Maureen McBride, a Partner at Lamb McErlane, spoke with VISTA Today about growing up in Bucks County as one of eight children in her family; the valuable lessons she learned in some of her earlier, part-time jobs; why she chose to attend King’s College in Wilkes-Barre; and what eventually prompted her to attend Villanova Law School.
McBride also discussed what drew her to Lamb McErlane and the people who saw promise in her, as well as the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for her practice.
Where were you born, and where did you grow up?
I’m the third of eight children. I was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Feasterville, Bucks County. Feasterville is a small town, and we lived in two different areas – we moved when I was in the fourth grade from one side of town to the other.
What did your parents do?
My father was a vice president of a manufacturing company, and my mother was a stay-at-home mom during most of my childhood. She started working full-time when I went to college.
What memories do you have growing up in Feasterville?
Feasterville is just outside of Philadelphia in Bucks County and, back then, was a bit of a sleepy town. It was much more suburbia than it was city-like. It was a nice place to grow up. There were a ton of kids in my neighborhood who I played with, and I am still friends with many of them today.
We had a pool, so we spent a lot of time swimming. In the summer we went to Stone Harbor or other shore locations for vacation. My mother is a history buff, so we also made a lot of trips in our family station wagon to historic places like Williamsburg and Monticello. We visited a lot of battlefields that I did not appreciate at that age.
Did you play any sports?
I played a lot of sports, including basketball and softball. I wasn’t too good at them; I was purely a “recreational” athlete. My mother, much more than my father, is a huge sports fan.
My brothers and sisters all played sports, too, so we spent a lot of time at fields around our area.
Did you have any part-time jobs over the years?
I always babysat for families in the neighborhood, as well as for my brothers and sisters, and when I turned sixteen, I began working at a jewelry store part-time after school and on weekends.
From there, I always had interesting jobs. I worked in retail for GNC, and at a straw factory for two summers. I sold cookware in a Cutco-type of job. It was a lot of cold calling people and sales, but there were incentives to win free trips to the Bahamas, so it was a great job.
I still think about some of the things I learned in the training sessions. I learned a lot about negotiating and asking for the sale. One of the things I learned was to stay away from negative people because they will only bring you down. Even in my practice today, I still think about those lessons. I also learned not to be afraid of objections, as well as how to address them, or pre-empt them. When I have to argue cases, I think about that training, too. Those experiences taught me how to interact confidently and professionally and were a nice training ground for representing the interests of my client with lawyers and before judges.
Why did you work so many jobs?
We all worked part-time jobs as soon as we could. I was raised in that work ethic. It was important. I worked to save money for college. We gave our parents most of the money we made to help pay for college.
You discovered who you were in those part-time jobs.
I did. You don’t really know what you are capable of doing until you do it. When I sold cookware, much of what I did involved “sales pitches” in people’s homes. We were given a prospectus, and went through it, and then asked for the sale. I can’t even tell you how many times people said yes, and I’m still amazed today! I exceeded the sales goals in my twenties and earned three trips to the Bahamas with a group of college kids.
How did your perceptions change?
I think in a big family there’s always a little rivalry so I suspect that helped me look for ways to distinguish myself once I began working. Sales is a great outlet for that. Sales is competitive, and I was always trying to reach my sales goals to earn the extra rewards – like the trips to the Bahamas. I really enjoyed the challenge and the thrill of closing the sales. It was very different from what my siblings were doing at the time.
What kind of music were you listening to back then?
I was very into music and went to a lot of concerts at the Spectrum. My first concert was at JFK with 100,000 people for the Yes concert with Peter Frampton. We were there from 2:00 in the afternoon to 2:00 in the morning. It was a great time!
Did you have a favorite group?
I had many favorite groups over the years. I’ve seen Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Paul McCartney and even the Grateful Dead a couple of times.
Where did you go to college, Maureen?
I attended King’s College in Wilkes-Barre. I wanted to be a Communications major and King’s had a great program for that. King’s was perfect because it was far enough away from home, but close enough to return when I wanted to. It had the major I wanted, and it made my parents happy to see me continue my education at a Catholic school.
Was King’s a good choice for you?
It was the best. The benefit of going to a small school is that you’re able to make friends easily and maintain those friendships. I’m still friends with a lot of my classmates and still talk to them today.
As an English and Communications major, most of my professors were PhD’s, who were very well-educated and read. There were small class sizes with great exposure to professors with great depth and experience.
What did you do after college?
After I graduated, I worked at a cable magazine for a start-up company called TVSM. At the time, it was competing with T.V. Guide to capture cable subscribers. It was a great company to work for because they hired a lot of college graduates, and about two hundred of us started at or about the same time. We had a lot of fun together.
I left there and went to work at National Liberty Insurance as a copywriter. I enjoyed that. Interestingly, while I only worked at National Liberty for one year, I met my husband Michael, as well as a lot of good friends whom I still see today, so it was a very important year in my life! At that point, I decided to apply to law school.
Even as a young girl, I was very intrigued by the Watergate hearings. Later, in college, I was fortunate enough to attend Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s confirmation hearings in D.C.
In college, I also did a semester on Capitol Hill in D.C. so I was always around lawyers and other officials. I roomed with a friend, who is now a lawyer in Montgomery County. She sent me the application to take the LSATs. We both always wanted to be lawyers and agreed to apply together. We both got accepted, borrowed a lot of money and took a chance on ourselves.
If my friend hadn’t done that, who knows how my life would have turned out. I always tell my three children, if you’re ever on the fence about whether you should do something or encourage someone, think about the difference you can make in the trajectory of their lives.
Was Villanova a good fit?
It was a great fit! The professors were intimidating but wonderful. I was fortunate to make Law Review there. I am glad I spent some time in the real world before I started law school. I think I did well at Villanova because I had worked a job prior to going back to school and knew what it was like to work all day and finish at six. While in school, I could be done classes at 1:00 pm and had the rest of the day and night to study. I think if I had gone straight through, it might have been more difficult.
I’m still involved with Villanova’s Inn of Court organization and it has been wonderful to be back in touch with many people I knew during my time there.
Looking back over your career, who were the people who saw promise and potential in you?
That’s an interesting story. I was a summer law clerk at Schnader Harrison in downtown Philadelphia, and then I ended up taking a full-time position there when I graduated. Schnader was one of the first firms in Philadelphia that allowed women to work part-time or reduced hours. It’s so common now, but back then, the firm was very forward-thinking and progressive in that regard. I had a lot of interviews at big firms, but I chose Schnader because of its work-life flexibility.
I worked on a team with a former Third Circuit judge, Arlin Adams, who was a real scholar and giant in the legal profession. I learned a lot from watching him and working with the people on that team.
When I left Schnader, we had two small children, and the commute into the city every day became too much. I thought I would take time off until someone at Schnader called me and encouraged me to talk to Jim McErlane. Bill Lamb and Jim McErlane gave me the flexibility I needed to work, and if it weren’t for them, I’m not sure I would be practicing law today. They allowed me to do it my own way.
The other person I have to credit is my husband, Michael, who believed in and supported me throughout law school and my entire career. I literally could not have done it without his support.
What drew you to Lamb McErlane?
The firm has a great reputation as the best law firm in Chester County. Lamb McErlane represented Tredyffrin Township, where I lived, so I knew the firm. When I began working for the firm, it was representing some national clients and was well-known throughout Pennsylvania.
I credit Bill Lamb and Jim McErlane for helping me stay in the game. If more women had people like them in their corner, we’d have more women practicing law today. They also allowed me to take a leadership role by placing me on the firm’s Executive Committee which I still serve on today with Joel Frank, Vince Donohue and John Cunningham.
Who else saw promise in you?
Jim Sargent at my firm. He encouraged me to put myself out there more than I would have been willing to do. He really taught me a lot about trial practice, brief writing, and all the tools needed to be a good lawyer. We now are co-Chairs of the Firm’s Appellate Department. More than anything, he helped me build my confidence.
What do you think Jim saw in you?
I think he saw that I had the ability and the drive to excel.
We are coming out of a challenging year. What are the opportunities and challenges ahead for your practice?
I do a lot of litigation and appellate work involving all types of commercial, medical malpractice and other types of disputes. I enjoy getting to know clients both professionally and personally and have learned a tremendous amount about all types of businesses and professions during my career.
The courts shut down March 2020 and are just opening up now. There’s a huge backlog of cases and trials that did not take place. They will take place on a compressed schedule. The firm was active through the pandemic, and I was fortunate to remain busy for the entire pandemic. Now that things are opening up, it’s going to get even busier.
Personally, what are you working on?
My daughter’s wedding! I have three children, and my daughter is getting married next June. There’s a lot of time and effort spent on that.
I just rotated off the Board for Friends Association for the Care and Protection of Children after nine years. I’m getting involved in more Bar Association activities. I was appointed to the Civil Rules Committee for the Supreme Court and to Co-Chair of the Bar Association’s Appellate Advocacy Committee, after having served on the Rules of Evidence Committee, the Lawyer’s Fund for Client Security and as a hearing officer for the Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Board. These commitments take up a lot of time.
I want to get on another non-profit board. I do some volunteer work with a food cupboard in my area, and I’d like to expand on that. In the past, I’ve done work with housing and homelessness and want to focus on food insecurity next.
What do you do in your free time?
We have a place in Ocean City, New Jersey and really enjoy spending time down there. During the pandemic, it was great to have that escape.
Do you read at all?
I read anything that is not about a courtroom or the law! I love novels and self-help books. If you looked at my nightstand, that’s what you’d see. I love podcasts. My favorite is, “The Bulwark,” which is a centrist political podcast.
Finally, Maureen, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
I took one of my kids into the emergency room once for a fall, and the doctor and I started talking about student loans. He said, “you can never go wrong investing in yourself.”
Something that I learned just recently, and I relayed it to my kids. “You can choose your own thoughts. If you can choose your thoughts, why not choose thoughts that are going to make you feel better instead of thoughts that are going to make you feel bad?”
Publisher’s note: Laura Manion assisted with this profile.