Scranton PA Personal Injury & Workers Comp Attorney Jim Powell : 'I Know How the Working Man Thinks'
In Jim Powell’s life, history skipped a generation then repeated itself.
Just like his grandfather nearly 70 years before, at age 14, Jim found himself the man of the house when his father died at age 45. He went to work in the factories to help support his mother and four younger brothers.
Two generations before, Jim’s grandfather, Attorney James J. Powell Sr., was orphaned at age 13 when both his parents were killed in a train wreck known as the Mud Run Disaster. He went to work in the coal mines to put bread on the table for his younger siblings.
"I had to do the same thing my grandfather did," says Jim. "I went to work in the factories, brought home my paychecks and signed them over to my mother."
The experience forever changed his outlook, left him with a lasting respect for blue-collar workers and shaped the way he practices law.
"I know how the working man thinks, I know how the guy in the factory thinks, because I was one of them," he says. "I think it made me a much better man because I understand people and I never think I’m better than anyone else."
Jim was born in Wales while his father, a decorated war hero, was serving in World War II. Before his father was discharged from the Army, Jim and his Scots-Welsh mother traveled back to the family homestead in Minooka built by his grandfather.
"My father had a promising career as an attorney, but he chose to enlist in the Army and fight for his country," says Jim. "As my Uncle Chris liked to say, those were the days of the iron men and the wooden ships, and now it’s just the opposite."
Back in Minooka, Jim and his four brothers enjoyed an idyllic childhood.
"Minooka was a great place to grow up," he recalls. "When school was out, we played football, basketball and baseball every day of our lives. In those days, you could walk to each other’s homes. It was a very close-knit Irish community where everyone looked out for each other. I had a wonderful childhood."
After graduating from Central High School, Jim earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Scranton, then went on to earn his Juris Doctorate from Catholic University Law School in Washington, D.C. He returned to Scranton to practice law with his father’s brother, Uncle Chris, who had come back to join the family practice about six months prior to his father’s untimely death.
"Becoming a lawyer was really instilled in me by my family heritage and by my Uncle Chris," Jim says. "It was preordained that I was going to be a lawyer."
Having practiced law since 1970, Jim has represented thousands of clients in PA personal injury, worker’s comp cases, professional conduct and other types of cases. Like the two generations of Powell lawyers who came before him, he devotes a significant portion of his practice to pro bono work, meaning he helps clients for free.
"The best part about being a lawyer is the satisfaction of representing the little guy against all odds and giving him a chance at justice," Jim says. "That’s really why our system works because it allows everybody the chance to get into court, not just those who are rich and powerful."
Jim readily acknowledges the high point of his legal career was his term as Chairman of the Disciplinary Board of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the arm of the Supreme Court that oversees and disciplines the 80,000 attorneys in the Commonwealth. In that capacity, he chaired the Disciplinary Review Board, managed five offices and oversaw a staff of 29 prosecutors, 50 administrative personnel, investigators and others.
"It was a great honor to serve as Chairman of the Disciplinary Board," he says. "It’s a tremendous responsibility."
Apart from his practice, Jim is an avid big-game hunter. Every November, he takes a trip with his buddies to hunt somewhere in the United States, Canada or Mexico. So far, he has hunted in more than a dozen states for whitetail deer, mule deer, elk, wild boar, bear, caribou, moose, mountain lions, wolves, coyotes and other wild game. His house and office are filled with some 80 trophy mounts.
"The only thing I can do to get my mind completely off work is hunting," he says.
While he has a thousand stories about his hunting exploits, Jim says, “My best hunting memories are the ones I made with my children."
At home, Jim enjoys cultivating his apple trees and vegetable garden, and taking occasional trips into New York City to the opera. He and his wife, Catherine, live in Springbrook Township and have three children, James Jr., Shawn and Kelly.
EDUCATION AND CREDENTIALS
- University of Scranton, Bachelor of Science, 1966
- Catholic University of America, Juris Doctorate, 1970; Phi Alpha Delta
- Admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar, 1970
- Lackawanna Bar Association, Member - Chairman, Fee Dispute Committee, 1985-1986; Delegate to Pennsylvania Bar Association, 1999-Present
- The American Association for Justice (formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America)
- Pennsylvania Association for Justice (formerly the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association), Board of Governors, 1985-1988
- Northeastern Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association
- Lackawanna County Public Defender, 1973-1978
- Court Administrator of the District Justices of Lackawanna County, 1978-1987
- Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania - Member, 1985-1996; Vice Chairman, 1994-1995; Chairman, 1995-1996
- Lackawanna College, Trustee, 1991-Present
- Springbrook Township, Solicitor, 1978-1979
- PA Personal Injury
- PA Worker’s Compensation
- Social Security Disability
- FELA Injury Litigation
- Professional Conduct