The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

September 19, 2012

Raising the Bar

Young attorney practicing for all the right reasons

By Lisa Shrewsberry
Lifestyles Editor

— As difficult as it is to bring honor to the title of Mr. or Mrs., try living up to Esquire.

“Humble beginnings,” some might remark, remembering Fairdale youth Todd Kirby when he served patrons at Pasquale’s in Beckley. “… And did dishes, and salad prep and catering,” he adds. The time was reserved for waiting on hungry customers as well as waiting to see where life would lead him.

“Humble beginnings,” he might respond in kind, inside his comfortably minimalist law office in uptown Beckley. No leather-bound library, chandeliers or oriental rugs here. Just a figurine of the Statue of Liberty to serve as both decoration and inspiration.

Kirby, a 2007 Marshall University history and political science major (and self-confessed Fox News junkie) went farther than expected by those who misread his quiet determination and the single year he forsook college for restaurant work as indecision. Now a Family Law attorney, Kirby specializes in the field his peers told him to avoid if he wanted the good life with plenty of money and stress-resistance, not life’s uglier parts: unbearable emotion and irreparable conflict. Still, there was that pesky notion of making a difference, which tends to gnaw at those with a conscience, drawing him to the business of lives divided and lives united.

Divorce is, in many respects, like separating conjoined twins — the goal of honorable experts is to keep each entity involved as whole and viable as possible, especially where children are concerned. Kirby is an honorable expert.

“I felt like I could make a difference in the world providing people with wise counsel, not necessarily cutthroat legal action. Family Law is the one area of law where you get to focus on solving the problem itself, not on getting a check (for the client).”

Many of the clients he now assists are people who respected him back when — between 2003 and 2009, going to college and serving pasta in the interim. The Liberty High School graduate chose law school at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia following completion of his Marshall undergraduate degree, where he recalls the counselor telling graduates like him they had two choices: teaching or law school.

Hailing from an immediate and an extended family full of teachers and education administrators, including mom Beverly and dad Steven, both of whom have been teacher and principal, Kirby chose to break from the mold into the law of the land and its politics. He did marry a teacher; Kirby and wife Bethany were, in fact, the first to wed at another of Pasquale’s affiliated restaurants — The Char.

 “I think back to when I had eight tables at a time, thinking what could be more hectic than this? Well, that would be opening a law firm,” he admits. 80 clients equate 80 individual needs.

Establishing his practice in Beckley wasn’t without its surprises. Kirby’s profession has been impacted by the local and regional surge in the prescription drug epidemic, where he now spends a great deal of his time consulting grandparents and other family members on the unifying aspect of his practice — adoption.

Kirby assists grandparents and other responsible family members in adopting the grandchildren they’ve been caring for as a consequence of the drug abuse rendering their kids incapable of the same. He says the laws are slowly but surely changing to adapt to a changing society.

“You never saw (men) going after mothers 10 - 15 years ago for custody. All of that can go back to one source: the prescription drug problem.”

This and other issues threatening American ideals still compel Kirby to the core. His third humble beginning involves the attraction to politics that practicing law only serves to stimulate. He is acting in his new capacity as campaign manager for Eppie Cline, the Republican candidate in the upcoming election for West Virginia State Senate, District 9. The two met through discussions on how to resolve the escalating prescription drug abuse problem affecting every aspect of modern society, from family relationships and individual employment to the economy as a whole.

“We believe the job issues in this area and the drug abuse are interrelated. Until we fix the pill problem, companies aren’t going to come here and hire. It isn’t that there aren’t opportunities for this area. We can bring in as much opportunity as this area can handle.”

Within his second year of practicing law, it helps Kirby to know most of the people he serves are not seeking help out of greed. “They truly care about their kids or their grandchildren. It’s important when you know they are not doing it for monetary gain or for selfish reasons.”

There existed a personal debate Kirby struggled with before entering Family Law. “Should I open a practice that centers around divorce, adoptions and custody issues?”

But, he asked himself, if all attorneys with high moral standards suddenly abandon ship when difficult issues like divorce arise, where would that lead those who need help? “To the same people who created the system,” reasons Kirby.

Kirby’s office is located at 223 Prince Street, Beckley.

— E-mail: lshrewsberry@register-herald.com