From Classroom to Courtroom: BBA President Mark Smith Brings Integrity & Compassion to the Job

Mark Smith has always been drawn to public service. In a career that has taken him from classrooms in upstate New York, to the public defender’s office in Brooklyn and then a prosecutor with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, to building a successful private practice as a white collar criminal defense attorney, it’s safe to say he has always found a way to help others.  Along the way, he has earned a reputation for maintaining an exceptional level of professionalism while advocating for people facing some of the most difficult challenges of their lives.

Today, as a well-respected white-collar criminal defense attorney, Smith is known for his calm, clear-headed guidance and advocacy on behalf of clients. The first thing his colleagues and friends point out about him is his impressive abilities as a lawyer, with a tendency to avoid the spotlight.

“Mark’s biggest victories are the ones you never hear about,” Marc Laredo, Smith’s law partner, explained. “His best work is representing the client who, because of his efforts, is never charged with wrongdoing.”

To Smith, this is simply what all clients deserve.

“When clients come to me, they are most often facing very significant legal and financial consequences.  We need to make thoughtful decisions to address their challenges head-on,” he said.

Throughout his career, Smith has remained focused on providing positive outcomes for the people he serves.  That focus brought him many places before it led him to joining Marc Laredo, a former colleague at the Attorney General’s Office, in private practice.

Upon graduating from St. Lawrence University, Smith took a job as a teacher in a rural school district in upstate New York.  For three years, he taught social studies and economics to high school students, including classes for children with learning disabilities. It was challenging and rewarding work, but a conversation with his brother introduced him to a new possibility.

“My brother had been working as a public defender,” Smith said. “He came across the state to teach at a clinical program at Syracuse University’s Law School, and I thought, that sounded like a great opportunity: teaching at the law school and trying cases as a public defender. That is what drew me to seek a law degree .”

Smith began exploring law schools. He decided on Suffolk University Law School after his first visit to Boston, where he immersed himself in the university’s criminal law program.

“I really enjoyed Suffolk. It was exciting for me to be back in the classroom,” said Smith. “I knew I wanted to be a criminal lawyer, so I took the evidence seminar at Suffolk and enrolled in the student clinical program my third year and was assigned to be a defender at the Lynn District Court.”

As a student defender, Smith traveled to Lynn District Court twice a week for a year, working under the mentorship of the well-respected Boston trial lawyer Elliot Weinstein. For Smith, the experience was a fascinating one, giving him a real-world perspective on what it took – and what it felt like – to help underserved people when they were most vulnerable. His time in Lynn convinced Smith that he was on the right path.

Suffolk had an added benefit – it is there that he met his wife, Mary O’Sullivan Smith, a former prosecutor and current Juvenile Court judge.  They have two adult children, one of whom started Boston College Law School this fall.

After law school, Smith worked for the Legal Aid Society in New York City, an organization which employed over a thousand lawyers.  Smith joined the Criminal Defense Division and was assigned to the Brooklyn office. It was an intense learning environment, with long hours that often included both a full-day and a full-night in court.

“Brooklyn, at that time, was experiencing the crack cocaine epidemic and was a very gritty place, with one of the highest crime rates in the city,” he said. “We worked long hours.  I’d be in court from nine to five, and then regularly be assigned to night court until 1 a.m., which is when they do all the arraignments.”

The case volume was high, and Smith quickly learned how to try cases. In one instance, on his first day back from vacation, one of his cases was advanced to trial. He had to defend a client accused of three counts of attempted murder. With high stakes, Smith called the experience “terrifying yet gratifying.”  His client was acquitted of all charges.

Following a year clerking for a state Supreme Court judge in Brooklyn, Smith returned to Boston to join Attorney General James Shannon’s team, first as a tax prosecutor and then in its Public Integrity Division.

When Scott Harshbarger – now senior counsel at Casner & Edwards – succeeded Shannon as Attorney General, he was immediately impressed with Smith’s ability to take on, and win, challenging and high-profile public corruption cases.  He watched as Smith successfully prosecuted a public employee charged with embezzling nearly $1 million from a school district in Worcester County.

“Mark showed that the State Attorney General’s office was fully prepared to apply the law equally to all.  To him, it was never about politics or building up his own reputation. It was about the law. He is the essence of professionalism,” Harshbarger said.

Taking note of Smith’s exceptional abilities as a team leader, Harshbarger made him Deputy Chief of the Criminal Bureau, and tapped him to lead the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Advisory Group.

Boston College Law School professor Michael Cassidy, formerly the Chief of the Criminal Bureau, found a close colleague, confidant and collaborator in Smith. He called Smith’s legal acumen and pragmatic approach to the law “invaluable assets to the bureau.”

“Mark has a real ability to size up a case and estimate its likely success before a judge or jury,” said Cassidy. “He is also a brilliant tactician, especially on cross examination. He is a good source of advice for all of us on trial strategy.”

After almost a dozen years at the Attorney General’s Office, Smith decided he was ready for the new – and perhaps more daunting – challenge of launching a practice of his own. He joined Marc Laredo and his phone immediately started ringing.

Smith initially became involved with the BBA as the Attorney General’s liaison to the Criminal Law section. However, it was during this time as a private practitioner that Smith first realized that the members who were often on opposing sides could convene to work together on issues of common concern.

“I had been to the BBA for their programs, but hadn’t been very involved in the sections until then,” said Smith. “There were lawyers from large and small firms, and from different backgrounds and practice areas, and they were all there working to advance the values of the bar. Given that the type of litigation that we engage in can be very adversarial, it’s refreshing to come to the BBA and work together on common interests.”

When the BBA sought additional expertise on the issue of adequate compensation for District Attorneys and public defenders, Smith’s long history of tackling challenges with quiet integrity became an asset to the organization.

Smith also welcomed the chance to return to his education roots as chair of the BBA’s Education Committee. Smith was a steady and guiding hand, helping sections plan and organize hundreds of legal education programs. To Cassidy, that is no surprise.

“Mark has always been a successful manager, one who is kind and generous to younger colleagues and capable of seeing the big picture,” he said.

Smith’s tenure as BBA president comes at a pivotal time. With the BBA’s Criminal Justice Working Group preparing to release a report, and the state legislature ready to act, Smith feels that the time for meaningful criminal justice reform is now.

“Criminal justice reform is extremely important. Too often, young people get caught up in the system and once they’ve been arraigned, they’re in the database,” explained Smith. “Any future employer or landlord may have access to that criminal offender record information [CORI] and that person can be denied a job, housing and suffer other damaging collateral consequences.”

In Smith’s experience, many of these offenses are eventually dismissed, but the record often remains. This is an issue that Smith is eager to address.

“While criminal justice reform is top of mind in the legislature, our working group is trying to advance topics like CORI, bail reform, expansion of diversion programs, and other reforms.  I think that there could be common ground between our proposals and the views held by prosecutors and the thinking of the various District Attorneys.  I am optimistic that we can work together and make progress.”

Laredo says that no one is better at finding this common ground than Smith. “Mark has this incredible ability to objectively see both sides of an issue, and bring people together to collaborate on a solution,” he said. “He is going to be an outstanding advocate for the profession.”

Collora + Hogan Lovells = A Winning Combination

Collora LLP is used to receiving business propositions.

In the thirty years since the firm was founded by Thomas E. Dwyer, Jr., Michael A. Collora and Kathy B. Weinman, Collora has been approached several times by national firms looking to plant a flag in Boston. In those cases, firms received a polite “thanks, but no thanks” from Collora leadership. But Hogan Lovells was different.  Earlier this month, the two firms announced plans to combine on September 1st, but in reality the partnership goes back much further.

“Collora and Hogan have worked together for more than ten years in connection with a number of mutual clients and matters,” explained Maria Durant, a Collora partner and co-chair of the firm’s Ethics Committee. “Through that work, we’ve learned a lot about the attorneys at Hogan Lovells, about the exceptional quality of their work, and about the culture of the firm. So when we learned that Hogan Lovells was considering opening a Boston office, and they called us, it made perfect sense for us to enter into discussions.”

As discussions took place, the complementary nature of the firms became apparent to all. Collora’s litigation and investigation work – particularly in the areas of life sciences, higher education and financial services – rounded out the range of services offered by Hogan Lovells. And Hogan’s regulatory, IP, and corporate expertise had been tapped by Collora over the years for the benefit of their clients.

“Once we started talking, it became more and more apparent that this would be a wonderful combination for both firms,” said Durant.

From the perspective of Hogan Lovells, the addition of a well-known, well-established firm in a thriving life sciences market was an ideal scenario.

“Boston is the leading place in the country, if not the world, for life sciences,” said Asher Rubin, a partner at Hogan Lovells and Global Head of the firm’s Life Sciences Industry Group. “Hogan had originally been an ‘inside the Beltway’ DC firm. Back then, the view was that the two cities didn’t cross over. But the national and global economies have changed, and lawyers are more mobile. Hogan has a competitive advantage in the strength of our regulatory practice. We have a deep bench in regulatory aspects of law, and especially with life sciences, so having a presence in Boston made sense.”

But having seen and read about other firms setting up shop in Boston with a handful of attorneys transplanted from other offices, firm leadership knew that wasn’t the strategy for them.

“We wanted to make certain that what we did was sustainable and had critical mass, from a people standpoint, a business standpoint, and a community standpoint,” continued Rubin. “We really wanted a well-known, highly regarded law firm with local practitioners, with a focus on the life sciences industry. Collora satisfied all those requirements in a way that exceeded our expectations.”

Looking ahead, the firms are in the process of integrating teams and identifying new opportunities for their clients. There are plans for “thoughtful growth” in Boston, but for the time being attorneys will remain at Collora’s current offices at 100 High Street. And when it comes to public service and support for legal services, the combined firms have no plans to alter course.

Since its founding 30 years ago, Collora has been committed to pro bono work and community and bar organization service.   “Service to the bar and the community is part of the fabric of Collora.  We are proud that two past BBA Presidents hail from our firm as well as several past and current BBA section co-chairs,”  said Durant, who herself will co-chair the BBA’s 2017 Annual Meeting Steering Committee.

Members of the firm also serve on the Boards of Greater Boston Legal Services, Appleseed Foundation, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice and Women’s Bar Foundation.  “It was essential to us that any firm we partnered with shared a commitment to legal and community service and Hogan Lovells does just that.   “We fully expect that the Hogan Lovells Boston office will continue to be active in the Boston community well into the future.”

The Most Interesting Lawyer of the Week: DLA Piper’s Robert Sherman Teaches the Art of the Trial in Trinidad and Tobago

Mention Trinidad and Tobago, and most people conjure up images of beaches, palm trees, or perhaps the scarlet ibis, the island’s national bird. But for DLA Piper, the Caribbean nation is a reminder of a certain police academy, and some remarkable people working in it.

A Spanish colony from the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1498, Trinidad and Tobago was ceded to Britain in 1802 under the Treaty of Amiens.  And while the country obtained independence in 1962, much of its government is based in British law, including the practice of appointing police prosecutors.

“In the lower criminal courts – the Magistrate’s Court – much of the prosecution is done by police prosecutors, many of whom are not trained as lawyers,” explained Robert Sherman, a white collar criminal defense lawyer and partner at DLA Piper’s Boston office. “They are members of the police department who are appointed to serve as the prosecution arm for misdemeanors and other lesser criminal cases. But they are up against seasoned, trial-trained lawyers representing defendants. They have not had the training to fairly present the cases in the court.”

Sherman and several of his DLA Piper colleagues are working to change that. In collaboration with the firm’s international pro bono affiliate, New Perimeter, and the National Center on State Courts (NCSC), firm attorneys have visited the island to conduct multi-day training sessions on trial advocacy. The project is part of a justice reform program funded by the US State Department. Using a purse-snatching incident as a case study, Sherman and his colleagues mentored about 50 of Trinidad and Tobago’s police prosecutors on the different phases of a trial, including opening statements, direct examination, cross examination and closing statements. The main idea, says Sherman, is to teach the prosecutors to take a step back and consider the overall theme of the case they are trying to make.

“We talked a lot about developing a theory about the case. What’s the story they are trying to present? As a prosecutor, if you can capture that in your own mind, much of what you then do flows from that,” he said. “If your theory is that a young woman was walking home in the dark and was  attacked from behind, how does your case theme match up with what you’re trying to prove? We worked with them to learn how to synthesize a bunch of facts into a theory and then build that into a strategy in the courtroom.”

In May, Sherman, along with three of his colleagues from DLA Piper offices around the world, spent three days at the island’s police academy, facilitating a series of lectures and interactive exercises. In addition to learning how to build their own case, the police prosecutors also gained insight into strategies for the defense.

“When we’re doing a prosecution direct examination, we’ll have someone from the police department play the defense lawyer, and one of the DLA attorneys plays the judge. We’ll ask them to make objections and then we will respond to them as judges. It teaches not only the correct style of making objections – when to make them, when not to make them, when they’re over used, when they’re under used – it also teaches them the perspective of the defense lawyer. Being able to present the facts from the other side really helps you understand the building of a case theory. In the end, what you see over the course of the three days is this incredible transformation as advocates. It’s amazing to watch.”

The Trinidad and Tobago project is the second in a series of police prosecutor trainings the firm and New Perimeter have undertaken. The first took place in Guyana in 2011, and the firm is currently working with NCSC to plan additional trainings in the region. For New Perimeter, whose aim is to provide long-term pro bono legal assistance in under-served regions around the world, this work falls squarely within their mission, according to DLA Piper’s pro bono counsel Suzanna Brickman.

“We have several focus areas at New Perimeter, including enhancing access to justice, building sound legal institutions, and promoting economic development,” she explained. “This rule of law work is an exciting opportunity with a lot of impact.”

“DLA Piper has a really strong commitment to doing pro bono work,” Sherman added. “As a global firm, we have the resources to make an impact broadly around the world. The work in Guyana – and now Trinidad and Tobago – is the kind of pro bono project that speaks to our obligations, as lawyers, to give back, and to do it in a way that’s consistent with the global firm that we are.”

Meet the Managing Partner: Nixon Peabody’s Ruth Silman

Nixon Peabody’s Ruth Silman on Finding her Path, Creating Communities, and Sensing Ahead

Ruth Silman’s path to the law is, in her words, “a winding one.” She’s a managing partner who once thought she’d never join a big firm, and a juris doctorate holder who thought she’d never practice law. So how did the BU Law grad end up leading the Boston office of a Global 100 firm? It started in a somewhat unlikely place: the National Park Service.

“I spent one summer during college in Washington, D.C. working in the policy office of the National Park Service,” Silman explained. “The woman I worked for was both a boss and a mentor.  She said ‘I’m going to do for you what somebody else once did for me.’ And she opened her rolodex and set up meetings for me with people throughout the city.”

Silman spent that summer meeting many people, from members of Congress to employees at The White House. Most of them were women, and the vast majority had gone to law school, although none practiced law. Their advice to her was to do the same:  Go to law school to hone your skills to think critically and analytically. Ruth took that advice and enrolled at Boston University School of Law.  She looked forward to the intellectual rigor, but had not planned to practice law. That all changed during her first semester.

“I was sitting in Torts Class just absorbing all of it,” she said. “My professor was both a doctor and a lawyer. He started talking about a toxic tort case that he was working on, and honestly, my entire career path became clear. I thought: I could do that for a living. I could investigate. I could figure out the law and the policy. I could help people. I could clean up the environment. Being an attorney was an opportunity to do all of that.”

After spending a year in the Attorney General’s environmental protection division following graduation, Silman transitioned to Anderson & Kreiger, where she practiced “litigation by day, and land use by night.” But Silman missed focusing on certain environmental issues like the Clean Air Act. In 2000, she made the move to Nixon Peabody, and immediately found herself working on environmental and renewable energy issues not just in Boston, but around the country.

“All of a sudden I had this national reach. I had the opportunity to work on cases from New England to California. There were so many clean air cases to work on, I felt like a kid in a candy store. And as renewable energy has grown, I’ve been able to broaden the breadth of my practice.” Silman has also had the opportunity to strengthen her land use practice, working closely with the firm’s preeminent affordable housing group.  “We create communities for people who are underprivileged and underserved.”  One project makes Silman particularly proud.  “A few years ago, one of our clients, Beacon Communities, was designated as the redeveloper for the initial phases of the Boston Housing Authority’s Old Colony project in South Boston.  We had an extraordinarily tight deadline to permit the project and begin construction.  Old Colony was a series of three-story concrete block buildings that stretched for ‘megablocks’ with little light or green space.”  Silman was part of a team that helped to reorient the development to the existing neighborhood and the nearby waterfront by building a series of beautiful new buildings.  “I brought my kids to the ribbon cutting and as we walked through the development, the residents kept thanking us for giving them true ‘homes’ that were not only safe and clean, but truly integrated.  I am very lucky to be able to help my clients navigate through the maze of permits and regulations to build new communities.”

Today, as Silman’s first year as managing partner of Nixon Peabody’s Boston office comes to a close, she’s looking ahead. Her vision for the office is a three-pronged one, including community, diversity and sustainability. She sees engagement in the community as not only a vital means of giving back, but also an important part of reaffirming the firm’s place as a corporate citizen.  “More of our attorneys are involved with non-profits and offering their time to community service.  We are living in a day and age when too many people are underprivileged; we have to do our part to help.”

Nixon Peabody is also working to move the needle on increasing diversity, something that – as the first female managing partner in the firm’s Boston Office – is important to her. To that end, the firm has hired a head of diversity and inclusion who focuses on this effort full time.   Silman owes a great deal to her family for its never-ending support, as well as to her numerous mentors and sponsors who have helped throughout her career. She wants to be a role model for others.

Silman is also focused on sustainability – literally as well as figuratively. In the next few years, the Boston office will follow an office renovation model other Nixon Peabody locations have undertaken, with a focus on more collaboration space and using lots of glass and light to create a transparent feel making less space feel like more. But what is also of importance is the sustainability of the firm’s people. “I want to make sure we’re paying attention to the long term viability of our people. This includes offering benefits such as flex-time and flex-place, but I also want to continue to motivate people to love what they do, and maintain that sense of being ‘in it’ together. This is very important to me.”

“Our mantra here is ‘sense ahead.’ As I see it, we need to stay on the cutting edge substantively, perhaps even outside of our traditional comfort zones.  It is what keeps us entrepreneurial and intuitive. Our clients are in situations where they have to make choices, and it’s never a ‘white hat, black hat’ scenario like you see in the movies. There are always shades of gray.  New issues arise daily.  When a client asks you what they should do, you’ve got to dig into your intuition and your judgment to inform them of their choices and provide a recommendation. This is our value. There are very few absolutes in the world. And that’s good. It is what keeps the work and the practice of law interesting.”

“A Pioneering Experience:” Boston Bar Celebrates Justice Geraldine Hines’ Life in the Law with the 2017 Haskell Cohn Award

Ask Justice Geraldine S. Hines why she decided on a career in the law, and she may answer with a question of her own: “How could I do anything else?” Growing up in Mississippi during the 1960s battles over segregation and voting rights, Justice Hines felt a strong desire to be part of the effort to bring about change.

“Law, to me, seemed to be the way to get things done, to make things change. I wanted to be part of that,” she said. “And I haven’t been disappointed. At the same time, I also came to understand that the law has its limits, and that you need to have a lot of different people doing different things – like community organizing and policy – to make it work.”

After graduating from Tougaloo College in 1968, Justice Hines received her juris doctorate from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1971. Upon graduation, she moved to Boston and focused on developing a career in public service, first as an attorney at the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Roxbury Defenders’ Committee, and Harvard University Center for Law and Education. In 1970s Boston, being an attorney as a woman of color was, as she puts it, a “pioneering experience.”

“When I became a lawyer in 1971, there weren’t that many women,” Justice Hines explained. “It’s different now, but when I came to Boston as a new lawyer, I rarely saw women in the courtroom. You just had to figure it out by yourself and the few other women that you would meet along the way.”

Justice Hines went on to collaborate with two of the woman she met along the way – Margaret Burnham and Judith Dilday – on the founding of Burnham, Hines & Dilday, the first law firm in New England run by women of color. In private practice, Justice continued her focus on civil rights cases, while also taking on clients facing criminal, administrative, labor and family law matters. One case in particular stands out.

“In the 1990s, I was on the Committee for Public Counsel Services ‘murder list,’ and I was assigned to represent a juvenile who was charged with double murder,” she said. “This was a very controversial case; the two victims were children themselves (ages 11 and 15).  One was the youngest victim in a spate of violence that was going on in Boston. I lived in the neighborhood just blocks from where it happened, and it was a very tense time for me because people were angry. I was convinced that this person was innocent, and his life depended on me being competent and being passionate about his cause.”

Justice Hines calls the case an “all-consuming experience” that often required an effort to conquer her fear of mistakes.

“That case included everything that being a lawyer is about:  getting into someone else’s story, and meeting expectations. Not just your client’s expectations, but also your own, and the system’s expectations that you’re going to do what you need to do to give representation. My client was acquitted, and he has gone on to have wonderful life.”

Justice Hines began her judicial career in 2001, as an associate justice of the Superior Court. She served that court for 12 years, and joined the Appeals Court in 2013. In 2014, she became the first African American woman nominated to the Supreme Judicial Court.  The transition from lawyer to judge, she noted, added a new lens to her perspective on the law.

“I came to the court like everybody else, with my life experience, and with my view of the purpose of the law,” she said. “It’s supposed to solve problems. It’s supposed to help us have just outcomes to bad things that happen. You bring your sense of what is just, fair, and right. But you also bring awareness that, sometimes, it’s not possible to accomplish that. And you accept that, because you’re not an advocate anymore.”

One case in particular serves as a reminder of this critical point: a murder case involving two teenagers that came before Justice Hines during her second year as a judge in the Superior Court. A mother of a 15 year-old boy came to understand that her son had killed another teen. She brought people from her church into her home to pray, and confronted him.

“She told him that his life would never be worth anything if he didn’t confess,” Justice Hines explained. “So she and other family members brought him down to the police station, and instructed him to confess to the shooting. And he did.”

Justice Hines had to decide whether or not that statement could be suppressed due to his mother’s coercion.

“I wrestled with my conscience for the longest time,” she recalled. “As a human being, I felt that this child should have a right to have a trial. He should not be burdened with his mother’s religious conviction, which was not his conviction. Finally, I came to the realization that, despite what I personally felt was right, I had to follow the law. And the law says that a child is only entitled to advice from an interested adult, and nobody could argue that his mother was not an interested adult.

“That was the most challenging case in my career as judge. I had to come to terms with the tension between the law and what I thought was just. I felt it wasn’t right for a child to be tried on the basis of a confession that was coerced by parental authority. However, that’s the law. So that was a hard one for me. I think with that case I proved – to myself – that I was an honest actor in this whole business, which you have to work hard at. It’s a myth that judges are naturally unbiased; that’s something we have to work toward, because we’re all human.”

Looking ahead to life after the bench, Justice Hines will be exploring opportunities to work on voter suppression issues, which she calls the “great civil rights issue of our time.”  But before that, she will be instructing future lawyers on the intersection of race and criminal law as the spring 2018 Jerome Lyle Rappaport Distinguished Visiting Professor at Boston College Law School, where she hopes to convey the importance of having passion for your work.

“The lesson from my life as a lawyer is that you have to have passion for the work that you do, and you have to choose what you do wisely. I’ve been at this for 46 years, and it’s been so rich because I have come to it with a passion for justice and for seeing things made right. That’s a long time to be doing something if you don’t care about it.”

The ceremony for the Haskell Cohn Award for Distinguished Judicial Service will take place on June 22. For more information, please click here.

Voices of the Bar 5/11/17: Tell Us About Your Law Day in the Schools Session

We are two weeks into our Law Day in the Schools program, and for the next month, volunteers will continue to go into classrooms in the city of Boston and teach students of all ages about due process in the law. We checked in with volunteers who have already completed their sessions to ask how it went.

“Tell us about your experience with Law Day in the Schools.

Jennifer Durand – Schmidt & Federico
“My colleague, Glenn, and I taught Ms. Haynes’ 4th Grade class at the Mozart School in Roslindale.  This was my first experience as a Law Day in the Schools teacher and I was a bit nervous.  The experience could not have been better.  We had a great class filled with students who were engaged, lively and active participants.  Their teacher, Ms. Haynes, was excellent as well.  She kept the students engaged, focused and had an excellent rapport with the students.  At the end of the program there is a five minute question and answer session during which the students are allowed to ask questions about our jobs, being lawyers, etc.  Our question and answer session lasted at least fifteen minutes as the students peppered us with great questions on a variety of topics, legal and non-legal; they certainly kept Glenn and me on our toes.

The students seemed genuinely interested and eager to learn and their participation and spirit was infectious, which made the experience that much easier for two newbie Law Day in the Schools teachers like Glenn and me.  I walked out of the classroom completely energized and looking forward to my next Law Day in the Schools experience.”

Joseph Molina Flynn – Attorney at Law
“My law day in the schools session was excellent. Some of the students were really well-prepared and asked really poignant questions. I am always amazed by the way students interpret the lessons based on their lived experiences. This year, we received a lot of questions regarding the applicability of due process in immigration proceedings; that was a topic we did not expect to cover but based on recent headlines students were eager to know more about.”

Wadner Oge – Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners
“I had a great, rewarding experience speaking to school students about the Due Process during my Law Day in Schools Session at Charlestown High School.  The students are immigrants from Asia and Latin America, who are learning English as a second language.  I was particularly moved and motivated by fact that I could see myself in them because I sat in a similar classroom 24 years ago.  I shared with them that I was once an immigrant student who came from Haiti, attended Dorchester High School, and became a lawyer.  I was pleased to hear back from their teacher that my co-presenter and I inspired at least two students to think about becoming lawyers one day regardless of their immigrant status and socio-economic background.”

Michael Rossi – Conn Kavanaugh
“We had a wonderful visit to the Haley Pilot School in Roslindale.  I was so impressed and encouraged by the students’ curiosity and engagement.  They had some very challenging questions for us on topics ranging from transgender rights to stand-your-ground laws.”

If you would like to respond to a future Voices of the Bar, make sure you send a headshot, and contact Lauren DiTullio at [email protected].

Anne Mackin of GBLS to Receive Brooks Award at Law Day Dinner

Over the course of nearly 30 years working in legal services in the Boston area, Greater Boston Legal Services attorney Anne Mackin has met and assisted clients facing the hardest times in their lives.

Since 2003, she has worked in GBLS’s Immigration Unit, helping people from all over the world who have witnessed or experienced horrors and tragedy – the loss of friends, family or a home due to natural disasters, war, genocide, and other forms of persecution. She has sought justice and a safe harbor for those who have endured discrimination due to their race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality or beliefs.

“It is an enormous privilege for me to work in legal services,” Mackin said.  “I’ve met children who have been abused, abandoned and neglected – who, at very young ages, decided that to have a chance at life they had to leave the only home they’d ever known. They decided to pursue life in a country where they hoped to live in safety and pursue their dreams for themselves.  I am humbled and awed by what people survive, and the strength of the human spirit.”

Mackin’s career path in legal services began with a college internship, where she was dispatched on home visits to legal services clients and saw firsthand the difficulties they encountered. After graduating from Northeastern Law School in 1981, Mackin spent time working at a small law firm near the campus, then took a position at the Cambridgeport Problem Center, which later became the Community Legal Services and Counseling Center.

In 1988, Mackin started at Cambridge and Somerville Legal Services, which eventually became part of Greater Boston Legal Services. She became passionate about helping immigrant families, first through watching her colleagues handle cases in which clients coped with trauma and went on to grow and rebuild their lives. Mackin now focuses on immigration family law in her work.

“In some respects, the needs of our clients have not shifted in the years I’ve worked in legal services.  Our clients’ needs are often the same – they need income, food, clothing, shelter; they need protection from persecution, abuse, violence, and discrimination; they need education, fair wages, and dignity and respect,” she said. “They also need help navigating complicated bureaucracies and court systems with daunting rules, and in which a procedural technicality might bar a person from a benefit, a claim, an opportunity, or safe haven for which they might otherwise qualify.”

Mackin said she believes that progress has been made through litigation and policy work to promote the rule of law and address many of the challenges her client face. However, her work continues to evolve based on the shifting circumstances – personal, political and societal – that her clients face.

“Unfortunately, low-income people, single parents, and immigrants are often blamed, even scapegoated, for economic and social problems for which they do not bear personal responsibility.  Issues of race, class, disability, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation permeate our society and especially impact our clients.  Regrettably, they are too often disregarded as human beings,” Mackin said.

In the case of immigrant clients, Mackin said, legal needs change depending on the reason that a person seeks protection.

“A political crisis in a specific country, the needs of women and children to be free of persecution, gang violence, gender violence, or other crises cause people all over the world to flee their homelands,” she said. “Additionally, the work changes depending on the current lens through which our society views the immigrant, the low income person, or the person(s) in need.”

Mackin said she considers working in legal services a privilege. Clients trust her with their painful stories, and being a part of their journey toward recovery and safety in permanent U.S. residency is an honor, she said.

“The most gratifying aspect of the work is getting to know the individuals we represent and to work in their communities,” she said. “We can use our skills to help people through the legal process, and are enriched beyond measure knowing that through our work, each client might have the opportunity to pursue his or her goals in life, and grow the personal potential of each.”

Mackin will receive the John G. Brooks Legal Services Award at the Boston Bar Association’s Law Day Dinner on May 15th. The award is presented to professional legal services attorneys for their outstanding work on behalf of indigent people in the Boston area.

From her steadfast dedication to clients to her generous mentorship of colleagues, Mackin exemplifies all that the BBA looks to honor in the legal profession—dedication to excellence, commitment to public service, and the celebration of diversity. Her work representing immigrant children in Massachusetts is more important than ever, and we salute her perseverance in helping those most in need.

To purchase your ticket to Law Day Dinner, please click here.

Voices of the Bar 4/20/17: What Was Your First Summer Job?

This week, the BBA transforms into a gaming spot for a good cause. The Boston Bar Foundation’s annual Casino Night fundraiser supports opportunities for Boston’s youth, including the BBA Summer Jobs program.

In the spirit of this fun event and our wonderful community partners, Summer Jobs employers, and students, we’re reaching out to ask:

“What was your first (or favorite) summer job?

Erica Han – Ropes & Gray
“My first “professional” summer job was a college internship at a PR firm.  I was interviewed by phone while studying abroad in Europe, so I had never seen the company in person until I showed up on my first day.  To my surprise, it was a one-person operation in her parents’ basement.  Not what I had expected, but it was a great experience nevertheless.”

Colin Korzec – U.S. Trust
“My first (and favorite as a matter of fact) job was when my dad helped me start a poor mans’ landscaping business – really I mowed lawns.  I was probably 12 years old and by the time I moved away for college, I was mowing upwards of 45 lawns on a routine basis.  It was a great opportunity to run my own little business and spend some time with my dad.”

 Louis Tompros – WilmerHale
“My first summer job was as the sports photographer for my small-town newspaper, the “O’Fallon Progress.”  I got to walk the field during American Legion baseball games and visit the high school’s pre-season football practices, snapping black-and-white photos.  They paid me $5 per published photo — so usually no more than $10 a week — but it was a great way for a not-so-athletic kid to spend the summer outside!”

Susan Cohen – Peabody & Arnold
” My favorite summer job was teaching swimming and lifeguarding at Whalom Park Lake in Lunenberg, Mass.”

 

 

If you would like to respond to a future Voices of the Bar, make sure you send a headshot, and contact Lauren DiTullio at [email protected].

Elaine Herrmann Blais to Receive Thurgood Marshall Award at Law Day Dinner

Goodwin Partner dedicates pro bono hours to helping immigrant and refugee children find safety in the U.S.

Elaine Herrmann Blais was surprised to learn that she would receive the Thurgood Marshall Award at the Boston Bar Association’s Law Day Dinner on May 15th. The annual award recognizes attorneys in private practice in Greater Boston for their extraordinary efforts in enhancing the human dignity of others by providing legal services to Massachusetts’s low income population.

But if Blais was surprised by the honor, no one else was. The Goodwin partner and head of litigation in the firm’s Boston office has had an active pro bono practice since 2008, when she began representing adults seeking asylum through both the PAIR Project and Immigration Equality. And for the last five years, she has represented unaccompanied immigrant and refugee children in their deportation proceedings through Kids in Need of Defense (KIND).

“From the start, the immigration work was rewarding and challenging,” said Blais. “The biggest challenge was developing the relationship with client so that they would trust you; because the more you can draw their stories out the better your work can be for them. But people don’t walk into your office and tell you their most horrible experiences on day one.”

In 2010, Goodwin began accepting cases from KIND. Those cases, Blais remembers, grabbed her attention.

“The cases with children just really pulled me in. They are underprivileged, and they are dealing with the repercussions of their experiences in their home countries, which can lead to behavior that undercuts their ability to succeed here. So, while you’re handling the legal argument that can help them, at the same time you’re acting as a positive role model who can influence them well in the future.”

One child in particular stands out for Blais. A nine-year old girl had been living with her grandmother in El Salvador; her parents had fled to the U.S. when their lives were threatened for standing up to a local gang. Fearing that the child would become the target in her parents’ absence, she made her way to the U.S. as well. With a loving home waiting for her, Blais was determined to win on her behalf.

“We all fell in love with this girl,” said Blais. “We all thought that if we lost her case we would take turns hiding her in our own homes, because there was no way we were going to send her back to El Salvador.”

Fortunately, it didn’t come to that. Blais and her team were successful in arguing that, because the child was being targeted as a result of her family’s brave stance against the gang, she was eligible for asylum.  Blais is now working with the family on her green card application.

Blais credits Goodwin with creating an environment that is supportive of pro bono work. Currently, Blais is one of many Goodwin lawyers representing the cities of Chelsea and Lawrence in a legal challenge to President Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration.

“When this opportunity arose, leadership at the firm said ‘this is important; this is kind of work that we as lawyers with privilege should be doing.’ There is a real emphasis on the importance of pro bono. We have partners chairing our pro bono committee who are really dedicated, and our associates get full credit for their pro bono work, which is really helpful because associates can do the work they care about without worrying that they won’t make their hours.”

Blais encourages this participation among associates, and often acts as a mentor. “Where I am in my career, 22 years out, and leading litigation in Boston as a partner, I feel that my obligation is to give support so that as many associates can work on these cases as they want. Which works out well, because when a message comes in from KIND telling us that six more children need representation, it’s really hard to say no.”

Blais will accept the Thurgood Marshall Award from BBA President Carol A. Starkey at the Law Day Dinner on Monday, May 15th. For details on the event, please click here.

Voices of the Bar 4/13/17: What Do You Love About the Boston Marathon?

The excitement is in the air for this year’s Boston Marathon. We like to give our members a chance to let us know if they are running, and what the highlight of their day is every year on Patriot’s Day.

For this week’s “Voices of the Bar” column, we’re reaching out to ask:

“What do you love about the Boston Marathon?

Yareni Sanchez – Goulston & Storrs
“What I love most about the Boston Marathon is the sense of community that it inspires.  From Hopkinton to Copley, spectators of every age gather along the sidelines to hand out candy, energy bars (and sometimes even a beer), make a weary runner laugh with their funny signs and offer high fives or hugs to total strangers.  I’ve run marathons in other cities, but nothing compares to the raucous energy in Boston on Marathon Monday.”

Emily Hodge – Choate, Hall & Stewart
“What I love about the Boston Marathon is the dedication of the charity runners and the fans who support them.  Seeing other charity runners out on the course during training runs is inspiring – every one of them is out there running to support a cause they are passionate about.  On the day of the Marathon, the charity runners start together, and throughout the race the crowds are incredible.  They read the runners’ names and cheer for their charities, thanking the runners for being committed to the cause, and there is no better motivation.  Monday will be my eighth Boston Marathon with the Dana-Farber Challenge Team, and one of the best parts of the day will undoubtedly be when strangers yell as I jog by, “Thank you for running for Dana-Farber, Dana-Farber saved my life.”

 Hannah Bornstein  – Nixon Peabody
“For the second straight year, I am running the Boston Marathon for the PAIR Project.  PAIR is a Boston legal services non-profit that provides pro bono representation to low-income asylum seekers and unjustly detained immigrants.  I am truly honored to run for PAIR again.  My favorite part about the marathon is the run down Boylston Street:  the City of Boston is cheering you on, it’s incredibly loud, and the street is lined with countries’ flags – it feels like the Olympics.  It’s one of the most unbelievable moments in sports!”
Chinh Pham – Greenberg Traurig
“There are so many things to love about the Boston Marathon. Here are my reasons from having run this race over the years (not in any particular order): It is not only a premier Boston event, but an international phenomenon. It is THE marathon to run if you are a runner.  It has a long and storied history.  The crowd along the course is amazing and knowledgeable about running.  The challenging and technical nature of the course, including significant drops in elevation and the cruel placement of Heartbreak Hill, won’t allow you to zone out.  There are only six Marathon Majors and Boston is one.  I get to run in support of the Boston Museum of Science and their  wonderful community outreach programs.”

Heather Cox – Parker Scheer
“I love how the Boston Marathon brings out a sense of community you only see a few times a year. Spectators cheering on strangers and runners inspiring other runners. It is a beautiful thing. I also love how the city comes alive in the days leading up to the race. You can feel the excitement and anticipation in the air.”

Denise Chicoine – Englander & Chicoine
“I always look forward to this world-class athletic event which has inspired millions over the years.  As a past participant and aspiring qualifier in the future, it is thrilling to see the elite of the sport and the masses who struggle valiantly.”

If you would like to respond to a future Voices of the Bar, make sure you send a headshot, and contact Lauren DiTullio at [email protected].