Firwood Drive resident Bryan Neft is this year’s president of the Allegheny County Bar Association. An attorney with Spilman Thomas & Battle, focusing on commercial litigation and toxic torts, Neft has chaired the Allegheny County Bar Foundation’s Attorneys Against Hunger campaign for the past 11 years.
You have said your mom was your role model. Explain. When my mother was 41, she gave up a career as a home economics teacher to attend law school. I was in high school at the time and watched my mom get our meals ready every day before leaving for school and take care of the home front. I remember her friends from law school coming over to the house to study. The whole experience got me hooked on the law. Even though we haven’t practiced together, we still bounce ideas off of one another.
Lawyers have diverse personalities and practice areas. What qualities do good lawyers share? Integrity; the ability to listen; a commitment to public service, helping those who cannot afford legal services; mentoring younger attorneys.
Creative types think practicing law would be boring; lawyers say it’s creative. How so? There is an infinite number of factual scenarios attorneys deal with. There is an equally infinite number of interests clients have in those factual scenarios. The creativity comes from developing legal arguments and positions to facilitate your client’s interests.
With so many women now practicing law, why does ACBA need the Institute for Gender Equality? Despite the fact that women are entering the profession in large numbers, they also leave the profession in large numbers. Women continue to suffer gender bias in the profession and in many instances are paid less than their male colleagues. The ACBA’s Institute for Gender Equality, one of the only institutes of its kind in the nation, develops programming for practitioners and decision makers to assist women get the most from their legal careers. The Institute also aims to teach all attorneys the harms of gender bias, and to make the case for advancement of women.
Some folks think lawyers are all about money. Tell us about ACBA’s charitable programs. The ACBA has a charitable affiliate, the Allegheny County Bar Foundation, that provides legal assistance to those who cannot afford it, and also makes grants to other agencies that provide those services. Our Young Lawyers Division speaks to high school students about legal issues they may face upon graduation and to the elderly about fraud. Attorneys Against Hunger has raised almost $2 million for hunger relief throughout Allegheny County. It provides funding to many hunger relief agencies in Allegheny County including our local South Hills Interfaith Ministries.