From the beginning, Joe Albrechta wanted to create a law firm that provided most of the legal services that clients need over the course of their lifetime. It was a vision he shared with John Coble when they formed the firm in 1996, and he believes they have achieved their goal.
“We have a saying here,” he says. “We call it ‘farm to table’ law.”
It is an approach, he acknowledges, that is different from that of most law firms.
“We don’t offer a cookie-cutter approach to the practice of law,” he says. “We try to sit down with our clients and design a strategy that meets their litigation needs, their planning needs, their financial needs, their personal needs. And that’s complex. That’s more than just signing a fee contract and filing a motion and not talking to them until you get to the courthouse.”
Similarly, Albrechta’s own career has been somewhat unconventional.
After receiving his undergraduate Bachelor of Philosophy degree from Ohio’s MiamiUniversity in 1978, he focused on environmental work. He took a job as a naturalist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources followed by a paid internship with the Ohio Environmental Council, where he was a researcher on environmental policy issues.
He then joined the Ohio Alliance for Returnables, a campaign to put deposits on bottles, followed by a stint with the Ohio Sierra Club as a legislative liaison.
In 1981, he enrolled at the University of Toledo College of Law and combined his studies with work, first as a policy analyst with the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments and then as a full time law clerk at Gallon, Kalniz & Lorio. After receiving his J.D. in 1984, he stayed at that firm for two more years. Over the next ten years, he worked as a solo practitioner as well as in a partnership before forming Albrechta & Coble.
Initially, most of his practice in the firm was personal injury litigation. But legislative changes stemming from “tort reform” prompted him to expand into other areas. His practice took on an entirely new look when he and John Coble purchased the domestic law practice of a local lawyer. This expansion has been professionally and personally fulfilling.
“When I was younger, I always viewed personal injury practice as the pinnacle of trial work and litigation services that lawyers could offer,” Albrechta says. “But as I got older I’ve come to realize that the family, whatever form it may take—whether it’s husbands and wives, partnerships, co-relationships, however the law defines them—that is the center point of American life. It’s the focal point upon which crisis resolution is at its highest level.”
Albrechta estimates that about one third of his practice is domestic relations, a third is estate and probate work, and a third is general practice, including personal injury, wrongful death, employment and civil rights litigation, and business planning.
He has handled several successful class action lawsuits, including a substantial settlement with Sun Oil Co., in which 7,000 individuals received a multi-million dollar settlement in compensation for a toluene spill that resulted in an evacuation.
When Albrechta considers what he likes most about practicing law, he doesn’t hesitate to identify the best part.
“It’s people,” he says. “What really drives this practice is our affinity for people. We enjoy our clients. We consider them part of our family.”