Setting the bar high: Lawyers linked by award, hometown
When Barry Simpson won a prestigious award from the Allegheny County Bar Association last month, some said it was serendipitous.
In June, Simpson became the third Gateway High School graduate to win the Amram award, which is given to those who “personify professional excellence and who have demonstrated substantial commitment to the ideals of the Allegheny County Bar Association, as well as the betterment of the legal community,” according to the ABA website.
His brother, Craig, won the award in 2013. The other winner was Allegheny County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Manning – he won it in 2002.
The three are connected by more than the award. They all grew up in the same Monroeville neighborhood of Eastgate, said Denean Fox Ross, who works for Craig Simpson’s private law office in Forest Hills.
“There are 6,000 attorneys in the Allegheny Bar Association and only 29 attorneys or judges have won the award since its inception in 1990,” Fox Ross said. “I just think the fact that they have all won it – and grew up in the same neighborhood – that’s amazing.”
The three were friends growing up. Manning, 71, of Mt. Lebanon, said he does not know how or why all three ended up practicing law.
“We became good friends as young children in all respects,” Manning said. “Barry and I were in the same class, and we were both on the swimming team … It was like we lived in a parallel universe.”
After graduating from law school in 1972 both friends were hired at the same law firm in Pittsburgh, he said.
“It’s an inside joke that he hired us both and only gave half a salary,” Manning said, laughing.
Manning earned his law degree from Duquesne University School of Law and went on to serve as an Allegheny County assistant district attorney from 1973 to 1976, a homicide prosecutor and supervisor of the Violent Crimes Unit and assistant U.S. attorney from 1976 to 1988. He also served for over 20 years on the Allegheny County Bar Association. Manning currently serves as president judge for the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.
Barry Simpson, 70, who currently serves as the president of the Pennsylvania Bar Association in Harrisburg, called it a “considerable honor” to have won the Amram award in June.
“I’m surprised to get the award because I had moved away from the county,” he said. Barry Simpson practiced law in Pittsburgh for over 20 years before moving to Harrisburg with his wife, Kathi, to work for the PBA, a nonprofit of around 30,000 lawyers, in 1999.
Barry Simpson also remembers the days at Gateway High School, where he credits teachers with instilling in him, his brother and classmates a work ethic that has served them all well.
“It was discipline and hard work,” he said of Gateway. “It positioned us for what would come our way.”
His brother, Craig Simpson, 66, agrees.
“We got a very good education. Some of the courses I took in college, I had already learned in Gateway,” he said. “(Gateway) gave me one heck of a good education at that level.”
But Craig Simpson, who won the Amram award in 2013, said it was his friendship with Manning and his brother that inspired him to practice law. Barry Simpson encouraged him to apply to law school after graduating from Washington and Jefferson College with a psychology degree in 1974.
“(Barry and Jeffrey) were the first lawyers I ever knew. They both inspired me,” Craig Simpson said. He graduated from Duquesne University School of Law in 1977. He now owns a law office in Forest Hills.
When asked why they thought they won the Amram award, all three attorneys attributed the honor to their Monroeville childhood.
“It came from my upbringing, my parents and Gateway high school,” Manning said.
Whether at school, home or at the neighborhood ball field, Manning said they learned a lesson that has guided their career milestones:
“If you’re upset about something, do something about it. We did those things not because we wanted to win an award. We did them because it was the right thing to do.”
Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, [email protected] or via Twitter @dillonswriting.