MCBA President’s Message: John Vito reminded us about the importance of connecting
Our legal community lost a good old soul recently. He wasn’t a lawyer or a judge or a legal assistant. He was a restaurant owner. John Vito owned O’Bagelo’s — a place that served as a social center for our community for many years.
I think John and O’Bagelo’s represents a way of life that our profession is on its way to losing if we’re not careful.
With O’Bagelo’s, John created a place that encouraged us to come together on a regular basis. It was located down State Street just shy of the Inner Loop. Even though it was a longer walk than most other places, many of us made the trek anyway for John’s great food, life lessons, music, daily quotes, and various celebrations. It was a place where many of us always felt at home (even when John was schooling us on proper ordering methods, etc).
But I think it was more than that. By being a little farther away, it forced us to take a little more time out to stop and refresh. We’d usually go in groups — a few lawyers from a firm or office, or a group of solos who practiced alongside each other on the same floor of a building.
Lawyers came from the Four Corners and from the other side of downtown. O’Bagelo’s was a place where you’d see young lawyers, seasoned lawyers, litigators, corporate lawyers, PDs, DAs and judges all in the same place. It was a place to catch up with people you didn’t work alongside and even to meet new people.
As years went by, though, I became busy running my own practice and thinking that I didn’t have the time to take that walk. I went less and less. I suspect that same thing happened to many other people. Eventually, John had to close the shop.
Mind you, O’Bagelo’s wasn’t the only place like that. There were others — many of which are closed now too — such as The Stock Exchange in First Federal Plaza, various places in Midtown Plaza, and that awesome sit-down sandwich shop in the Executive Office Building.
One might say these places closed because not as many people work downtown these days, and that might be true. But I think they also closed because we’ve become just too busy to stop and spend some quality time with one another. We look for the quick takeout place and eat at our desks.
What made O’Bagelo’s so special was the decision each of us made to take time out and go there. We made the decision to make it what it was.
I’m sad to say that I don’t have a place like O’Bagelo’s these days. I don’t have a place where I can count on running into a bunch of friends and fellow lawyers during lunch. I have places I like to get food from (always take out), but nothing like what O’Bagelo’s used to be. Do you have such a place?
While we’re at it, when was the last time that you and a group of lawyers in your office went out to lunch together, even pre-COVID? Not for a holiday party or a birthday, but just because you wanted to spend some time together.
So, here’s my suggestion:
Pick a place. Any place. And then say to yourself and your colleagues that you’re going to meet there on a given day and at a given time every single week — of course, employing proper safety measures. It can be for breakfast or lunch or just coffee. It can even be virtual. And then stick to your plan. We need the feeling of O’Bagelo’s now more than ever.
Thanks, John, for reminding us what’s important. We miss you…
Bradley Kammholz is the 2021-22 President of the Monroe County Bar Association and is a partner at Kammholz Rossi PLLC. He can be reached at [email protected].
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