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Giving back: Leading by example

Seated in the 17th floor conference room of the law offices of Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman overlooking downtown Buffalo, attorney Amy Habib Rittling is preparing to do something she’s very uncomfortable with — talk about herself.

Habib Rittling, a Buffalo native and graduate of SUNY Buffalo Law School, is far more comfortable extolling the virtues of others. Whether it’s speaking on behalf of her clients — she chairs the firm’s Labor and Employment Practice Group, representing a diverse client base of business owners — or raising money and awareness for her many community service initiatives, she prefers to focus on promoting others.

Habib Rittling, 49, traces her passion for giving back two generations and says it is a vital part of her success as an attorney, wife, mother (she has four young children) and lifelong member of the community.

“Giving is part of my DNA,” she says. “My parents and grandparents instilled it in me, and I can’t imagine me being me without that piece. It is a very important component of how I want to live my life.”

Her highest-profile initiative, of late, is her work on behalf of the recently-completed John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital. Habib Rittling co-chaired the campaign that ultimately raised more than $50 million to build a world-class children’s hospital in Buffalo. She also serves on the board of the hospital’s foundation, as well as boards for the Buffalo Zoo, Elmwood Franklin School, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and more.

Back at her law practice, Habib Rittling says several hot-button issues have emerged in the labor and employment practice. At the forefront is sexual harassment in the workplace.

“There is a lot of concern with employers out there who want to make sure they have their policies up to speed,” she says, and is fielding more calls than normal from employers wanting to explore additional employee training in the areas of workplace harassment.

“Sometimes employers may have great policies in place, but they just sit there in a handbook,” she says. “I’m seeing an increased effort in getting training in the workplace for their employees.”

With a majority of the harassment cases being reported coming from female complainants, does Habib Rittling see gender equality still being an issue, particularly in the legal profession?

“It may just be me, and my personality, but I don’t really focus on glass ceilings or difficulties that we may face, I just focus on doing what I do, which is work hard, and deliver quality work,” she says. “As a result, I think my clients, my partners and colleagues trust me and respect me.”

With four kids at home, a growing law practice, and an impressive resume of active community involvement, one might wonder when Habib Rittling has time to sleep?

“I’m a doer, and I like having a full plate,” she says. “I work better that way, and when you’ve got the ability to give back, whether it is professionally, personally, whatever it is, I think it is so important and it makes our community stronger.”

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