The Art of Law

Petrie’s vision of the Lytle Park Lincoln

Published in 2004 Ohio Super Lawyers — January 2004

Bruce Petrie approaches the law as if it were an art, which, not surprisingly, is exactly the way he approaches his drawing and painting. He’s one lawyer who is used to wearing two hats — or a hat and a beret, to be more precise.

Petrie, a partner at Graydon Head & Ritchey, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1954. He first dabbled in freelance illustrations and editorial cartooning and then turned to oil painting. He studied with painter Thomas Buechner, in Corning, N.Y., and has traveled throughout the United States and Europe to paint outdoor landscapes. He also studied the art history of landscape painting, from early Chinese works to the present.

When he went to law school, and especially after he began practicing, Petrie had to greatly cut back on his art work. He has the heart of an artist, though, and he began looking for ways to help poor people in legal need.Today, the focus of his legal practice is his need to help others. “I’ve had an interest, for most of my legal career, in volunteer legal services for the poor,” Petrie says. In addition to playing a key role in the Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) in Cincinnati, Petrie also annually donates his original oil paintings to an auction benefiting ProKids Advocacy, a group that offers support services for at-risk children.

In 2002 the VLP celebrated its 20th anniversary. In order to recognize the efforts of the volunteers who helped the VLP become a success, the board of trustees of the Volunteer Lawyers for the Poor Foundation sought a special gift for them. Petrie, the former Foundation Board president, was enlisted to create an original oil painting of a significant Cincinnati landmark.

“The perfect image for the Volunteer Lawyers Project was right in our own back yard,”says Petrie. Locally referred to as the Lytle Park Lincoln, the subject of Petrie’s art was a statue of Abraham Lincoln that was a gift to the city of Cincinnati from Mr. and Mrs. Charles Taft.The original work of George Grey Barnard, “Lincoln — The Man”was formally presented to the city by ex-President William Howard Taft in ceremonies on March 31, 1917. President Taft was a key figure in the creation of the Legal Aid Society of Cincinnati in 1908. The statue resides in Lytle Park — an oasis of beauty in downtown Cincinnati.

The statue — a plain representation of “Honest Abe”— depicts Lincoln as a man of the people, as someone who has experienced the challenges of the common life.

To explain why he chose the statue as the focus of his painting, Petrie says,“While its subject matter is the Lytle Park Lincoln, its inherited content and message is humanity — which of course, is what Volunteer Lawyers for the Poor is all about.”

At Graydon Head & Ritchey, Petrie’s practice focuses on representing management in all aspects of labor and employment law. In the health care field, he has extensive experience with union and nonunion dispute resolution, and he has served as legal counsel to both public and private schools. His legal career has included extensive trial practice before state and federal courts and administrative agencies in a wide variety of cases.

Most recently, Petrie’s artistic endeavors were featured in a one-man art exhibition, “Defining Light: Recent Works by Bruce I. Petrie, Jr.” at the Cincinnati Art Galleries.A portion of all sales was donated to the Cincinnati Bar Foundation. While Petrie has no plans to shelve his law books and pick up his paintbrush for good, he admits, “This is a hobby that I find relaxing — and if I can use my talent to help others, that’s even better.”

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