Pittsburgh Proud: Taking care of one another

A native Pittsburgher, Joe Parsons grew up in Oakmont, PA, and now lives in Ben Avon with his wife Erika and their dog, Peanut. They are expecting their first child in May. Professionally, he’s in his sixth year as an associate at the Pittsburgh office of Jones Day, an international law firm. Joe has a passion for his community and philanthropy and serves on the boards of directors at PICT Classic Theatre and The Never Retreat Foundation, and he is President of the American Constitution Society’s Pittsburgh Lawyer Chapter. He is honored to have joined the United Way’s Bridges Society Committee in 2018.  

Are you a lifelong Pittsburgher? If so, what keeps you here? If not, what brought you to Pittsburgh? 

I moved to Pittsburgh around age 10 when my dad got a job here, but Pittsburgh was a place I had visited my whole life because my mom’s family lives in the area. I left to attend college in Washington, D.C. but came back for law school. Families here are very tight-knit, and mine is no different. Family, community, and opportunity have brought me here and keep me here.  

The community is as vibrant as it’s ever been and it’s continuously growing. The opportunities seem boundless right now – to build a great career in a number of different fields, buy a home and live at an affordable price, and be part of a place where folks genuinely care about each other. The further I go from Pittsburgh, the more places I visit, the more I appreciate our city. 

How does Pittsburgh inspire and inform your work?  

Pittsburghers take care of one another. We have a great sense of collective community pride.  Whether I’m representing a company or a pro bono client or working with a non-profit, I try to remember that and make sure I’m doing our community proud.   

What excites you the most about your work? 

The great thing about being an attorney is that you’re always learning new things. Every case requires you to master new subjects and issues, and you end up becoming an authority on things you never expected you would. 

For a Pittsburgh attorney like me, working at Jones Day is an amazing opportunity to work with and learn from some of the best lawyers in town, while also handling cases and getting exposure to cutting-edge legal issues and teams of attorneys across the nation and the world. I get to live in my hometown while my work touches so many other places. It’s a great deal.   

It’s time to unwind. Where do you head?

I like to relax by playing games, so you can find me on the golf course in the warmer months and the basketball court in the winter. If I’m going out with my friends, a bar with a dartboard is almost a requirement. 

What’s the one Pittsburgh event you can’t wait to attend? 

I’m very excited to see the Broadway production of Hamilton in Pittsburgh in just a few weeks. I love theater and the performing arts, which are among Pittsburgh’s greatest strengths.  

Why is giving back important to you? 

I make an effort to give back to our community because so many people here have helped me. Nobody gets anywhere alone, and although many of us are busy, it can be so easy to provide advice, mentorship, or a word of encouragement that impacts someone in a major way. That’s something I have benefited from, and we as a community have to carry that forward. 

It’s vital for myself and others who have found some measure of success to push for changes in our society so that it becomes more compassionate and supportive of those most vulnerable and in need. Personally, I have committed to several causes that I believe foster great positive change: supporting financially struggling families and providing mentorship for students through United Way; caring for children with cancer and their families through the Children’s Trust and the Never Retreat Foundation; and protecting civil rights for all through the American Constitution Society.           

Why United Way? How has your Bridges membership helped you, personally and professionally? 

Through mentoring middle school students, volunteering at United Way events, and participating in the United Way’s RFP process, I have seen first-hand the good this organization does in our community. Mentoring middle school students at the Sarah Heinz House made me want to get more involved. Meeting with a middle school student for an hour a week is a special opportunity to develop a relationship and help to guide someone nearing critical decisions about his or her future. It’s a great way to get involved and make an impact.    

Being a Bridges member has allowed me to contribute to the direction of the organization and to meet a lot of outstanding young professionals in the area who have similar commitments to service, which leads to more opportunities to get involved.