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Pro Bono Highlight: Richard Gottlieb

Written by Legal Aid WV


After more than three decades with the firm, Richard Gottlieb recently took an Of Counsel role at Lewis Gianola PLLC (formerly known as Lewis Glasser) in Charleston as he winds down his casework. With more liberty and free time, Richard is pursuing a long-time interest he never had the opportunity to properly explore: pro bono volunteering with Legal Aid.

“In 1977, when I went to law school, I was going to save the world,” he explains. “I was head of the free legal clinics at Washington and Lee University School of Law. Then life and financial obligations intervened, so I never really had the opportunity to volunteer. I was very busy, but I always thought about legal aid. About a year ago when I became Of Counsel, I thought this would be a good time when I still have some ability to think like a lawyer to give back.”

Though he still shows up to the Lewis Gianola office daily, Richard takes applicant calls from Legal Aid of West Virginia (LAWV) on Tuesdays and Thursdays. During the calls, he primarily offers advice to tenants with housing law issues, though the services he offers can become more involved.

“There have been a few times where I’ve felt, ‘This individual really needs more than my advice. They need a lawyer,’ and I’ve been able to intervene and assist. Say the landlord has a lawyer at a big housing complex and the individual doesn’t. That’s where I try to even the odds. I’ve had some practical experience with landlord-tenant law. I never did family law or social security or a lot of the other areas. This was a nice niche for me to use my experience to assist people.”

Richard’s work has spanned many disciplines. Though his work at Lewis Gianola focuses on oil and gas and corporate work, he started his career as an assistant attorney general. He moved to D.C. shortly after to take an opening at the Department of Justice. A job freeze during the Carter administration cut it short but led him to a position with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) not long after.

Originally from the “big city” of Clarksburg, WV, Richard longed to return to his home state, and the opportunity finally presented itself at Columbia Gas in Charleston. After four years with Columbia, Attorney General Mario Palumbo asked Richard to be his chief deputy.

“He was somebody who I greatly admired and respected, but when he ran for governor and lost in the primary, I said, ‘I’m ready to join private practice.’ In 1992, I joined Lewis Gianola, and I suppose the rest is history.”

Richard’s extensive experience has made him an asset to LAWV’s pro bono roster, though he says LAWV staff attorneys still help him at times.

“Legal Aid staff has been great, and it’s been a very positive experience overall,” he says. “Specifically, an attorney who is based in Morgantown, Maria Borror, has been very helpful. I talk with Maria about cases where an individual may need more than advice, like an eviction hearing. She knows a lot, and she’s good to work with in terms of the difficult job determining what cases are deserving of representation.”

For LAWV staff, the good feelings are mutual.

“We are incredibly grateful that Mr. Gottlieb has chosen to volunteer with Legal Aid of WV, and I really enjoy working with him,” says Maria Borror, LAWV attorney and pro bono specialist. “It is heartening that he’s eager to help Legal Aid clients and to explore new areas of the law—especially since he brings with him many years of experience from his remarkable career. My colleagues and I are thankful that he’s willing to take the time to listen to our clients’ legal troubles and needs, and I know that his advice and empathy are making a positive difference. Truly, he deserves many thanks to him for generously giving Legal Aid and our clients his time and legal expertise.”

Richard’s dedication to service is also a family affair. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he began delivering meals for Meals on Wheels, often with his wife. He hopes his son, also an attorney in Charleston, will one day have the time to give back at Legal Aid and beyond.

“I think, particularly in a state like West Virginia where many people are not educated or don’t have a lot of resources but come up against legal questions, as everybody does in society, those of us that have been in a fortunate enough position should volunteer our time,” Richard says. “I think it’s imperative that those individuals such as myself give back. Whether through Legal Aid, Meals on Wheels, or otherwise, volunteering in the community is extremely important, and everybody should feel that obligation.”

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