Our motivation starts with helping others.
The lawyers at Greater Good are passionate about supporting our community. We’re motivated to help our clients make the world a better place.
I’ve always wanted to use my law degree, knowledge, and experience to help others—especially those in need. I’ve worked for two well-known Lehigh Valley law firms for almost 30 years combined. But I always struggled with the feeling that while my work has been of benefit to some, I haven’t contributed to the greater good as often as I would have liked.
As I wrestled with these feelings, I often recalled a running conversation I used to have while I was in law school. Back then I had an older friend named Leonard. He and I, along with our wives, Sheila and Teresa, were co-leaders of the youth group at the church we attended in the Overbrook section of Philadelphia.
Leonard was a U.S. postal worker, and he and Sheila were always helping people in the neighborhoods along his mail route. They would buy Christmas presents for the children. They took people in who didn’t have a place to live. Leonard and Sheila even saved enough money to send one of the girls in the neighborhood to dental school. They were that couple who would do anything for anyone. (They were also modest and would hate me talking about them this way!)
From time to time, Leonard and I would talk about what I would do after I finished my law degree.
He would insist: “You’re going to be a corporate lawyer.”
I would respond: “No, I want to use my knowledge and skills to do good.”
Well, as often happens, one decision led to another, and almost before I knew it, nearly 30 years had passed. Until I started this practice, I felt I had not achieved my original goal that motivated me to go to law school.
Sadly, Leonard died some years ago. But I have always remembered those conversations and held on to the notion that, someday, I would do a better job of following his example.
My goal now is to use my legal knowledge and experience to revamp the practice of law to more directly help you. I want to make legal services accessible, affordable, and collaborative. I believe if we can bring people of all skills and experience together to work on problems collaboratively, we can build our communities and contribute to a greater good.
My wife recently drew my attention to the following quote by William Jones:
“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”
I intend to do the best I can from this day forward to make a difference. Join me.
I have always enjoyed practicing law, but I have not always been fond of the way law firms operate. Greater Good inspires me because it is a modern and affordable practice representing what I view as some of the best and most important members of our society: non-profits, small businesses and entrepreneurs. This is the kind of law I enjoy practicing, the way it should be practiced today, with the opportunity to provide legal services at lower costs for clients.
I come from a long line of lawyers with a social conscience stretching back five generations. When my father retired a few years ago and I asked him what he would miss the most about practicing law, he replied, “I’m going to miss my clients; I’m going to miss helping people.” Helping people is the essence of lawyering. Most students enter law school thinking the same thing.
However, once you begin practicing in the typical law firm business model, sometimes this essential element gets lost in billable hours, rainmaking and file churning. At my prior firm, I was lucky enough to represent a number of wonderful non-profits and small businesses. It was a firm where I could focus on and help my clients rather than worry about my billable hours. When my family moved here, I couldn’t find anything like that – until now.
My affinity for small businesses and non-profits didn’t happen in a vacuum either. I remember evenings around the dinner table discussing how changes in Medicare and Medicaid affected my mother’s home health agency’s bottom line, how difficult and stressful it was dealing with employee issues, and how she was managing a merger or a move. These all affected her ability to bring necessary health services to her clients. In my world view, non-profits, small businesses and entrepreneurs are the foundations of our communities. That is why I love to represent them.
My mother taught me another important lesson, too. She was a nurse, then a stay at home mother, then a graduate student, then the executive director of a non-profit home health agency, and later a state legislator in New Hampshire. She taught me that second acts and reinvention are not only possible, they can be the best thing you have ever done.
With the advent of powerful legal resources online, novel business models, and changes in the economy, the traditional law firm model has become antiquated, often off-putting, and expensive. This has made legal services daunting and unaffordable for many individuals, small businesses and non-profits.
Greater Good, by harnessing these new resources and models, is ahead of the curve. We can represent business clients who most need affordable services and operate in a way beneficial to our clients’ bottom line. I am so pleased and excited to be a part of this venture which is so perfectly aligned with who I am, where I came from and where I want to go.
From the time I was a young child, I was faced with bigotry and prejudice. Fortunately, my parents taught me to see each person as an individual and sent me to an integrated and very culturally diverse school, where we learned from each other and were taught tolerance and understanding. I was very shy growing up except when I saw an injustice and then you couldn’t keep me quiet. I am first generation born in the United States. When we heard the bigotry from some of our leaders, my dad would say “I fought for this country and yet I am frequently made to feel like I do not belong here.” Hearing this hurt me, angered me and scared me.
So what motivates me? In a word EQUITY. Fairness. Everyone deserves to get what they need to level the playing field — to provide equal opportunities. We all deserve to walk down the street and feel safe, and feel confident that our children are safe. Wealth, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation or identity: none of these should define a person’s chance to fulfill their potential or to access healthy food, or safe, clean shelter, or a good education with all the tools needed to learn, and to dedicated, passionate, effective legal representation.
That was why my professional life took the trajectory it did. I went to law school to make a difference in people’s lives and to serve those least able to afford legal representation when their freedom, and in some cases lives, were at risk. I became a public defender. I practiced for 20 years, in both state and federal court, working many of those years with the Defenders Association of Philadelphia. I felt very strongly that it was my job to make sure that the constitutional rights of those charged with a crime were vigorously defended. By doing so, I believed that I was protecting the rights of all who came before the court and most importantly those who were innocent and could not afford an attorney.
In law school, in the courtroom and in public discourse — both nationally and in our neighborhood — I continued to experience bigotry and prejudice. My family is diverse and because of this, my daughters experienced the hurt of unkind words. I taught them early to never stereotype and that respect needs to be earned. Everyone matters and each person’s character needs to be assessed on an individual basis. I also instilled in them the importance of giving back to the community. They spent time with children who were different from them and engaged in volunteer work with me. They grew up understanding how lucky they were and that “but for the grace of God go I.”
Around the time my children were born I learned about the effect that pollutants in the Valley were having on residents’ health, particularly children, often living in low-income areas. I became involved in several environmental citizen suits, going back to school to obtain a master’s degree in environmental science. The degree gave me greater credibility and the ability to recognize and support those industries that were doing the right thing and take on those that were not. I continued my criminal law practice, until the adoption of mandatory guideline sentences took away judicial discretion and my ability to assure equity in the courtroom. I chose to continue my work in another way.
I became involved in community development and eventually co-founded and became the first Director of the Lehigh Valley Land Recycling Initiative (LVLRI), which reused old industrial sites, instead of building in farmland and pristine, greenfield areas. It allowed job growth in areas that were easily accessible to those without vehicles. LVLRI is 20 this year and continues to clean up sites, making them an important asset to the communities in which they are located.
My choices eventually led me to New Bethany Ministries, where I had a real opportunity to give back to the community by providing those in need with the tools necessary to improve their quality of life. I learned so much from the people I served about the ways in which their basic needs were not being addressed. Without safe housing and nutritious food, it is virtually impossible to focus on obtaining a job, an education and/or safe childcare. Without stable housing, income and healthy food, traumatic stress can reach a level in young children that can keep them from achieving their full potential. I saw first-hand the inequities in the way we provide for and treat those who are perceived as being different.
This is what motivated me not to retire but to commit myself to finding a Valley-wide solution to the need for safe affordable housing, a living wage and vibrant neighborhoods. I chair the Regional Homeless Advisory Board’s Affordable Housing Committee and am working with others to develop job training that will help create long term employment, affordable housing and community pride simultaneously.
Although I maintained my law license, handling an occasional case, I had no plans to return to the practice of law until I learned of Greater Good. Here was an opportunity to combine my passion with my legal knowledge. I will be focusing my efforts on fair and safe housing – both landlord and tenant – while continuing to fight for equity for all those who are marginalized both in and outside the courtroom.