I was a non-traditional student. I didn’t enroll in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences until years after I had started and left college elsewhere. During those years away from school, I discovered academic philosophy and realized how much I wanted to study it. After graduating from the Eberly College with a degree in philosophy, I eventually returned to WVU to study law. After graduating from law school, I became a lawyer. That’s what I am today, although immediately after selling the first copy of my novel, I started introducing myself as “novelist (pause) lawyer” because that generally gets a better reception.
Describe your new book, “M’s Celebrity.”
It’s a story told by a first person narrator who discovers a man whom the narrator refers to as “M.” After his initial interactions with M, the narrator starts to believe that M may be a genius. The narrator describes how M and his group of like-minded followers begin an idealistic rebellion against the wrong-headed aspects of their world. M and his group eventually focus on a famously beautiful celebrity whom they believe to be the epitome of everything they oppose. As the story develops, the narrator begins to question whether M’s interests in the celebrity are less philosophical and more obsessive than M has led him to believe, and the narrator finds himself involved in an ultimate confrontation between M’s world and the celebrity’s world.
Briefly, describe your work as an attorney with McCune & Tsiatsos, PLLC.
We focus primarily on civil litigation—business disputes, personal injury, contract issues—for plaintiffs and defendants. But we’ve also built a practice helping land owners whose property has been taken in eminent domain proceedings, and we do a good deal of estate work (will, trust and other document drafting and estate disputes). My day-to-day work involves researching and drafting pleadings, motions and other documents and appearing in court for hearings and trials.
What are you passionate about in your work?
I’m passionate about putting together the best argument I can for my clients. There is often no clear answer to a given legal question. You have to make your best argument based on previous cases and other authorities, but also on principles of equity and common sense. Putting together an argument that wins a case for your client can be very satisfying.
Where is your career headed?
I enjoy my practice in Martinsburg. I grew up in the area and my family and I enjoy living here. Although our firm often handles large cases, there is still a small town feel about the practice of law here. I see myself staying here and practicing law in this setting for the foreseeable future. Also, there is a joke that says that becoming a lawyer is like entering a pie eating contest in which the prize is more pie.
How has your Eberly College experience helped shape your success?
The writing and critical thinking skills that I learned as a philosophy major have been invaluable.
What has been your most rewarding teaching/coaching experience?
I was fortunate enough to serve as a student clerk for the Honorable Irene M. Keeley, United States District Judge in Clarksburg during my last year of law school. I learned a great deal from her about what federal judges expect and how law should be practiced. I’ve also learned every day from the senior partner in our firm, Richard McCune, who is one of the most experienced and accomplished attorneys in the state. From those experiences, I’ve learned a little bit about how to help others and advise younger attorneys and law students.
How are you a game changer? Or, how are you making a positive impact in the world?
We’ve helped our clients in many cases and many ways, and I’ve volunteered with Legal Aid and done other things, but since my wife and I had our first child almost four years ago (and another child in June 2017), I understand that nothing I can do will compare to raising our kids well. To be responsible for another life in this world is an awesome and terrifying prospect.
What is the most interesting thing that’s happened to you since graduating?
I suspect that most people would say that the most interesting thing about me is that I wrote a novel. But my son’s interest in dinosaurs has brought about my own fascination with paleontology. On some days, I can’t think of anything more interesting than trying to learn about the natural history of a fossil. This may be too dorky to print, but it’s true.
Your favorite WVU memory?
This is difficult. I have many wonderful memories of my time at WVU, especially the time I spent during office hours and at philosophy club meetings with my philosophy professors—David Cerbone, Daniel Shapiro, Beverly Hinton, Richard Montgomery and others. They each are brilliant and personable, and they were always generous with their time.
Anything else you’d like to share?
This is going to sound like world-weary, oh-so-wise advice that you always hear, but to any student reading this, enjoy your time in college. You should study hard and do your best academically, but also spend some time just enjoying the experience. Things get so much harder after you graduate.
How do you support and participate in the philosophy department and at WVU now?
I’m afraid that I haven’t been as faithful an alumnus as others, but I’ve tried to keep up with the different events. I’ve attended a few WVU functions, and I follow the Department and the University on social media. And, of course, I love reading Eberly Magazine.