A decade ago, when Adam Gerhardstein was a Xavier University student, his father’s name was everywhere: Alphonse Gerhardstein was the attorney representing Black United Front’s Cincinnati chapter in its racial profiling lawsuit against the City of Cincinnati. Last year Adam joined his dad’s firm—and became part of its civil rights mission.
Five years ago, I was working in Washington, D.C., doing organizing and advocacy for the Unitarian Universalist Association—working on things like immigration reform, LGBT rights. I was back here in Cincinnati on a visit, having a family dinner at Sorrento’s in Norwood, which is where we’ve been going as a family since I was really, really small. And I was talking to my dad about this frustration, trying to change all of these policies and power structures that I didn’t really understand. And he said, “Well, if what you’re interested in is power and how it operates, a legal education is the best education you can get.” I took him up on it, and when I was graduating from the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis, he sent me an e-mail and invited me to work with him. So my wife and I decided to come here and give Cincinnati a shot.
As a kid, I knew he did important work. And I knew he did a lot of it. But he was just a father to me more than anything. He was at my baseball games, and he was at my sister’s ice skating competitions. So that was what was most important to me.
I grew up in Kennedy Heights, And Kennedy Heights has sort of become the law firm’s home. We’re more like a family than a workplace. My dad’s managing partner, Jennifer Branch—who is my manager—lived at the end of my street growing up. I guess she’s been managing me since I was a teenager, when I used to mow her lawn. And then Jaci Martin [Jacklyn Gonzales Martin] lives right in the neighborhood. My dad babysits her son every now and then. She joined the firm a year before I did and she was instrumental in the marriage equality litigation we’ve been doing; she’s been a great resource to me. And then Sydney [Greathouse], our paralegal, is on the Cincinnati Rollergirls. We all go to those games. So it’s a very supportive environment. My dad’s really built a strong team to do this work. It’s not just him out there.
I think my dad has built his practice on a foundation of respect more than anything. He has an incredible amount of respect for his clients, which a lot of people don’t. And he has an incredible amount of respect for his opposing counsel, for the legal community. And he has an incredible amount of respect for his profession. That makes it very easy to come and practice with him, to run around with him and do depositions and go to mediations, because I can carry on that tradition of respect.