Ron Schuler, Member in Charge of the Pittsburgh office, recently gave a presentation on “The Steel Bar: ‘In-House Lawyers’ in Pittsburgh – History and Ethics,” with special guest Jerry Richey, general counsel of the University of Pittsburgh, to the Pittsburgh chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel.
Schuler’s talk, which was a preview of his book-in-progress, The Steel Bar: Pittsburgh Lawyers and the Making of Modern America, focused on episodes from the book involving in-house lawyers, with sidebar discussions about ethical issues with Richey.
Schuler discussed the development of the concept of an in-house lawyer in Pittsburgh – “a job that didn’t exist in 1800” – through George Westinghouse’s pioneering appointment of Pittsburgh patent lawyer George Christy as Vice President and general counsel of Westinghouse Air Brake Company in 1873, to the creation of the “in-house law firm” by Alcoa general counsel Leon Hickman in the 1950s. Schuler also commented on the role of the in-house lawyer in the conflict between Carnegie and Frick that led to the “World’s Greatest Lawsuit” and the role of big company GCs — such as Alcoa’s Hickman, PPG’s Leland Hazard and Mellon’s Arthur Van Buskirk — in driving Pittsburgh’s Renaissance civic improvement projects during the 1940s and 50s.
The Steel Bar, Schuler explains, is not just a history of the legal profession in Pittsburgh, but a book about important aspects of American history. “It is about the ways that Pittsburgh lawyers have been engaged in important American issues at the highest levels” – for example, in defining the limits of dissent under a new constitution during the Whiskey Rebellion, improvising the legal inner-workings of American corporate ownership, management and control during Pittsburgh’s great industrial revolution of the 19th century, and working at the center of the crises that defined American labor-management relations, from the 1877 Railroad Riots, to the battle between Carnegie Steel and the steelworkers at Homestead in 1892, to the creation of the NLRB in the 1930s. The book also shows Pittsburgh lawyers and their unique experiences during important national trends and periods, such as the McCarthy Era, machine politics and the rackets, the fight for civil rights during the 1960s, and the ongoing challenges of achieving diversity within the profession. The Steel Bar is expected to be completed in early 2015.
Jerry Richey, who was named general counsel of the University of Pittsburgh in 2013, previously served as general counsel and chief legal officer at CONSOL Energy from 2005 to 2013, and prior to that served as a shareholder and ethics counsel to the firm of Buchanan Ingersoll. Richey is also known to track and field fans as a world-class miler who ran a sub-4-minute mile in the 1968 U.S. Olympic Trials, and still holds the record at the University of Pittsburgh for the 3200 meter race, with a time of 8:39.44.
To learn more about The Steel Bar, click here.