A common metaphor used in describing judges is that they are like umpires: they need to be impartial, are required to apply a body of rules to a situation, and they make decisions that are typically not of a black and white nature and will probably end up upsetting one of the two parties. Gowen Group partners Bill Phelan and Peter Silva can appreciate this metaphor more than most attorneys considering their litigation experience and the fact that they enjoy the unique opportunity of working together on the baseball diamond as umpires.
As umpires for Mid Atlantic Officials, one of the largest and most prestigious umpire association on the east coast, Bill and Peter can be found throughout the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area on many nights and weekends calling balls and strikes.
Bill, an amateur umpire for nearly 10 years, mostly calls games for varsity high school, premier travel leagues, and adult recreation leagues. He sees common elements between practicing law and umpiring: “Whether I am dealing with a client or making a call at home plate on a close slide, I need to make sure I am honest with what I see. Overall, fairness is what drives both professions–fairness to the pitcher looking for an accurate strike zone or fairness to my client seeking justice within the legal system. Although there is one important difference when I am at the office: I make sure my client’s side prevails at the end of the day.”
Peter, a fairly new official and veteran baseball enthusiast, views umpiring baseball as a way to learn about the communities in the area. “I enjoy getting out into the community and seeing the area’s vibrant towns and meeting the families,” Peter stated, “Practicing law gives me one way to meet individuals and local businesses and understand what I can do to help them, but when on the baseball field at a recreation center or high school, I see the communities I serve in action and in a more intimate way.”
Recently Bill and Peter umpired a men’s adult recreation game together at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia (photos below). The game was well-fought on both sides and while there were a few close calls on the base paths, the two lawyers in blue remained ignored fixtures on the field. And as any umpire will tell you, a good official (unlike a good attorney) is an unnoticed one.