Passion and Purpose: Interviews with Legal and Health Professionals (Part One)

It is always interesting to hear stories of professionals in the fields of law and medicine, particularly why they chose their careers. It is even more interesting to hear them discuss what motivates them to go to work every day and what they love the most about their jobs. Doctors and lawyers also tend to have very interesting stories about clients and patients they have served during the course of their career.

For example, one of the doctors we interviewed recalls a time he was working at a hospital and had a patient who came in unresponsive with a bleed in his brain. He successfully treated the man back to recovery. Several months later, that same man returned to the hospital to visit someone else. The man recognized the doctor, ran up to him and said, “You saved my life, I remember you, thank you so much!” The man explained to the doctor that he couldn’t have survived without the hospital’s treatment.

Stories like this are the stories you never hear. These are the types of experiences that keep our legal and medical professionals motivated to serve us in times of need.

Here is Part One of the interviews we did with doctors and lawyers across the United States.

1) Christopher Earley, Attorney at Law Office of Christopher Earley

What made you decide to become an attorney?

I really wanted to experience the challenge of law school and the challenge of being a lawyer. Practicing law keeps my brain sharp and is never easy, or boring.

How long have you been practicing?

13 years.

What do you love the most about being an attorney?

Standing up for people when they have been harmed and knowing they trust you during such a pivotal time for them really motivates me.

Describe a memorable story of a client? What was so memorable about this client?

When I first started out after law school I had little clue on what I was doing. Fortunately I was able to secure a sizeable settlement for a client. She was from South America and said excitedly to me the settlement would help pay for a nice home for her family in her native country. I will never forget the look on her face when she told me this.

What made you decide to become a physician?

I wanted to be in a position to help people and have a lasting relationship with my patients and people. To help people make themselves better and then in turn help contribute to society. And I wanted to be on the cutting edge of science and medicine to make the world a better place.

How long have you been practicing?

I have been an MD since 2003

What do you love the most about being a physician?

Being able to change people's lives for the better and being challenged every day to be a better person.

Describe a memorable story of a patient? What was so memorable about this patient?

A four year old girl in Liberia that had a huge tumor on her leg and if I didn't operate she would have died. This taught me compassion, humility, and the will to serve. It also taught me to not be scared to not think outside your comfort zone.

3) Brian Pendergraft, Attorney at The Pendergraft Firm LLC

What made you decide to become an attorney?

I have an affinity for reading, writing, logic, and critical inquiry. So I decided to go with the flow of what I have always been good at. My mother was a teacher that taught me how to read, write, and speaking since I was a young child. I have been reading and writing since before I can remember. I honestly feel like I am getting paid to do what I have been doing my entire life.

How long have I been practicing?

I have been practicing for four years.

What do I love most about being an attorney?

Entrepreneurship. I love being a law entrepreneur. It has challenged me to learn business systems and leverage technologies that I otherwise would never have learned in order to create a lifestyle where I can focus on living instead of working. I'm sure you don't have to become a lawyer to walk this path, but this is my path and it’s meant for me.

Describe a memorable story of a client. What was so memorable about this client?

My most memorable client was my elementary school tutor. She asked me to help her with a car insurance claim. I practice real estate law in my day to day almost never take on cases outside of this area, but I felt compelled to help her since she is part of the reason I made it to where I am now. We settled the case for an amount she was very happy with. She is my only client that saw me grow from a boy that hated doing homework into a zealous advocate.

4) Shlomo Zalman Bregman, Founder of the Law Offices of Samuel M. Bregman

What made you decide to become an attorney?

I grew up in a family where every male is a Medical Doctor. I'm serious! I'm talking about my father, grandfather, every uncle ... you name it. And so, throughout my childhood, this was the default expectation for my future.

Although by the end of college I was indeed accepted to medical school, I ultimately decided that pursuing a career in the law was a better fit for my professional strengths of advocacy and communication.

In addition, I was blessed to have the opportunity to work on Capitol Hill in Washington for three summers during college -- both in the House and Senate -- and I truly enjoyed seeing the legislative process up close, and wanted to be close to the law in the future.

Although I broke ranks from the typical profession in my family, everyone was and remains very supportive. In fact, the entire family is also happy that they have someone upon whom they can direct their 'lawyer jokes!'

How long have you been practicing?

I have 16 years of experience as an attorney and running my law firm. My firm specializes in Business Law, Immigration Law, and Litigation.

What do you love the most about being an attorney?

I find it deeply satisfying to help people who are in need. Most people turn to attorneys because they are in a vulnerable position, and can really benefit from having an effective protector and advocate by their side. I consider it a blessing to fill that role, and it's one I take quite seriously.

Beyond that, I am blessed to be part of a profession that rewards me for the quality of my thinking and powers of analysis.

A lawyer who can think creatively and can take a giant step back from a problem, and then come back with a fresh perspective, will be richly rewarded -- both financially and in terms of professional fulfillment.

Describe a memorable story of a client. What was so memorable about this client?

About 4 years ago, I was approached by a young Hispanic woman in grave distress. This 19 year old was on the cusp of being deported back to Central America ... although according to the law she had every right to remain in the United States!

Well, suffice it to say, it took quite a bit of effort -- and deft advocacy -- to prove her case, but ultimately, I was able to prevail. We prevented this immigrant from being wrongfully deported, and also kept a family intact.

This was a happy and emotional day for all, and reinforced why I was drawn to the legal profession in the first place!

5) Robyn Ross, Attorney at Ross & Calandrillo, LLC

What made you decide to become an attorney?

I have wanted to be an attorney since I was seven years old. As a child, I always had a sense of fairness and equity and would argue with people, regardless of age, if I felt these tenets were breached. I even recall presenting my parents with evidentiary proof if I felt a punishment was unwarranted. It was clear to me from early on that I was meant to be an attorney.

How long have you been practicing?

I have been practicing in the area of family law for over ten years, assisting clients in the areas of divorce, custody and parenting time issues, domestic violence issues and related matters.

What do you love the most about being an attorney?

What I love most about being an attorney is the opportunity to have meaningful impact on people and their families. It is extremely satisfying to know that I am able to provide advice, guidance and a sense of stability to people while their families are going through a period of transition. More importantly, I have the opportunity in my profession to provide comfort during a very confusing time. During a divorce or custody dispute, it is easy to feel as if your world is upside down. I get to be the voice of reason, calm, legal knowledge and reassurance.

Describe a memorable story of a client? What was so memorable about this client?

I had only been practicing about six months when I began working with Karen (I have changed her name), who was divorcing her physically and mentally abusive husband. I fought hard and throughout the process I watched Karen become increasingly willing to fight for herself. I heard from Karen recently- nearly ten years after her divorce.

Karen told me that working with me during her divorce made her strong and confident, that I gave her a voice and helped her to feel comfortable using it. I got off the phone with Karen and I cried. Practicing law, especially family law, can be exhausting and thankless at times. Speaking to Karen was a wonderful reminder that I am blessed, through the practice of law, with the wonderful opportunity to change lives.

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