PLDIC Volunteer of the Year: 2022

Devon Ferris

Associate | Dickie, McCamey & Chilcote, P.C.

Tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up, where did you go to college?
I’m originally from Connecticut and attended Villanova University, located on the Main Line just outside of Philadelphia.  At Villanova, I originally enrolled in the Engineering School, but I quickly realized that was not the right path for me. Eventually, I changed my major to English, based in large part on my mother’s edict that, “If you can write well, you can succeed in almost any job.”

Why did you decide to go to law school? What motivated you to be a lawyer?
I became a lawyer because I wanted to be an advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves – being the best advocate that I can be is something that still motivates me every day.

Why do you love Pittsburgh?
As a non-native Pittsburgher, I can confidently say that the Pittsburgh community is truly special; the pride felt for the city is both apparent and contagious. I particularly love that so many people who grew up in Pittsburgh return after spending time away at college or living in other cities – to have so many native Pittsburghers want to return and contribute to the city’s continued growth and success is unique and speaks to the strong sense of community we have here.

Why do you volunteer with the PLDIC?
I first became involved in PLDIC because I strongly believe in the importance of PLDIC’s mission – increasing (and retaining) diversity in the Pittsburgh legal community is essential to maintaining a more dynamic, just, and productive bar. And while PLDIC’s multi-faceted diversity and inclusion initiatives were what attracted me at first, the passion and commitment of the PLDIC members is what makes volunteering even more meaningful. Everyone associated with PLDIC is dedicated to making a real, tangible impact and improving our legal community by fostering a diverse and welcoming environment.

What can the legal community do better to support the growth and advancement of lawyers from historically underrepresented backgrounds?
I believe one of the primary efforts we need to undertake to grow—and support—lawyers from historically underrepresented backgrounds is to start early and make the legal field more accessible and less intimidating for college-aged students and younger. For many students, “being a lawyer” is an unattainable or unrealistic goal, for a variety of reasons: underrepresentation in the legal field; economic and educational disparities; and prior negative experiences with the justice system. While going to law school and being a lawyer takes hard work and dedication, I do not believe that anyone should believe themselves excluded from our profession simply because of how they look or from where they come. But, it is on those of us in the profession to help show underrepresented students that there is a path for them to become a lawyer. In that same vein, I know that the Pittsburgh legal community genuinely wants our lawyers to succeed, and so many of us are willing to help our peers in any way that we can. But, as a young lawyer, it can be hard to ask for help, or reach out to a connection, for fear of being a nuisance.  As more senior attorneys, we need to take the initiative to check in on our younger and diverse attorneys to ensure they feel supported and included.

Who are your legal heroes?
While I admire many lawyers, I am most inspired by my mentors and colleagues, who provide me with endless guidance and support both in and out of the courtroom.

Who is your favorite fictional lawyer?
I can’t say that I have a favorite fictional lawyer, though I do enjoy shows like Better Call Saul and The Lincoln Lawyer, despite the inaccuracies in the depiction of the legal profession!

Do you have anything else you want the Pittsburgh legal community to know about you?
I believe we have a duty to help one another succeed and be the best lawyers we can be. To that end, I am always available to talk about our diversity initiatives, getting involved in PLDIC, or speak more generally about the practice of law, and would encourage anyone interested to reach out to me or Ena Lebel!