BANGOR, Maine — Edward Spaight can’t remember when he didn’t want to be a lawyer.
Spaight, 38, of Brewer was named the 2008 Lew Vafiades Pro Bono Award Recipient by the Maine Volunteer Lawyers Project at a reception Tuesday at the Lucerne Inn. The award is named after Lewis Vafiades, who died in 2001 at the age of 81. He founded the Bangor law firm with his cousin Nicholas Brountas that still bears their names — Vafiades, Brountas & Kominsky.
The Vafiades award was created to honor lawyers in northern and eastern Maine who provide pro bono or free legal services in civil lawsuits. Lawyers are not required by the rules that govern their profession to volunteer their services, but pro bono work is a deeply rooted professional tradition.
“One of my big regrets is that I never got a chance to meet Mr. Vafiades,” Spaight said in accepting the award. “I’m honored to be part of the firm he started, and I’m honored to receive this award named for him.”
Spaight won the award for talking his legal colleagues into taking on free legal work. Between Dec. 1, 2006, and Nov. 30, 2007, he placed more cases in one sitting and during that 12-month period than any other attorney who served as VLP Lawyer of the Day in Bangor.
The VLP staff screens clients that need legal representation in civil cases and meet the program’s low-income guidelines. They are divided geographically between the VLP offices in Portland and Bangor where lawyers occasionally spend an hour or so several times a year. Most of the cases fall under the heading of family law, Spaight said Friday.
“The overwhelming majority are divorces that involve parents with kids or parental rights issues,” he said. “Usually, [as lawyer of the day] I’ll have 15 cases. Twelve of them will be divorces and the rest will be bankruptcy cases.”
Spaight specializes in family law and does some business and corporate law as well. He also serves as chairman of the Brewer Planning Board.
A native of Hyde Park, N.Y., Spaight graduated in 1992 from Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y., with a bachelor’s degree in political science. He spent his junior year at Regents College in London, England.
Before going to law school, Spaight served as a legislative associate to New York state Sen. Stephen M. Saland. He also was the campaign manager for Bud Walker in New York’s 26th U.S. Congressional District.
Spaight worked his way through law school as a research specialist with the New York State Department of Labor. He graduated from Western New England College of Law in Springfield, Mass., in 2001. He came to work for Vafiades’ law firm in 2002 after clerking in Portland for three Maine Superior Court justices.
The lawyer said that although neither he nor his wife, Veronica Spaight, had any ties to Maine, they decided they wanted to relocate to the state. The couple had vacationed in Maine. They have two children, Lindsay Spaight, 8, and Susan Spaight, 21 months.
“I think living in the Bangor area is really a lifestyle choice.” Spaight said. “We enjoy the outdoors with our children. Here, I’m not working 100 hours a week like you’d see in Boston or New York and the collegiality of the members of the bar is great. It’s just a wonderful place to practice law.”
The VLP opened its Bangor office in 2000. It supports legal volunteerism in Aroostook, Piscataquis, Penobscot, Washington, Hancock and Waldo counties. Over the past eight years, the Bangor Lawyer of the Day program has placed about 1,500 cases with volunteer attorneys.
Previous winners of the Vafiades award are Mike Wiers of Hartland, Thomas F. Shehan Jr. of Belfast, Patricia Locke of Lincoln and Bruce Mallonee of Bangor.
BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY BRIDGET BROWN
Edward Spaight of Brewer, a lawyer with Vafiades, Brountas & Kominsky, was honored Tuesday with this year’s Lewis Vafiades award from the Volunteer Lawyers Project for doing the most pro bono work in northern and eastern Maine.