August 2020 Volunteer of the Month

Every month, Southern Arizona Legal Aid’s Volunteer Lawyers Program (VLP) recognizes a legal professional for their legal voluntarism. The award is a distinct honor. Of the 533 attorneys and paralegals who volunteer their time, twelve are recognized annually for their dedication to access to justice.

Erwin Kratz is the August 2020 Outstanding Volunteer of the Month Award Recipient.

Erwin practices exclusively in the areas of ERISA and employee benefits law, focusing on tax and regulatory matters relating to qualified and nonqualified deferred compensation and welfare benefits. His career high point so far was starting his own law firm four and a half years ago, ERISA Benefits Law. He is very proud of this accomplishment and its success gives him a lot of satisfaction. At Southern Arizona Legal Aid, Erwin has taken on direct representation cases involving qualified domestic relations orders (QDROs). The qualities he admires most in a lawyer are diligence, and the willingness to make honest arguments that are focused on resolving the actual dispute, rather than on peripheral matters.

Originally from South Africa, Erwin attended Southern Illinois University at Carbondale on a swim scholarship. He moved to Tucson many years ago with his wife, who is originally from Chicago, when they were “young and foolish,” as he put it, to live in the sunny desert. He completed a Masters in Exercise Science from the University of Arizona and had thought of becoming a swim coach. He thereafter worked as a personal trainer in cardiac rehabilitation. At one point, he’d considered attending medical school; however, he pursued law school because he had always enjoyed arguing. He grew up in a family with a great culture of discussion, where everyone enjoyed exploring “why the other person was wrong!” When asked what other career he might have, had he not become a lawyer, Erwin noted entrepreneurship. He enjoys the process of microbrewing and has dreamed of owning a microbrewery.

Erwin has several heroes. One is Winston Churchill, whom Erwin describes as a giant for a number of reasons – he was crucial in rallying Britain and the West to beat Germany; he got it right on Nazism and the Cold War. He was also very funny and cheeky, and he had so many quotes where what he said was exactly right. To Erwin, Churchill embodied persistence and the ideal that if you want to come back, do it. When he became Prime Minister, he was 65, and that was when he stepped up to perform and became the most significant Prime Minister Britain has ever had.

Erwin’s heroes are those people who went against the grain and were willing to step up and lead, and paid a price for doing so, such as Muhammad Ali, who stood up at a time when it wasn’t popular and went to prison and took the penalty for his conscientious objection to the military draft. Ali bridged the racial divide in a way that was eloquent and inspiring. Similarly, Erwin’s real-life hero is David Bruce, who in 1988 was sentenced to six years in prison for refusing to serve in the South African Defense force on the grounds of conscientious objection to Apartheid. At that time in South Africa, a person was considered a terrorist if they objected to the military draft on these grounds, and it was not an easy prison sentence. As a member of the South African National Swim Team, Erwin was able to attend college in the U.S. during the time of enforced military conscription. Though he did not have to make the difficult choice that David did, Erwin was inspired by David’s courage. As Erwin eloquently stated, “very few took the road that David Bruce took.”

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