We’re continuing to highlight our fantastic pro bono attorneys, and today we’d like to introduce you to Stephen Kurvin, a civil litigator who practiced for 50 years before retiring in 2016. He now helps Legal Aid with complex pro bono litigation matters and we are so grateful to have him on our team. Enjoy learning a little more about Steve below.
Tell us about your background. What made you want to become a lawyer?
I wanted to be an attorney after I learned about the U.S. government in eighth-grade civics class. Plus, my grandfather was an attorney, so that motivated me, as well.
I fell in love with what I thought attorneys did and wound up going to law school. I served during the Vietnam War and spent nearly four years as a jag officer trying criminal cases in court martials. Afterward, I settled in the Panhandle and spent eight years there, then decided I had made a mistake and moved to Sarasota. My brother lived here since the ‘60s and loved it.
I did a lot of litigation work for [now-defunct] Blackwell Walker, most of which involved real property work and construction liens for large companies. Then I worked as a sole practitioner from 1984-2016. It wasn’t anything like what I imagined it would be like as a child, but I practiced for 50 years.
What made you decide to volunteer as a pro bono lawyer for Legal Aid?
I spent a lot of time defending insurance companies with a lot of money, and saw the disparity between my clients—the insurance companies—and the plaintiffs in personal injury cases. I knew there were people who had problems they couldn’t address without a lawyer working for free.
What has the experience of volunteering for Legal Aid been like?
I’ve been very happy with it. I have a great deal of respect for what Legal Aid does.
Has there been a moment or client experience that has particularly touched you?
I had some very unusual cases right off the bat. One was a young lady who was engaged to be married, but her fiancé passed away unexpectedly. She was entitled to a piece of real estate and was in a fight with his family over it. She was going to lose the house if someone didn’t step in, so I ended up challenging the probate of the boyfriend’s estate. Luckily, he had a will and we were able to get the house in her name alone. That was a very satisfying case.
Why is Legal Aid of Manasota important to our community?
It helps people who, without free legal services, would be in dire straits. One of the most important things you can say to the other attorney on a case is, “You have to understand something: I’m working for free and I’m not going to charge my client anything, so trying to use the expense of legal services against them is not going to work.” I’m a fairly tenacious fellow—I’m not going away!
What do you wish people understood about the justice system and legal aid?
Legal services are too expensive for most of the population. Legal aid helps level the playing field.
If you could wave a wand, how would you make justice work for everyone?
Make legal services for more affordable.
What are your hobbies/passion projects?
Well, my hobby is the law, and unfortunately, it takes all your time! There’s an old saying: “the law is a jealous mistress.” I didn’t understand that until after I’d practiced a little while. I used to be in the office at 4:30 or 5 a.m. and work 10-12 hours a day, six days a week. I loved spending time with my children and going to ball games, but after they were grown I spent most of my time working. There’s no way to do it halfway—you’re either in completely or doing a bad job! But I loved it. As Tom Selleck says in the TV show Blue Bloods that “if you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your life.”