The year Dan Burke took between his undergraduate work at Notre Dame and law school to volunteer with the Glenmary Home Missioners in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky was the year that changed his life.
He stayed on a mostly wooded property called Glenmary Farm in Vanceburg, east of Maysville on the Ohio River. Normally, the farm drew student volunteers from across the country. The year Dan was there, he was it. His job was to go into the community and be the face of Glenmary. One day, he’d help build low-income housing; the next, he’d visit a nursing home or volunteer at a facility for people with mental disabilities.
It was a world away from where he grew up in Hyde Park. He remembers being astounded and shocked at how people lived in the hollers surrounding Vanceburg and the hinterlands of Lewis County. Despite the grinding poverty of Appalachia, Dan says, the people who lived there gave him more than he gave them.
“I mark much of the person I am now back to that experience in my faith journey. That’s where I really met God for the first time personally. That year taught me the importance of meeting people where they are, not judging from appearances. I learned, too, that you forget about yourself when you’re serving others.”
One man in particular sticks in his memory, a woodcarver in his 80s named Noah. At first blush, Dan says, his work seemed dull and primitive. Then he learned Noah’s work had been exhibited at the Smithsonian. Dan talks about visiting Noah and others like them. He’d sit and talk for an hour, then get up to leave. And they’d ask why the big hurry. Dan says he learned from Noah and others like him the value of being present in the moment, not worrying about what might come next or what someone might think about the way they lived or their surroundings.
He translates that year to his approach to the law this way: “I hope I bring compassion to my practice. I find lots of opportunities for compassion in my area, which is human resources and employment law. I try to bring together people to resolve issues, conflicts and problems. I like to bring things together, to bring harmony out of disharmony.”
Dan has a heart for forgotten people. He’s been board chairman of the Drop Inn Center in Over-the-Rhine and board member of Otterbein Homes, an Ohio-based continuing care retirement community. He tells a story about a pro bono case he handled for a homeless man living in a broken-down car in Mt. Adams. One day, the man returned to the car to find the city had towed it and had it crushed, along with all his worldly possessions.
Dan represented him for two years. He says the guy was disheveled but articulate. It was as if something somewhere along the line had snapped. Ultimately, Dan won a judgment for a few thousand dollars. After that, Dan never saw him again.
“But I felt like I’d done something really right. I got him some money, yeah, but more than that, I gave him the experience of having someone meet him where he was, accepting him for who he was and standing up for him.
Dan is a seasoned employment law professional. He represents and counsels clients on a wide variety of employment, education, senior care, and workplace health and safety issues. Dan has represented clients before state and federal agencies, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Ohio Civil Rights Commission, Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation, Industrial Commission of Ohio, and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, as well as federal and state trial and appellate courts.
Dan has been chosen by his peers as an Ohio Super Lawyer from 2004-2018 in the areas of Employment & Labor, Workers' Compensation and Health Care. Additionally, based on the grading and comments of his peers, Dan is recognized with an AV Rating, the highest rating given to lawyers by Martindale-Hubbell. He has also been named Lawyer of the Year for his work in Workers’ Compensation Law-Employers in 2013; Best Lawyers in America from 2007-2016 for his work in Employment Law-Management, Labor Law-Management, and Workers’ Compensation Law-Employers; and a Cincinnati Leading Lawyer in 2013. When asked what he enjoys most about his job, Dan replied, “Listening to clients’ stories and helping them solve their problems.”
Dan and his wife, Anne, reside in Mt. Lookout and have three children -- Shannon, Will, and Sean.