Just came across a post over at bestcollegesonline.com that looks at lawyers—ok, not your average everyday lawyers, admittedly—as would-be caped-crusaders for the law school set—historical industry heroes to look up to the way techies idolize Steve Jobs or advertising students admire David Ogilvy.
In an age where lawyers have been associated with phrases like “ambulance-chaser” and a few bad eggs have filed outrageously frivolous lawsuits that the media has had a field day with, it’s important to know that many—most—trial lawyers go about seeking justice and championing human rights quietly—and under the radar. For a few current examples, check out the lawyers we’ve profiled in our Lawyers Giving Back interviews.
The list of lawyers profiled over at bestcollegesonline.com includes some heavy-hitters—folks like Sir Thomas More (can’t get much more ‘heavy hitter’ than being named “Lawyer of the Millennium”) and Giovanni Falcone who both lost their lives as a result of their work (there’s a concept: lawyer as martyr). But here’s the full list—note, some are/were not members of the bar, but legal heroes none the less:
There are undoubtedly many more lawyers who could be included on the list–but it was nice to see a positive profile on the legal profession, along with some individuals whose legal careers and contributions law students today should aspire to.
Milwaukee wills and estates lawyer, Kristine Havlik is sending out a clarion call to lawyers in all parts of the state of Wisconsin to share their valuable time to help prepare wills for the first responders who risk their lives each day in the service of others. Havlik, who is senior counsel with the firm of Foley & Lardner, helped establish the Wills for Heroes program in Wisconsin in 2009. Since then, the pro bono wills & estates clinics have prepared more than 1,000 estate planning documents for firefighters, police officers and other emergency personnel and their families.
When Havlik heard about the Wills for Heroes Foundation from a colleague in a neighboring state two years ago, she saw an opportunity to help first responders in her home state. “When I realized there was an opportunity to bring the Wills for Heroes Program to Wisconsin I really jumped at the opportunity to find pro bono work in my practice area.”
The Wills for Heroes Foundation was originally the brainchild of Anthony Hayes, a partner with the Columbia, South Carolina firm of Nelson, Mullins, Riley & Scarborough, conceived of in the aftermath of the September 11th, 2001 attack on the Twin Towers. Since then the program has branched out to 27 states across the U.S. Its mission to is help “those who serve us” by providing free preparation of wills, living trusts, powers of attorney and other important estate documents to qualified persons serving in the military or as civic first responders.
Although the numbers may not be exact, it is estimated that 80 to 90 percent of these individuals do not have estate plans in place and the need to help them is a great according to Havlik.
Apart from the cost, there seem to be two barriers. The first is logistical, the second is psychological. “They work some unusual hours, it is not necessarily 9 to 5” explains Havlik. “It may be difficult for them to find the time to come in and meet with an estate planning attorney.”
“The second reason is that preparing estate documents may put into perspective the real dangers of their occupation and there may be some real fear of dealing with that,” she adds.
She specifically recalls a young man who had signed up to serve with the military after 9-11 and then went on to join the police department in Milwaukee. He brought his wife and baby in to sign estate documents. “He’d never had a will,” says Havlik.
Over the last two years Havlik has trained 500 lawyers to prepare wills and estates at free clinics in the Milwaukee, Madison and Green Bay areas of Wisconsin. “We are hoping to launch in northern and western Wisconsin and it is there that we’re struggling to find lawyers to take this on and go with the program,” says Havlik.
Havlik has recently been helping a colleague at the Foley & Lardner office in Tampa to establish a Wills for Heroes program in Florida.
Havlik’s leadership has been recognized in this area with both the Gordon Sinykin Award of Excellence (2010), an award that recognizes attorneys for their work on an individual law related education or public service project, and the coveted Milwaukee Bar Association Pro Bono Publico Award (2011). In addition, Ms. Havlik was named to the 2006, 2007 and 2008 lists of Wisconsin Super Lawyers–Rising Stars for her estates & trusts and tax & individual planning work.
Kristine L. Havlik, University of Virginia 1999, is senior counsel of Foley & Lardner LLP, Milwaukee. She is a founding volunteer and major advocate of the State Bar’s Wills for Heroes program.
Lawyers Giving Back looks at a side of lawyers you don’t hear too much about—the side that gives back…pays it forward..and shares the love. We’ve found quite a number of attorneys who log non-billable hours helping others—simply because they believe it’s the right thing to do. Their stories are inspiring, and hey, who knew lawyers were so…good? If you’ve got a story to share about an attorney who’s doing the right thing, let us know—we’d love to let others know, too. Today, we’re talking with Attorney Alan Dial of King and Spalding in Washington DC…
An intense six year effort and 9000 hours of pro bono work by the firm of King and Spalding has overturned the capital murder conviction and death sentence for 29-year-old Justin Wolfe, a man whose trial the court ruled was rife with prosecutorial misconduct.
“We were thrilled about that and very excited to have Judge Jackson conduct such a thorough and careful review of the facts and find that the prosecution failed to turn over a lot of information that would have been extremely helpful in presenting a defense in the murder charge presented against Justin at trial,” says trial attorney Alan Dial from King and Spalding in Washington D.C.
Wolfe, who was involved in marijuana distribution ring, was found guilty of killing his supplier in a murder hire plot based on the testimony of a man who later recanted the story he told to police and confessed to committing the murder himself.
A hearing last November found that the state had withheld information that might have precluded Wolfe’s conviction. The arguments put forward at that hearing, says Dial, were the result of long hours and a collaborative effort with University of Virginia law students working on the Innocence Project and the efforts of the Virginia Capital Representation Resource Center.
“As a lawyer, you want to make sure that the rules of engagement are set up so that the process is fair,” says Dial who previously worked as an assistant state prosecutor in Atlanta and San Diego, “particularly when you have someone who has been convicted of capital murder.”
“We believe in Justin’s innocence and wanted to dig into the facts of the case and show the court that there was more to it than what was presented at trial,” he adds.
Wolfe, who has been on death row in Virginia since 2002, was also convicted on charges of drug dealing and will remain in prison.
An appeal by the Commonwealth is possible however, and Dial says King and Spalding will remain on the case. The firm has a long history doing pro bono work and as many as 50 members of the firm were involved in the Wolfe case.
For Dial, apart from overturning Wolfe’s murder conviction, one of the highlights of the case was working with the 12 UVA students involved in the Innocence Project.
“The experience was outstanding” says Dial. “I think this experience gave the students incredible experience. They assisted us in reviewing documents and interviewing witnesses, helping us with some of the research that went into this so it was a real collaborative effort.”
Alan Dial is a partner in the international law firm of King and Spalding. He earned his J.D. at Howard University and focuses his practice on complex civil litigation, white collar criminal litigation and internal investigations. He has experience in pharmaceutical, medical device, healthcare, criminal and civil investigations.
Lawyers Giving Back looks at a side of lawyers you don’t hear too much about—the side that gives back…pays it forward..and shares the love. We’ve found quite a number of attorneys who log non-billable hours helping others—simply because they believe it’s the right thing to do. Their stories are inspiring, and hey, who knew lawyers were so…good? If you’ve got a story to share about an attorney who’s doing the right thing, let us know—we’d love to let others know, too. Today, we’re talking with New York attorney Daniel Buttafuoco…
Dan Buttafuoco grew up, as he says, “street smart” in a Bronx housing project, raised in family of Italian evangelicals. As a child he remembers his dad telling him he was “a smart kid that should go to school” and he’d “break my legs if I became a barber” as the previous three generations of Buttafuocos had done.
At age 17, not withstanding a few adolescent meanderings about his faith, he became a committed Christian. “All my friends were joining ministries, but I felt that wasn’t for me,” says Buttafuoco who has an easy-going style and a New York City sense of humor. “I didn’t hear a voice from God or anything, I just thought I should be a lawyer, a Christian lawyer and it ended up being a good choice.”
Today, Dan Buttafuoco combines the practice of law and his faith in a way he finds consistent. “I am a sneak attack, nobody expects to hear anything religious or Christian from a lawyer,” says Buttafuoco.
“I purposefully selected a career as a personal injury lawyer where I believe my clients are telling the truth, and where I believe they deserve to win and I purposefully don’t take cases where we don’t believe that,” says Buttafuoco. “The firm is organized around this central principle that we take cases that have merit and that we believe in.”
Buttafuoco’s firm has some impressive wins for clients. It obtained the third largest ever personal injury settlement in New York state history and the largest ever settlement against the state of New York on behalf of an injured police officer who was paralyzed.
Buttafuoco says he would never represent a child molester or a murderer—unless he thought they were innocent, but of course, as a personal injury attorney he doesn’t have to.
And he doesn’t restrict his client list to Christians. “I have Muslim clients, Jewish clients, atheist clients,” says Buttafuoco. “I believe you can be tolerant—which means actually means putting up with what you don’t agree with,” says Buttafuoco. “When we disagree, we try to persuade and never by force, to change things.”
He also holds a master’s degree in theology, is an elder in his church and a follower of Christian Apologetics, a theological defense of Christian faith through rational argument and reason—an approach to Christian faith which would naturally, perhaps, appeal to a lawyer like Buttafuoco. He explains it as “the intellectual side of the Christian church that explores why people believe in God”.
Underlying everything Buttafuoco does and believes in an impressive commitment to giving back. “Essentially there are three things, time talent and treasure that you are supposed to give back,” he says referring to his fundamentalist belief in tithing. “So even when I am involved in making money, I might be getting someone due compensation that he is going to need to live for the rest of their life and that is a good deed.”
Of course, Buttafuoco gets a fee (he earned $5 million from the New York case)—and 10 to 20 percent of everything he earns he returns to charitable organizations. “I am not giving to stupid stuff like these fake preachers that drive around in jet planes like moguls,” says Buttafuoco.
He has, as he describes it, a Rolodex of worthy, credible organizations that do serious work and that align with his Christian beliefs. Among them, is the Love 146 foundation that helps young girls escape from the horrors of being sold into sexual slavery in Asia. This year he will give $500,000 to fund scholarships for Young Christian Leaders foundation. “These are deserving kids who are not going into full-time ministry,” says Buttafuoco, “they want to become professionals”. Kids who are, in a way, a lot like Buttafuoco was as a young teenager.
And this former young kid from the Bronx, is also the money and effort behind a near priceless collection of Bibles—one from the 10th century, an illuminated manuscript, an original page from a Gutenberg Bible and more. Ten times a year, he takes the collection to schools and churches and talks about messages from the Bible. “The Bible is still the bestseller,” says Buttafuoco. “People think it is passé, but it isn’t.”
Dan Buttafuoco is the founder and senior partner of Buttafuoco & Associates, a national personal injury law firm based in New York. The firm’s Christian lawyers represent clients in variety of cases, including complex litigation, major personal injury and wrongful death cases.
Lawyers Giving Back looks at a side of lawyers you don’t hear too much about—the side that gives back…pays it forward..and shares the love. We’ve found quite a number of attorneys who log non-billable hours helping others—simply because they believe it’s the right thing to do. Their stories are inspiring, and hey, who knew lawyers were so…good? If you’ve got a story to share about an attorney who’s doing the right thing, let us know—we’d love to let others know, too. Today, we’re talking with attorney Holly Baer Kammerer of Burg Simpson…
A skilled attorney and mother of three boys, Holly Baer Kammerer never loses sight of why practicing law is important to her. A personal injury attorney with the well-known firm of Burg Simpson, Kammerer has come to the rescue of families in crisis, injured children, children with disabilities and recently she’s become involved in representing women harmed by the controversial birth control pill, Yaz.
“I became a lawyer to help people through a process—for a lot of people, personal injury litigation is a very difficult process and it can be very confusing,” says Kammerer. “It can take time and it is coupled with the fact that clients often have serious injuries and they are in pain and that can magnify the difficulty.”
Kammerer considers she is fortunate to be part of a firm that puts an emphasis on practicing law to the highest moral and ethical standards. Although like everyone else in our society, lawyers have to be compensated for the work they do, the money is secondary. “Some people might believe ‘lawyers are in it for the money’, but it’s certainly not the case in our firm. I believe we are in it for the right reasons and we believe in giving back to the community.”
Burg Simpson has given millions of dollars to community organizations in the Denver area over the last two decades. Some of it has gone to the Denver Symphony, some to the Craig Hospital that specializes in the treatment of spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury patients—and other recipients include multiple charitable causes that make up a long list of ongoing projects.
Kammerer spends many of her off hours helping low income families access early childhood education as the Vice President/President Elect for the Wild Plum Center in the Longmont and Boulder County area. “There are many children in the area from families that live below the national poverty level,” says Kammerer. “Many of the kids have a combination of issues and I am interested in that and focused on that. My oldest son has a genetic disability and early intervention in his preschool years was extremely important and I certainly know how important that is.”
Members of the Burg Simpson team recently agreed to put themselves out there in a t.v. commercial to raise money for worthwhile projects. “I thought, I am a lawyer,” Kammerer says with a soft laugh. “I don’t want to do commercials, but it does help raise money and that helps our community.”
It is late in the day as Kammerer talks about the business of being a lawyer and she is finishing up some work at home as her three boys return from school. “It is true it goes deeper. I love being a lawyer and helping people and if I wasn’t able to help people and be involved in charitable work, I guess I would be happy to be at home with my boys.”
Holly Baer Kammerer is a shareholder in the law firm of Burg Simpson and has been a practicing lawyer for 19 years. Her career began in Washington D.C. and she joined Burg Simpson in Denver in 1996. She has recovered millions of dollars for her clients including a $2.5 million personal injury verdict in US District Court for the District of Colorado. Kammerer also volunteers with children in the St. Vrain Valley School District and she volunteers on behalf of children with disabilities, specifically in education and research regarding Velo Cardio Facial Syndrome (VCFS).