|Oregon State Bar Bulletin OCTOBER 2011|
Evan Schechter may be the most unlikely cage fighter ever. Yet this unassuming Wilsonville attorney plans to test his newly honed mixed martial arts (MMA) skills this winter as a benefit for the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital Foundation.
Schechter got the idea to initiate the fundraiser — Evan Fights for Kids — last spring. He says his dream job would be to connect kids who are terminally ill with professional athletes, similarly to what the Make-A-Wish Foundation might do. More specifically, Schechter would like to be the one to tell the children their wish has come true.
“If you could make any impact on children, it seems like that would be the highlight of your career,” he says.
Along with helping the kids at Doernbecher, Schechter hopes to show his own children — son Noah, 13, and daughter Chase, 10 — that one person can make a difference while taking care of their own health in the process. Schechter played sports while growing up and used to work out several times a week. Between working longer hours and stress eating, he says, he put on an extra 70 pounds.
Determined to lose that weight, Schechter in April began training for the MMA match. Then, in June, he learned he was losing his job.
The Upside of the Downturn
Schechter was inspired to become an attorney by Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. He laughs and says it sounds corny, but notes it represents a watershed moment.
“It was the first book I read about the law and how a trial attorney could have an impact on somebody’s life,” he says. “I saw lawyers back then as inevitably out to help people and do some good in the world.”
Schechter graduated from the Western New England College School of Law in Springfield, Mass., in 1993. With Atticus Finch in mind, he knew from the start that he wanted to be a trial lawyer. His first job out of law school was in Connecticut, serving as in-house counsel for Allstate Insurance Company. As a new insurance defense attorney, Schechter immediately inherited 270 cases and typically handled four trials a week.
“It was very interesting and I enjoyed it a lot,” says Schechter, who practiced on the East Coast for nine years before moving to Oregon in 2002 to be closer to his wife Shannon’s parents.
While he was glad his children are able to spend more time with their grandparents, Schechter had started to question the meaning of his professional endeavors.
“Although I enjoyed the trial work and I had clients to protect, I got to a point where I wondered if I was really helping anybody,” he says.
When he was furloughed by the Salem firm where he worked, Schechter couldn’t help but question the timing, given that he had dedicated himself to the Doernbecher fundraiser just a couple of months beforehand.
“My first reaction was to freak out and I’m still kind of freaking out because it’s stressful financially,” says Schechter, who is working to build his own practice. “But things happen for a reason. Training is an absolute stress relief, and the clarity of helping the kids at Doernbecher is a purely positive focus.”
A Total Lifestyle Change
Now 30 pounds lighter and with a posse of MMA trainers who have donated their time and expertise to help, Schechter is focused on losing another 40 pounds before the cage match, tentatively set for December.
Already, though, it’s been a major lifestyle change. Most mornings, he jogs alongside his daughter, Chase, as she rides her bike, and they go to Starbucks for breakfast together. Both kids often accompany Schechter to the gym to work out.
“I think it’s nice that my dad is doing something fun and that it’s for a charity,” says Chase.
Schechter admits his wife isn’t wild about the cage match, though she is proud of his drive to make a difference and his renewed commitment to fitness. Neither of Schechter’s children is allowed to watch the fight when it takes place, but if he wins and it’s not too violent, they can see a recording of it.
A relatively new fan of MMA, Schechter says he was surprised to learn how difficult jiu jitsu is — he has to be both athletic and technical in its implementation. Many of the competitors come from wrestling or martial arts backgrounds, and they most often treat their opponents with respect, he says.
A foursome of MMA athletes — including Scott McQuary, Chael Sonnen, Yushin Okami, Tommy Liesman and their trainers — have volunteered to help Schechter train, either for free or at a reduced rate for their services. Schechter also gives kudos to Dave Hagen of DaJoGen Martial Arts, who trains him in jiu jitsu and muay thai, and Ken Elmer of The Brickhouse Project, who runs his fundraising website for free.
Schechter says he has been amazed and impressed by the support he has received, from the physical training and strategic advice to the website promoting the fundraiser.
“A lot of people have helped me, and this truly is one of the most exciting and fulfilling things I’ve ever done in my whole life,” he says. “And what better thing than to see a lawyer get beat up for a great cause?”
To learn more about the fundraiser, please visit www.evanfightsforkids.com or call Schechter at (503) 476-4747.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Melody Finnemore is a Portland-area freelance writer and a frequent contributor to the Bulletin.
© 2011 Cliff Collins