Like fa­ther, like son in the le­gal pro­fes­sion

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - LOCAL NEWS - Bill Ret­tew Small Talk

The le­gal pro­fes­sion in Ch­ester County is a fam­ily af­fair.

Stan Lieber­man, 85, a lawyer for 53 years and I looked through the Ch­ester County Bar As­so­ci­a­tion’s mem­ber di­rec­tory to­gether.

We flipped the pages of the di­rec­tory while Lieber­man noted all the lawyers with the same last name.

There were hus­bands and wives, par­ents and chil­dren, aunts, un­cles, and sib­lings; each had cho­sen to work in the le­gal pro­fes­sion.

As a mat­ter of fact, Lieber­man’s son Marc fol­lowed in his fa­ther’s foot­steps.

Dad Stan works in Ex­ton. His prac­tice cen­ters on es­tate plan­ning, pro­bate, real es­tate and he taught real es­tate law. Son Marc spe­cial­izes in crim­i­nal de­fense from his Dar­ling­ton Street of­fice, which is just a short walk away from the Ch­ester County Jus­tice Cen­ter.

I met with both men to­gether.

“Maybe I set a good ex­am­ple?” asked dad.

“Yes, he did,” said the son, with val­i­da­tion, “while hold­ing me to a high eth­i­cal stan­dard.”

“We talk about the law cases a lot — about what’s go­ing on with the bench,” the 85-year-old said.

“He never pushed me to do the law,” Marc said.

“If you are smart enough to be a lawyer, you’re smart enough to do some­thing else,” Marc said his fa­ther told him. “If you want to go to law school that’s fine.”

Like his fa­ther, Marc en­joys help­ing peo­ple.

“When some­body comes to a lawyer they are in pain, just like with a doc­tor,” the crim­i­nal de­fense lawyer said. “We never re­ally know what’s go­ing to hap­pen al­though we usu­ally have a pretty good idea.”

Bill Mit­man Jr. worked side-by-side with his de­ceased fa­ther, Bill Mit­man Sr.

Mit­man Jr. took a job as a po­lice beat re­porter at the Bal­ti­more Sun news­pa­per but opted to at­tend Dick­in­son Col­lege Law School. He met sev­eral mem­bers of the le­gal pro­fes­sion through that job.

“Oc­ca­sion­ally I watched in court,” Mit­man said. “My fa­ther told sto­ries to my mother about in­ter­est­ing things that hap­pened.”

Bill Sr. spe­cial­ized in po­lit­i­cal law and told his off­spring that pol­i­tics and law go hand in hand.

Dur­ing the ‘70s, Mit­man Jr. worked the Val­ley Town­ship Sewer Au­thor­ity and Downingtown meet­ings.

“I built my own prac­tice but at the same time sup­ple­mented his prac­tice,” Mit­man said about his fa­ther. “He taught me how to prac­tice law and how to be a gen­tle­man.”

“I went to mu­nic­i­pal meet­ings to see how that side of the busi­ness worked,” Mit­man said.

Re­tired Com­mon Pleas Judge Hon. James MacEl­ree comes from a long line of law school grad­u­ates.

His great grand­fa­ther was Ch­ester County Dis­trict At­tor­ney, his grand­fa­ther was a judge and his wife, un­cle and aunt are all lawyers.

MacEl­ree worked as a lawyer for 18 months, as as­sis­tant DA for nine years, as DA for 10, and for 25 years as a judge.

He lived with his grand­fa­ther while at­tend­ing what was then West Ch­ester State Col­lege and at din­ner they’d dis­cuss the law.

“I was al­ways in­ter­ested in it,” MacEl­ree said. “I en­joyed law school very much.

“We have a lot of his­tory in Ch­ester County. I think my grand­fa­ther and great-grand­fa­ther would be proud.”

MacEl­ree’s fa­ther worked in real es­tate and the re­tired judge said he’d have likely built houses if he had not pur­sued a le­gal ca­reer.

MacEl­ree served in pub­lic ser­vice be­cause he wanted to “make a dif­fer­ence and do the right things for peo­ple. I al­ways tried to fol­low the law and be fair in my ap­pli­ca­tion of the law.”

MacEl­ree said he could never write a book about his long ca­reer.

“I know where too many of the bod­ies are buried, lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively.”

There are more than a dozen other fam­ily le­gal con­nec­tions in Ch­ester County.

Whether or not they ever worked to­gether, fam­ily plays a ma­jor part in the ca­reer choice for those re­lated by blood and mar­riage.

It’s a fam­ily af­fair.

Bill Ret­tew Jr. is a weekly colum­nist and Ch­ester County res­i­dent. He only en­ters a court­room when ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary. You may con­tact him at bret­tew@dai­ly­lo­cal.com.

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