Providing needed legal services to the broader community is a prototypical top priority for leaders of bar associations across Pennsylvania, but Montgomery County’s incoming president said he is aiming to take a unique approach to the issue—one that draws directly from his somewhat unusual practice niche.
Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford attorney Gregory R. Gifford is set to be sworn in as Montgomery County Bar Association’s president during the group’s annual business luncheon Friday. He takes over the bar leadership position from Mary C. Pugh, who is executive director of the Montgomery Child Advocacy Project (MCAP).
Gifford’s practice focuses on criminal defense, personal injury and municipal law. Few municipal law attorneys also practice in criminal law, but Gifford said that working in both areas has given him an understanding of not only the needs that are out there, but also what services might already be available. Gifford said that during his tenure he wants to focus on strengthening the bench and bar’s relationship with county programs and row offices to help bridge this need gap.
“I realized there’s a bit of a disconnect between the bar association and the multiple different county and row offices, and they can greatly benefit from having greater access to the bar and it’s lawyers,” he said. “They come into contact with residents of Montgomery County every day who need help and guidance. By improving those relationships we’ll all work as one big family to improve the lives of everyone in Montgomery County.”
By his own account, Gifford has had a “somewhat unusual” legal background in that he joined the firm that is now Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford back in 1984 and he has not worked for any other firm since. Gifford said that when he first joined the firm, he was given several personal injury cases, but he also volunteered to be a court-appointed defense attorney handling conflict cases.
Gifford said he knew some attorneys who worked in municipal law as well, and about 22 years ago he was approached to help handle his first case dealing with municipal law. He has since become solicitor for several township zoning hearing boards and police benevolent associations.
“It wasn’t by design,” Gifford said of his practice combination. “It sort of naturally developed.”
Gifford is a long-time member of the bar and has previously served as president of the Montgomery County Trial Lawyers Association. Joining the bar as a young attorney was a no-brainer, he said, given the amount of services and networking opportunities the organization provided. He said he became interested in bar leadership in an effort to make sure young lawyers continue to understand and access the benefits that the bar provides.
“I wanted to do as much for every other young lawyer as it did for me,” he said. “That’s what got me into leadership, to continue to make sure the bar association provided the same feeling of ‘FOMO’—fear of missing out—to every young lawyer.”
Along with looking to strengthen the relationship with county row offices, Gifford said he hopes to expand and leverage the bar’s referral service to help increase interest and membership in the bar.
“Lawyers spend a ton of money on advertising and trying to bring business in. We’re going to try to give them a very inexpensive way to do that, and to give back to those with modest means as well,” he said. ”Every client, if you do a good job for them, creates more clients.”