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Several lawyers among this year’s “30 for the Future” award recipients

Legal News Reporter

Published: September 9, 2015

As a teenager, Roetzel & Andress partner Christopher P. Reuscher said he found the idea of a legal career “interesting,” but joining the profession was far from a foregone conclusion.

In fact, when the Massillon, Ohio native began college at Malone University in Canton, he was an accounting and Spanish major. He spent four years on the nationally ranked golf team, earning recognition as a 2X First Team All-American, and was later inducted into the Malone University Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010.

“For a number of reasons, I changed my major to law and society in my second year at Malone,” said Reuscher. “When I switched I also decided that I wanted to be a corporate attorney.”

Today he’s not only handling large and complex corporate transactions and related business matters at Roetzel & Andress, he’s also among a select group of professionals set to receive the Greater Akron Chamber’s “30 for the Future” award.

The award honors those between the ages of 25 and 39, whose professional accomplishments, leadership and community service efforts have positively impacted the Greater Akron region.

This is the ninth year the awards have been given out. Recipients are nominated by members of the Greater Akron Chamber and regional profit and nonprofit organizations, including many young professional groups.

In a two-part series The Akron Legal News profiles six of the 30 recipients. This story focuses on law firm attorneys who not only go the extra mile while on the job, but also volunteer at many different organizations.

In Reuscher’s case, he received his juris doctor from The University of Akron School of Law. A Leadership Akron Class 30 graduate, his first job was in the Cleveland office of Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff, where he began as an associate handling corporate matters. When he left Benesch in the fall of 2012 to join Roetzel & Andress, he was an equity partner and the chair of Benesch’s hiring committee.

Reuscher has made it a point to give back to the Akron area community, where he and his wife, Tara, and their three children now live. He is a One-In-Six Foundation board member, incoming president of the executive alumni board at Malone University and a University Park YMCA board member.

“I try not to take on volunteer opportunities unless I am sure I can devote 100 percent of my efforts,” said Reuscher, who was 39 at the time that he was chosen to receive the award. “I also make it a point to get involved in endeavors that I am passionate about.

“The One-In-Six Foundation supports early research into prostate cancer treatment and Malone University is my alma mater so I want to make a difference there for the future students of the university. The YMCA, and what the organization stands for and provides, is very important to me now because of my children,” said Reuscher.

“I think I bring an outsider’s view to the community because I lived and worked in Cleveland for a long period of time,” said Reuscher. “I’ve seen the good and bad of how a bigger community does things and hopefully that will help me to do a better job of figuring out where and how Akron needs to grow.”

“Chris has been practicing for almost 13 years,” said Bradley Wright, partner-in-charge of Roetzel’s Akron office. “He is cutting edge in the corporate area and quite frankly one of the best corporate lawyers in northeast Ohio, and he’s only going to get stronger. We’re lucky to have him.

 “He’s an asset inside the office and outside. He’s active in the community and he’s really good with clients. People like to work with him and I believe in his abilities. I think he’s really deserving of the ‘30 for the Future’ award.”

“My goal is to continue to grow my practice and do whatever I can do to get Akron on the map as a legal and investment hub,” said Reuscher. “Hopefully we can continue to attract more professionals into our town.”

Reuscher isn’t the only law firm partner who will receive the “30 for the Future” award. Over at Brouse McDowell, healthcare attorney Michael VanBuren also made the cut.

Born in Detroit, VanBuren grew up in Akron, attending high school at Western Reserve Academy in Hudson. He received a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee and a master’s degree from The George Washington University School of Political Management. Afterwards, he returned to Ohio where he obtained his juris doctor from Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

While he began his career with a focus on business litigation and white collar defense at Wuliger, Fadel & Beyer in Cleveland, he changed directions when he joined Brouse McDowell in 2007.

“I come from a family of physicians so I grew up around the healthcare industry,” said VanBuren. “I was always interested in the legal issues surrounding healthcare so I was naturally drawn to representing healthcare providers.

 “I enjoy serving as a business advisor to healthcare professionals and helping them to grow their practices at a time of systemic change.”

VanBuren, 35, lives in Broadview Heights with his wife Erin Dickinson, and their two sons.

He is the former chair of the Akron Bar Association’s Health Law Section and a volunteer attorney for the Senior Lawyers Hospice Subcommittee. VanBuren is also the current chair of the board of trustees of the Summit County Community Partnership, which works to prevent substance abuse, and secretary of the alumni association board at Western Reserve Academy.

 In addition, he serves on the board of Partners Advancing Our Future in Akron, an organization established to promote the Akron region and its future. The group engages in independent advocacy efforts for candidates and ballot issues in elections.

“I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I was chosen to receive the award,” said VanBuren. “I have known other attorneys who were very involved in community endeavors who were chosen. I am honored to be in such good company.” 

“Michael is a very smart, organized and thoughtful lawyer,” said Brouse McDowell Managing Partner Marc Merklin. “He offers his clients many resources to help them to conduct themselves in this changing healthcare environment. He is well versed in the regulatory changes impacting healthcare and knowledgeable about business-related issues. I’m pleased by the recognition that he is receiving but not surprised. It is well deserved.”

Slater & Zurz personal injury plaintiff attorney Michael Schmeltzer was also selected as a “30 for the Future” award recipient.

The Akron native grew up in Bath Township, attending Revere High School. At Kent State University, he majored in journalism and minored in political science, returning to Akron where he obtained his juris doctor from The University of Akron School of Law in 2005.

Prior to joining Slater & Zurz in 2014, Schmeltzer practiced with Hill Company (later Hill Hardman Oldfield), Walter | Haverfield, Ciano & Goldwasser and Amer Cunningham Co.

“I spent a few years doing defense work in Cleveland,” said Schmeltzer. “But I’ve always known I belong on the plaintiff’s side of the aisle. I hear some pretty sad stories in my line of work, but for me personally, it’s very rewarding to give people, who oftentimes do not have much of a voice, the opportunity to tell their stories, be heard and face those who have harmed them.”

Schmeltzer said his strongest pro bono commitment is his work with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Summit County, where he serves as the organization’s vice president and chair of its advocacy and outreach committee. He also teaches NAMI Family-to-Family classes, a 12-week educational course for family caregivers of people living with mental illness.

“NAMI Summit County is dedicated to improving the quality of life for people with mental illness and their families through support, education and advocacy,” said Schmeltzer.

“I have family members who suffer from mental illness and substance abuse, including my mom who passed away in 2008,” said Schmeltzer. “Mental illness is as real as cancer and it is nothing to be ashamed of, yet there are many people who go undiagnosed or simply can’t get the treatment they need. In today’s climate, there are more and more stories about the implications of mental illness for the lives of everyday people and for the community in general. I want to do my part to assist this underserved population.”

At the Akron Bar Association, Schmeltzer sits on the investigative subcommittee for the Grievance Committee. He was a member of Torchbearers from 2008-2013, an Akron-based young professionals group aimed at strengthening the connection between nonprofits and local young people.

Schmeltzer is also active with the Ohio Association for Justice, where he has been a board trustee since 2013 and is involved with various committees. In addition, he participates in the Supreme Court of Ohio Lawyer to Lawyer Mentoring Program, volunteers time at Community Legal Aid Services and is a member of The University of Akron School of Law Alumni Association.

Despite his many community commitments, Schmeltzer, 37, said he was both honored and surprised to be chosen by the Greater Akron Chamber.

“It is very important for legal professionals to be involved in the community,” said Schmeltzer, who lives in Copley Township. “We come to the table with training that gives us the ability to communicate and navigate issues that can effect change.

“There is a lot of bad publicity about lawyers and I believe the best way to curtail it is by being civic minded and doing things that help the community to see us in a better light.”

“We are extremely proud that Michael has been selected as a ‘30 for the Future’ award recipient,” Slater & Zurz Managing Partner Jim Slater said in an emailed statement. “This high honor and achievement reflects how hard he works every day as an advocate for people who need help – whether that is through his work as a plaintiff’s trial attorney or as a leader of the many professional and civic organizations he is involved with.

“Michael is one of those lawyers who cares deeply about making a difference and he is doing just that. Greater Akron is in good hands with young talent like Michael and we are proud to have him as a member of our team at Slater & Zurz.”

The 30 award recipients were recognized at a Sept. 3 ceremony at Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED).