Baldwin-Whitehall solicitor took over from his dad
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During a long teachers strike in the Baldwin-Whitehall School District in 1975, attorney Edward R. Lawrence Jr. -- who worked for his father's firm Paul Lawrence & Rock -- assumed most of the responsibility of dealing with labor matters for the district.
When the strike ended, the school board appointed him district solicitor -- with the blessing of the previous solicitor.
"Dad was happy about it," Mr. Lawrence said of his appointment to the job held by his father, Edward R. Lawrence Sr., who had served in that role since 1948. The district then was called the Baldwin Township School District.
While his schoolteacher mother, Madaline, also contributed to his knowledge of district matters, it was working alongside his father that gave him the most information on school law.
"It's just one of those things that you slide into," he said of following in his father's footsteps as an attorney.
"I respected my father and thought it was a very respectable profession," he said.
Mr. Lawrence, who grew up in Whitehall where he still resides, attended high school at Shady Side Academy in Fox Chapel.
After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh Law School in 1967, Mr. Lawrence became a member of his father's firm until his father's death in 1983.
He then worked for Springer Bush & Perry, and now is employed by Tucker Arensberg, where he concentrates in real estate and commercial business transactions, labor and employment, and estate planning.
Besides representing Baldwin-Whitehall, Mr. Lawrence is a longtime attorney for Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania, which, like his solicitor position, has ties to his youth: his first teenage job was as a furniture deliverer on a Goodwill truck.
While he occasionally does work for other districts represented by Tucker Arensberg, "Baldwin-Whitehall is my district," he said.
Mr. Lawrence said the biggest change in school law since he began in the field was the advent of collective bargaining in the early 1970s.
Two unions -- the American Federation of Teachers and the eventual winner, the Pennsylvania State Education Association, -- were vying to organize teachers, and Baldwin-Whitehall teachers went on strike.
"There was very little legal background to work with, and the law clearly said public employees could not go on strike," he said.
When a labor injunction was not forthcoming from Common Pleas Court, Mr. Lawrence negotiated all weekend for an agreement.
"I was there before the organized structure," he said.
Passage of state Act 195, or the Public Employee Relations Act, which authorizes the right to organize and be represented by a bargaining agent, was followed in 1992 by state Act 88 limiting the duration of public school strikes.
State Act 1, the Taxpayer Relief Act of 2006, limits the ability of school boards to raise taxes, thereby slowing collective bargaining, he said.
Labor issues, and the sheer number of employees, combine to create his biggest challenge.
"It is trying to manage to keep your head above water with all the personnel issues and complaints and disputes and grievances of so many people," he said.
Baldwin-Whitehall differs from the district of his father's era in its decline in students from almost 10,000 to 4,200 today, and the resulting decrease in school buildings from 17 to five by the 1980s.
Those closures, which otherwise would have bankrupted the district, he said, left it on sound financial footing for educating the children of Baldwin Township, Baldwin Borough and Whitehall, including his own.
"My kids went to Baldwin-Whitehall and did fine and got a wonderful education," he said.
Daughter Lisa Briegel of Peters has a doctorate in meteorology, while son Edward III of Upper St. Clair is a commercial real estate broker.
As for future plans, Mr. Lawrence would like to squeeze in more traveling with his wife, Suzanne.
"The responsibility of the job kind of holds you back from taking too much time off," he said.
OCCUPATION: Shareholding attorney at Tucker Arensberg
EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree from Lafayette College; law degree from University of Pittsburgh
FAMILY: Wife, two grown children, five grandchildren
WHAT'S IMPORTANT? Helping clients to achieve their goals
FIRST JOB: Helper on a Goodwill delivery truck
AND WHEN YOU WERE A KID, YOU WANTED TO BE? A lawyer
HOBBIES: Golf, sports
READING MATERIAL ON NIGHTSTAND? The sports page
WHAT'S PLAYING ON TV? sports, political programs, "Law & Order" and other detective programs
WHO WOULD PLAY YOU IN A MOVIE ABOUT YOUR LIFE? Harrison Ford
FAVORITE SPOT IN THE WORLD: Cat Cay Bahamas
PROUDEST MOMENT, SO FAR: "I was attending a school board meeting and received a phone call from my son. My son told me that my first grandson had been born and they were naming him Edward IV. A news reporter was nearby and snapped my picture while I was on the phone call and ran an article on the story."
First Published October 27, 2011 12:00 am