Attorney Hega back home in Charleroi where he belongs
Regrets? Christopher Hega has too few to mention.
After flirting with corporate tax law, large paychecks and even longer hours, the North Charleroi native is back where he belongs: practicing law in the Mid-Mon Valley.
Hega, 37, currently practices family law at Duronio & Hega Law Office, 1002 McKean Ave., Charleroi. He resides in Fallowfield Township with his wife, Stephanie, and daughter.
Hega grew up near the Charleroi Area high school campus, where he starred in baseball and football before graduating in 1994. He flirted with several NCAA Division I football programs like Pitt and West Virginia before garnering some valuable advice from then-California University of Pennsylvania head football coach Jeff Petrucci.
Hega was dating Petrucci's daughter at the time and was close with the family, even going on vacation with them. Until their talk, Hega envisioned himself playing at the Division-I level and had actually visited the Pitt campus twice during Johnny Majors' second tour.
“(Petrucci) explained to me how the recruiting process worked and that gave me a much different perspective,” Hega said. “He said, ‘You're on a list with these coaches. If they've got you at No. 8, and they sign the guys ahead of you, they shut it off like a water faucet,' … and that's exactly what happened.”
It was in May 1994 that Hega committed to play baseball under former Steelers' defensive end John Banaszak at Washington & Jefferson College and to focus on academics.
Banaszak was also defensive coordinator for the football team, but Hega turned his back on the gridiron.
“If I ever had an ego, I had one then,” Hega said, laughing. “I was 18 and thought I should've been playing at a bigger school, a larger program. I decided to forget football and played baseball for four years at W&J. To this day, I wish I had played football. It's one of my few regrets.”
Hega graduated cum laude and enrolled in Duquesne School of Law. In his second year at law school, he took an internship at Deloitte & Touche, LLC firm in New York.
“I had absolutely zero connections … and there was no one in my family until me that graduated from college,” Hega said. “These were relationships I developed on my own. There were a lot of other kids who came from richer schools, but I never felt out of place. It didn't matter I was from Charleroi and I worked as hard as anyone.”
After graduating law school, Hega was offered a full-time position and stayed there until taking a job with Mellon Financial Corp. in Pittsburgh, taking on mergers and acquisitions, corporate law and tax law.
However, in his seven years with Mellon, Hega felt there was always something missing in the corporate world: personal interaction.
“I dabbled in family law matters on the side and knew I had an interest but little opportunity,” Hega said. “Then life changed in an instant. My father became critically ill and we weren't sure he was going to live.”
Dave Hega, a former state police trooper at the Belle Vernon barracks, finally received a set of matching organs and he received a multi-visceral transplant of the liver and small bowel – the most significant of five surgeries. He is currently alive and well.
Chris Hega's daughter was born a year and half later in August 2009.
“It was during those times of struggle that I remembered something I knew all along, family is most important,” Hega said. “My daughter was born and that sealed the deal for me.”
In 2010, Hega accepted a job with a large law firm he prefers keeping anonymous. But he soon discovered, instead of performing work on mergers and acquisitions, he was getting bombarded with corporate tax work.
“I was there three days and I literally walked away,” he said. “In three days, I had probably put in 50 hours, it was awful. I was getting bombarded with corporate tax things and I'm thinking, ‘What did I do here?' So I made a move, with no backup plan.”
Hega came home and sent a letter to his father's longtime friend, Attorney Elena Duronio.
“I sent her a letter, she called me and we started working together,” Hega said. “It's been two years now. She's been a mentor. She taught me, I think, everything she's learned in 30-plus years.”
The handful of divorce cases Hega handled for family and friends while immersed in the corporate world became a full-time – and welcome – reality. He had the full support of wife, Stephanie, despite a 50 percent cut in salary.
Duronio & Hega Law Firm was born – a general practice with a concentration on family law matters. Hega has also handled criminal matters and received appointments to help families that are less fortunate through the Children and Youth Social Service Agency.
“Nobody's ever tried to talk me out of it. … If I didn't have the support of my family, none of this would've worked,” Hega said. “That goes back to the days where I could save a company millions and not smile at the end of the day. Now, I smile.”
Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-684-2635.