previously met and may never meat again.
There was a time when I said, "no Criminal, no Divorce, no Bankruptcy; no exceptions." God laughed.
Peculiar circumstances would then draw me into litigation in family law, estates and bankruptcy matters. I remain circumspect, but I no longer have any hard exclusions. It is likely the trend will continue, if only because the cases are more interesting than I had expected, and there is often a call for mediation skills to reach creative resolutions in such cases to avoid litigation which will only serve to dissipate already too scarce assets and add fuel to unproductive fires.
For 30 years, I have followed a strict no advertising policy (excluding myself from the yellow page lawyer listings, and leaving off profession or phone number references from sponsor ads in school publications). I find most legal ads distasteful at best, and have no desire to kiss the frogs advertising would attract in search of the occasional prince or princess who may chance to contact me in that way. Even this, though, seems now an artificial absolute. This website is my compromise.
About 80% of my work comes from referrals from colleagues, former adversaries, and clients, and from Cumberland and Dauphin County Bar Association referral programs. There are also a certain number of Karma or serendipity cases. Chance encounters are not always a matter of chance. Indeed, with Lincoln, I would have to admit that "there is no room for coincidence in my philosophy."
General practice attorneys in solo or small to mid-sized firms can get bogged down in time consuming litigation which can hinder and jeopardize relations in their regular non-litigation practice. If the client is sent out to a larger firm with a dedicated litigation group, there is always a risk the client will not return. Various attorneys across the Commonwealth are aware that I may be contacted for assistance in such matters.
When I am called in for litigation assistance, local counsel remains as active as local counsel and the client desire; and local counsel may rest assured that I have neither intention nor interest in stealing the client. Local small firm attorneys offer a real value to local businesses, particularly by knowing their communities and being able to guide their clients away from conflicts and serving as an honest broker in conflicts between local parties who will have to continue interaction after the present conflict is resolved. Litigation often requires other skills altogether, though the desire to seek a path of reasonable resolution should never be lost, even in the most acrimonious cases.
I am also called in periodically when the town equivalent of "Mr. Potter" from "It's A Wonderful Life" is spinning webs of injustice, and a local attorney (who has no desire for direct involvement) will call and refer a case to me, secure in the knowledge that their name will never be associated with the matter. Those have been some of my favorite matters. Jimmy Stewart remains my favorite actor and role model to some extent..
Current Rates and Payment Matters:
My current undiscounted rate is $350/hr. I discount 25/hr for cases referred by a colleague or prior client. Veterans and immediate family members receive a $25/hr discount in respect of that service.
I participate in DCBA and CCBA pro bono programs (which have eligibility screening) as well as Veteran service programs (Wills for Heroes, Stand Down, Bar VA Committee referrals) and will occasionally alter terms as my idiosyncratic view of the balance of my stewardship and equity obligations dictate. However, I have found in recent years that there is real truth in the expression "we esteem little, what we receive cheaply." Those who can pay should pay. I have become less flexible on rates partly because those who have benefited from such flexibility have often been slower payers and less grateful at the end of the day.
I note that an hourly rate is only one variable in the cost benefit analysis. "Times What, For What?" remains the key question: how many hours will it take and for what result.
Practice Focuses: While I might accept any matter if it were sufficiently interesting and I felt sufficiently qualified; my practice is concentrated on matters related to: Contract Disputes; Business litigation; Employment law; Defamation claims; Construction litigation; Franchisee representation, Business Ownership "divorces;" Non-Compete Disputes, Non-Profit representation; Civil Appeals; and Ethics and Licensing Board matters. A slowly growing portion of my practice includes complex Family Law and Estate Litigation matters regionally and on a selective basis.
Dispute Resolution. While I enjoy litigation, it is the responsibility of every honorable litigator to seek peace on reasonable and acceptable terms. Where both counsel are reasonable and competent, the risk of not settling should eventually exceed the probable benefit of not settling; at that point, the appropriate settlement ranges will overlap and the interests both parties would then be served by settlement. There are exceptions; but most cases can and should settle once material facts are known and options can be reasonably assessed. It is unwise to settle too early, it is fool-hearty to settle too late. Like most aspects of law, it is more art than science.
The last nickel always costs too much.
Mediation Works. I helped create Bar Association sponsored Alternative Dispute Resolution programs in Montgomery, Dauphin and Cumberland Counties; I teach ADR CLE courses periodically and serve as Mediator/Arbitrator in paid and volunteer settings. I also regularly participate in mediation as an advocate. Even when a case does not settle, mediation can expedite information exchange, target discovery and narrow issues in ways which materially reduced litigation expense. It may not be right for all cases; but it is useful in many, if not most.
Community Activities. All gifts come with responsibilities. Public service is a privilege, as well as an obligation. That "it is better to give than receive" is a statement of fact as well as morality. My CV's summarizes not only legal credentials, but also community associations and involvements. I ask "What Kind of World Do I Want," and then I do my best to "Be the Change I Seek."
Buttons on the left side of the web page link to AWBPC related information, my various blogs and CLE materials and video. The pictures are to put a human face and balance the Oz like accolades. If you cut me I bleed.
Our staff and clients are encouraged to do likewise. My clients often find that participation in Community Activities provides an inoculation against the stress of litigation and a counterbalance to the other demands of life. It is one thing to write a check, another to go to the need and meet it - eye to eye and heart to heart.
Community Involvement is a cheap form of Mental Health Insurance.
The Road to Here:
Not entirely random snippets of a life path headed in a singular direction, to the place I was meant to be, rather than precisely the place I had sought to be, or expected to be. A place I would not change for anything....
AWBPC Page Links - More Detailed information
AWB Blog Links: Another Window Into My World
Sampling of AWB CLE Materials & Video Excerpts
AWBPC Official Client Meeting Scheduling Policy
The practice of law requires a sense of humor. Whether I have one depends on who you ask. Many communications to clients and opposing counsel are peppered with puns and sprinkled with famous and obscure quotations, literary references and movie excerpt hyperlinks. Somehow this clip from Guys and Dolls seemed appropriate to serve as fair warning to prospective clients.....