Attorney a 'PAL' of the community

By Steve Thorpe

Legal News

When Scott Seabolt decided to become a lawyer, he wanted to make sure he ended up with a firm that shared his commitment to community involvement. He also wanted to find a community organization that could take full advantage of his background as an athlete.

Think Detroit PAL became the community organization and Foley & Lardner LLP in Detroit became the firm.

Seabolt is a partner with Foley & Lardner and is part of the firm's Business Litigation & Dispute Resolution Practice, the Securities Enforcement & Litigation Practice, eDiscovery & Data Management Practice, and the Automotive Industry Team.

Foley & Lardner strongly encourages its employees to donate time and effort to the community each year, so Seabolt has found a home.

"I see the firm's support in so many ways and it really makes a difference," he says. "It's always been important to me to be involved with my community. For me, finding a firm that shared those values was important. When I do that community involvement, I know the firm will be supportive and stand behind me."

That support was put to the test for nine months in 2010 when Think Detroit PAL asked Seabolt to be interim CEO while they searched for a new permanent leader.

"The firm fully supported my interim CEO role at PAL," he says. "That required approval from the highest levels of the firm, and they were there for me."

The young Seabolt was a confirmed jock and knew that athletics would always be part of his life.

"In high school, I wrestled, I was a baseball player, I played soccer and then I was a club soccer player in college," he says. "I was also involved in coaching and refereeing soccer since I was 13 years old."

The attorney path was much more uncertain and he originally got his undergrad degree in mathematics from the University of Michigan.

"When I was coming out of undergrad, I did mathematics and economics," Seabolt says. "I did math because I was good at it and enjoyed it and did economics because it gave me a little bit more context than math did. I studied math theory, of all things, in college."

It was his idealism and desire to help his community that eventually drew him to law school.

"One of the reasons I became a lawyer is that lawyers touch everything," Seabolt says.

And he always knew that Detroit was the community he wanted to help.

"I was born and raised on the west side and have been a Detroit guy my whole life," he says. "I've worked downtown for all but about 18 months of my career, since 1996. My parents, in-laws and siblings are all here."

An encounter with a former classmate sparked his relationship with Think Detroit PAL.

"I was voted on to the board of PAL in 2007," he says. "I was in Leadership Detroit before that and met one of my classmates, Dan Varner, who was one of the cofounders of what was originally called Think Detroit. In 2006, Think Detroit and Detroit PAL merged. He knew that I had a passion for youth soccer and asked me to join the board."

Although the board participation and working as the interim CEO were important contributions to the organization, Seabolt probably wouldn't have been satisfied without additional "hands on" work with the group. Foley & Lardner's people have also gotten "down and dirty" with helping Think Detroit PAL with its mission.

"We do park cleanups every summer," Seabolt says. "We gather a group of attorneys and staff and go to a park and spend a day picking up garbage, pulling weeds, chalking the lines ... doing whatever's necessary to get that field ready for the kids."

As he spent more and more time working with Think Detroit PAL, he became an enthusiastic booster of the organization and marveled at their ability to do a lot of good work with a small amount of resources.

"I didn't appreciate how efficient PAL was until after I worked with them for a while," Seabolt says. "We have 19 employees. With those 19 employees we train and certify 1500 volunteer coaches. Those 1500 coaches work with 10,000 kids each year. That's pretty impressive leverage."

His pride in the organization is evident as he talks about the scope and variety of its programs. They offer a variety of different sports including football, the cheer program, soccer, basketball, baseball, softball, and track and.

"Our football program is second to none," he says. "The same can be said of our cheer program. If you go to our events, we often will bring out some of our cheerleaders to do a cheer. They're always the showstopper."

And some of the kids helped by the program have gone full circle and are now helping a new generation.

"I look at (Detroit Police) Officer Darnell Hall, who was a PAL kid," Seabolt says. "Then he was an Olympic gold medalist in Barcelona, and now he's back in a role with PAL. He's a premier track coach and just a great guy and role model."

Seabolt is optimistic that the group will thrive in the future.

"We want to be positioned for growth," he says. "The years 2008, 2009 and 2010 were tough years for everybody, including the nonprofit world. Charitable giving was way down.

We had to really batten down the hatches for a few years. We started coming out of it in 2011, had a good year in 2012 and are positioned for an even better 2013. We're strong, healthy and have maintained our core mission."

The 2013 DTE Energy MVP Awards, which will benefit Think Detroit PAL, will be held tonight at 5:30 p m. at the Detroit Athletic Club. The program will also honor Fred Shell, on behalf of DTE Energy Foundation, Ed Egnatios, program director, the Skillman Foundation, and Martin Mayhew, general manager of the Detroit Lions. Tickets can be purchased by calling (313) 833-1600.

Published: Thu, Feb 7, 2013

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