Paul H. Tobias Tribute

Nancy Richards-Stower

I met Paul back in 1992 as a member of the organization he founded, the National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA). He and his vision were inspirational, building a “nationwide law firm” of civil rights employee advocates.  His gathering of us from all 50 states allowed us to go up against the largest corporations in the world on behalf of our clients and win.  With his support, I founded the New Hampshire chapter of NELA and it has had an outsized impact on the state’s law via amicus briefs, litigation teamwork and legislative action.  All in all, NELA allowed this solo practitioner to have the life and career she wanted, always knowing there were 4,000 “partners” to help, when needed (and boy did I).

At the beginning of our annual NELA conventions (where Paul always organized road races and tennis matches) he would enthusiastically do the “Call of the States” and he’d go down the list of states alphabetically and when your state was called, you stood up and made noise.  Well, since I was told I had the loudest whistle in Fenway Park, (and James Carville told me it was the best campaign whistle he had ever heard), I knew what noise I would make. Each convention I attended, when Paul looked up, smiled and declared, “NEW HAMPSHIRE!” I  would jump up, stick four fingers in my mouth and let out a sonic boom.  He loved it. I loved it.  The Call of the States provided a wonderful start to those annual NELA conventions which supercharged our spirits, determination and scholarship.  Civil rights advocacy for solo practitioners can be lonely.  NELA provided a family, a very smart, generous, powerful, interconnected family. I will always be grateful.

At this stage in my life, it is not unexpected to lose important friends and colleagues, but Paul’s passing was very significant for me, even allowing for his illness in recent years, and I can’t imagine his family’s loss, but I offer this message: please know that Paul’s impact, NELA’s impact, NELA’s importance in my life, on a daily basis for over 30 years, changed my life in a good way. Literally thousands of employees have benefitted from my NELA-infused employment knowledge.  Since I am one of 4000, Paul’s influence has resulted in multiples of millions of better informed employees. NELA’s impact at the federal level has been huge: legislation, judicial appointments, Circuit law and Supreme Court rulings. State supreme courts’ cases are infused with local chapters’ amicus briefs and when a NELA member has a case before her state’s supreme court, she goes in with the joint efforts of her states’ members, moot court, brief editing and amicus briefs.

Some people leave a mark on the world.  Paul left a giant crater. NELA, The Employee Rights Advocacy Institute For Law & Policy  (The Institute) and NELA’s spinoff the National Employee Rights Institute (NERI)/Workplace Fairness each forge ahead for workplace justice.

I so treasure my time with Paul and NELA.  Thank you Tobias family for supporting him in these efforts for all these past decades.