When St. Marys native Brian Calla began considering career options, he decided that he wanted to have a job where he could make a bigger contribution and help people. For the past nine years, he has done that through his job at the law firm of Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, LLC in PIttsburgh.
"Eckert Seamans is based in Pittsburgh and is a national law firm with over 325 attorneys located in offices throughout the eastern United States," Calla said. "The firm's clients represent nearly every facet of the economy, including multinational corporations, small businesses, nonprofit institutions, government agencies and individuals. That's quite different from the small-town general practice that I initially thought my career path would be."
Calla explained that, when he first began to attend law school, he thought that after graduating he would get some experience and then move back to the area to open a general solo practice.
"I later found out that often law school graduates take the job they can get and work as hard as they can with the hope that it will work out. Maybe things don't work out as you initially planned. That's what happened in my case," Calla said.
Through his position with Eckert Seamans, Calla concentrates his practice in the area of electronic discovery and general civil litigation, with a particular emphasis on mass tort litigation and product liability defense of pharmaceutical claims.
"I implement and manage numerous large-scale document production projects involving teams of attorneys preparing millions of physical and electronic documents from several databases for litigation production. These projects range from large multi-jurisdictional mass tort litigation to large-scale employment law cases and government compliance review matters. I currently manage a document review team of more than 200 attorneys who review documents in order to respond to requests for discovery in various matters," Calla said.
He further explained that discovery is a fact-finding process that takes place after a lawsuit has been filed and before trial in the matter, in order to allow the parties in the case to prepare for settlement or trial. To put it another way, discovery is part of the pre-trial litigation process during which each party requests relevant information and documents from the other side in an attempt to "discover" pertinent facts.
Calla added that one of the most interesting aspects of his job is the electronic discovery element.
"Electronic discovery (e-discovery), is the obligation of parties to a lawsuit to exchange documents that exist only in electronic form (known as ESI - electronically stored information). Examples of electronic documents and data subject to e-discovery are e-mails, voicemails, instant messages, e-calendars, audio files, data on handheld devices, animation, metadata, graphics, photographs, spreadsheets, word processing files, websites, drawings, and other types of digital data. Electronic discovery involves finding relevant evidence in a court case that resides in electronic form. It is a relatively new and developing area of the law which requires a fair amount of technical knowledge and experience to properly address issues. Being involved in such a cutting-edge and rapidly developing area of the law is a challenge that I find both interesting and enjoyable," Calla said.
Calla noted that his work in the area of electronic discovery has also helped provide him with additional career opportunities.
"As a result of an increase in the number of matters involving ESI that are brought to the federal district court, the Board of Judges in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania decided to investigate the use, qualifications, and selection process of e-discovery special masters to assist the judiciary as required. The e-discovery special masters are knowledgeable and experienced in issues related to ESI. In this capacity, special masters will be selected by a Federal Court Judge to resolve e-discovery disputes in certain federal cases. This program in the Western District of Pennsylvania is the first of its kind in the United States. In addition to my responsibilities at Eckert Seamans, I was selected to be an e-discovery special master in this newly developed program. This will be an extremely interesting opportunity and will enable me to make a contribution to the local bar in general," Calla said.
As to whether he would recommend a similar career to others, Calla remarked that it all would depend on the person's attitude and work ethic.
"If you're looking for a stress-free environment with a 'regular' 40-hour work week, then the practice of law probably isn't for you. Otherwise, a legal career is just like anything else in life. It comes down to your outlook, attitude, and your ability to make the best of everything that life throws your way," Calla said.
Brian is the son of Carla (Jacob) Cunningham, who was born and raised in St. Marys and now resides in DuBois, and Edward Calla, who was born raised in Johnsonburg and now resides in Kersey. He is also the grandson of Lucille and the late James Jacob of St. Marys and Agnes and the late Ferdinand Calla of Johnsonburg.
Calla noted that his family, in particular his grandparents, had a significant impact on his life.
"They set a great example by being good, honest, down-to-earth, hardworking people," Calla said of his grandparents.
All four were employed at local industries, with James Jacob working at Sylvania, Lucille Jacob working at St. Marys Carbon, Ferdinand Calla working at the Johnsonburg paper mill, and Agnes Calla working at Stackpole.
"I think I got a lot of my focus and work ethic from them. I'm kind of old-school in that sense. My mom and dad have certainly influenced me in the same ways when it comes to work ethic and having down-to-earth character traits as well," Calla said.
After attending grade school at Sacred Heart in St. Marys, he went on to attend DuBois Central Christian High School in DuBois. He attended college at Duquesne University and law school at the University of Pittsburgh.
During high school and college, he was employed as part of the first group of crew members at Hoss's Steak and Sea House in DuBois, which had recently opened at that time.
"I started out washing dishes, cooking and cutting meat back when they had in-house butchers. Eventually, I became general manager of the DuBois restaurant," Calla said.
He was named Manager of the Year in 1992 for the entire restaurant chain and later served as a district manager responsible for nine Hoss's locations.
Even though he now resides in Pittsburgh, which he noted is a "decent-sized city," Calla remarked that the location is a good fit for someone who was raised in a small-town environment.
"Pittsburgh often feels like it's a number of small neighborhoods all tied together to make one big city, so in some ways it can still have a 'small-town' feel to it. Obviously though, even if it does feel like a small town sometimes, you still have all of the resources of a big city right around the corner," Calla said.
While his job with the law firm of Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, LLC keeps him pretty busy, he added that he tries to make it back to the area between six to eight times a year for holidays and to visit family and friends.