Ohio Bar lauds area attorney
Recognized for 50 years of service
YOUNGSTOWN — The Ohio State Bar Association has honored Youngstown attorney A. Robert Steiskal for 50 years of service to the community and the legal profession.
Steiskal, 80, of Canfield, graduated from Ohio Northern Pettit College of Law in 1965. Before taking the bar exam, he joined the Air Force, where he reached the rank of captain.
He served in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969 as an investigator and counterintelligence officer before his honorable discharge in 1970. Steiskal went into private practice in Mahoning County in 1979 while also working for his family’s real estate business.
During his 50 years as a lawyer, he has done legal work in a number of areas, such as personal-injury law but says business law is his favorite.
Early in his career, he was associate to attorney Bernard J. Wilkes, a fellow Ohio Northern graduate; and was associate attorney with the firm Henderson, Covington, Stein, Donchess and Messenger.
Steiskal said his work for Wilkes consisted mostly of being a “gopher,” collecting police reports, taking photos and trying to determine whether there was a basis for an insurance claim, he said. Steiskal later tried cases with Wilkes.
Steiskal and his family have operated the Art’s Westgate plaza on Mahoning Avenue at South Raccoon Road since they built the plaza in 1956. Steiskal’s son, Jeff, is now taking over operation of the plaza, which is also where Steiskal’s law office is located.
Steiskal was honored as part of the Ohio State Bar Association’s District 13 virtual annual meeting recently. District 13 includes nearly 400 attorneys who practice law in Columbiana and Mahoning counties.
WHAT HE LIKES
Steiskal said he enjoys business and real estate cases the most.
“A lot of people hate them, but I’ve done a lot of business and real estates cases that I thought were very worthwhile, but that’s because I am very familiar with it,” he said.
He has worked on a number of cases involving construction disputes and spent eight years working on a case involving a landfill in the Canfield area.
“I wound up talking to people in England, Washington D.C., in New York, in Boston, insurance people in Connecticut. I heard terms I had never heard before,” he said.
“I love the research.”
Steiskal said sometimes clients need him to help with issues they could work out on their own if they were more persistent in researching and understanding the details of the dispute.
“Nobody reads. Nobody tries to understand, and nobody listens,” he said. “I want people to think. I want them to pay attention,” he said. “I tell people that all the time: ‘You don’t need a lawyer. You need to pay attention to what you’re doing.'”
He said he frequently asks the client a number of questions “until the point where they got it. When you observe something, do you ever question it? How far?” he asked.
“Why do you quit when you quit? Because it doesn’t matter as much. But maybe you should,” he said. “It is so ingrained in me to just keep asking questions to get to the nub.
“Part of that comes from talking to clients because they gloss over so much of what is real because they just assume that to be so. So you ask them each question individually to arrive at” the real issue, he said.
GET THE ANSWERS
A client came to him asking to deed over a piece of property to someone. Steiskal asked why he wanted to do it, and the client didn’t like being asked that.
Steiskal suggested the client transfer the property on death because that can be changed if the client changes his or her mind about the person in line to get the property, he said.
“I want them to answer their own questions. I want them to find real answers to what they want to do, not just blow it off. Give things true consideration. Go back to basics. Don’t just react to the initial situation,” he said.
Perhaps Steiskal’s desire to “get to the bottom” of legal issues comes from his military training in the 1960s. He was trained through the U.S. Office of Special Investigations to conduct background investigations of people.
Much of his work involved investigating the background of individuals seeking work with military contractors in California. He later spent time in Vietnam “identifying people moving around the area,” he said.