Philadelphia, Private Practice and Pro Bono
When Chris Fallon (’73) arrived at the Syracuse University College of Law in the fall of 1970, he didn’t know what kind of law he wanted to practice, whether he wanted to be a general practice lawyer or do trial work, or even how well he would do outside his hometown of Baldwinsville, New York. No recent family members of his had gone on to law school, but he was determined not to be the law student who “wouldn’t be back for his second year. However, I never imagined that I would be where I am now—hard work and good luck brought me to this point.”
Fallon graduated cum laude from Syracuse and did it all in just two and a half years. He says he studied harder in law school than ever before and even took classes in the summer, all because he was “anxious to get to work.” And work, he did.
Because of his good fortune and the work ethic instilled at Syracuse, Fallon was afforded the opportunity to interview with firms in Philadelphia. “I had never lived in a big city before,” he said, “but I was ready to try.” Fallon accepted a position with LaBrum & Doak in its insurance group. In just two and one half years, he became a non-equity partner, the youngest the firm had ever had. Four years later, Fallon became an equity partner.
Today, Fallon is the Chair of the Personal Injury Group at Cozen O’Connor in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He’s been a part of the firm since the firm had less than 20 lawyers. He was “number seventeen” upon his arrival from LaBrum & Doak in 1979. Now Cozen has more than 650 lawyers.
In his 40+ years in private practice, Fallon has been honored with numerous professional awards. From being named the Pennsylvania Defense Institute “Lawyer of the Year” in 1995, to being inducted into the American College of Trial Lawyers in 2004, Fallon has enjoyed his fair share of professional successes. However, his work ethic isn’t the only thing that’s propelled him through and motivated him to strive for excellence.
“Going to the Syracuse University College of Law was the second best decision of my life,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed success as a lawyer in the courtroom and in my law firms, and I had a great marriage with three wonderful kids, but I needed more.” And that’s when VIP and HAP came into his life.
A decade into law firm life, Fallon was named the president of the Pennsylvania State Defense Lawyers Organization. There, he became friendly with Frank Devine, President of the Philadelphia Volunteers for the Indigent Program (“VIP”). The tiny 501(c)(3) began as a fledgling organization in its early years, doing what it could to serve the less fortunate in the Philadelphia community. Fallon first got involved to learn more and to help assist, and ultimately became its third president. As time went on, while serving as President of VIP, he noticed something that needed more attention.
“It became clear to me that the streets of Philadelphia were becoming overwhelmed with homeless people,” he said. “So, together with my fellow board members at VIP, I helped to create the Homeless Advocacy Project (HAP).”
Fallon, who became HAP’s second president, worked with a team of attorneys to reduce the homeless population through helping them secure social security benefits, veterans benefits and affordable housing, all within the four corners of the law. “This didn’t happen because of me,” he said. “This happened because hundreds of volunteer lawyers came together to provide free legal representation to these people who were really in need.”
Today, HAP has gone on to become one of the top boutique pro bono programs in the country. “I have loved supporting my family as a lawyer,” he said, “but I’ve also loved helping establish a program that makes Philadelphia a better city. Philadelphia is better today because of HAP, VIP and other similar programs.”
So what advice does Fallon have for current students and alums? Skills are critical, but networks can take you twice as far. “Join a church or synagogue, a volunteer board, a sport, do pro bono work, stay in touch with your classmates…All of these and more, those connections, they are what help you secure clients to build your practice. That’s what makes you a better lawyer, a better member of the community.”
“Being a Syracuse alum provided me with an incredible opportunity to meet and work with other SU grads – whether that’s law or undergrad. Enjoy that extraordinary benefit!”