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Balancing Two Careers

Lorton man finalist in Washington top lawyer contest.

Brett Coffee, 34, is a lawyer with Computer Systems Center Incorporated in Springfield. Almost two years ago, Coffee helped found SemperComm, a charity that enables servicemen and service women to communicate with loved ones, of which CSCI is a title partner. The Lorton resident now works for both CSCI and SemperComm, and because of his work and dedication was recently nominated as a finalist in the Washington Business Journal's Metro Washington top lawyer contest for 2006. He recently sat down to answer a few questions about himself and his work.

How long have you lived in the community and what brought you here? I moved here just over two years ago. I was living in San Diego and I met my wife, and she was a native of this area.

Family: My wife [Lara] and I have a Labrador retriever.

Education: I went to the University of Illinois for undergrad. I got my law degree at Fordham University [in New York City]. Lincoln Center is amazing, it's right in the middle of everything. I got my other degree, a master of laws, at the University of San Diego.

How did you become interested in law? I think I have always been interested in law and it was something my family remembers me being interested in, in junior high. It was something I had always wanted to try and had the opportunity to do so after I received my undergraduate degree.

Current job: With CSCI, I am corporate council. With SemperComm, I am general council.

How did you begin working with SemperComm? I was one of the people who helped found SemperComm. There were a number of employees who wanted to give something back to the Armed Forces and so came up with the concept of sending communication equipment and morale equipment to troops on remote bases, especially since many of [the employees] had been stationed at remote bases. They asked me and asked other employees how to go about setting that up.

How do you feel about your nomination? It was really nice to be recognized for all the late nights and long hours, but I really felt like the only thing I was doing was supporting the men and women who have the really tough job. Supporting them is really what the organization is about. This recognition is really recognition of those guys out there.

What are your hobbies? I used to be a national level cyclist. I still ride a bit but I play more golf these days than get out on a bike. SemperComm had a golf tournament fund raiser on Friday and I was able to go out, participate and have a fun day supporting our mission. Other than that, my hobbies are traveling and reading. Other than that I don't have much time for anything else.

Is working for both CSCI and SemperComm sometimes like having two jobs? The nice thing about having a second job is if it's something I am passionate about, it makes the hours more bearable and brings creativity a lot of lawyers don't get to participate in. Also, the people I work with make it a fun experience: people overseas, the people who support SemperComm on the staff side. A bonus of the job is, every couple months I get to interact with a couple of guys from Walter Reed and the Naval Hospital. It's probably the most fulfilling part of what I do.

What is the most challenging thing about what you do? Probably working to make sure we have enough financial support and material support to accomplish our mission. It's an ongoing challenge because there is so much need out there and we like to work with as many bases as we can.

What is your favorite thing about the community in which you live? Definitely the diversity in people who come to this area, whether permanently or for a shorter period of time. It has led me to meet a lot of interesting people. After having been all over the country, there is nothing you can't find here — dog parks, historic sites, parks all over the place. You can explore for years and years and years and never get enough. On top of that, it is a great technical-business community as well.

What is the last book you read? "Marley and Me," about a family who has a crazy dog. Anyone who has ever owned a dog would understand ... it's the saddest book at the end, though.

What are your community concerns? I think that between the traffic situation, expansion of Fort Belvoir and the success the area has had in the business of technology has presented our leaders with a number of challenges that haven't been addressed yet. Dealing with the challenges as a whole and coming up with community-based solutions is the biggest thing I am concerned with.

If you could go on a road trip right now, where would you go? That's a dangerous question. My wife and I travel 26 weekends of the year. I'd like to travel throughout the Pacific Northwest because that's the one place we've never been. I've been to 44 states. ... I've driven cross-country three times. I think it's important for everyone to do that, to get a sense of how big the country is.

— Lea Mae Rice