Meet BBA President Jonathan M. Albano

Despite his status as a top litigator, well-known and respected for his leadership on important constitutional law issues, Jon Albano is not quick to boast about his many talents or claim credit for his victories in court.  When asked, he will confess his high-achieving legal career grew out of humble aspirations: “It was something I was interested in, and I thought I would be OK at it,” he said.

As the Morgan Lewis partner kicks off his year as president of the Boston Bar Association, it’s safe to say he has vaulted over that modest bar time and time again. He has served as outside counsel for the Boston Globe for over 25 years. As seen in 2015’s Spotlight, Albano played a pivotal role in gaining Globe reporters access to records that became the basis for the paper’s series on sex abuse in the Catholic Church. Albano enjoyed the film, praising its accuracy in portraying the essence of what happened and the Spotlight Team’s attention to detail in reporting the story. Watching it, he was struck by the care taken by the cast to resemble the Globe staffers they portrayed. As to whether or not they got Albano right, his take is diplomatic.

“Half the people who talk to me about the movie say, ‘Why did they have such a nerdy guy play you?’,” Albano related. “The other half of the people who watched it say ‘Wow, they really nailed you.’ Someone must be right.”

Albano’s experiences in first amendment law run the gamut, and he has been on the winning end of cases that have broken new ground in public records law and libel defense. Beginning this Fall, the BBA will host a series of programs on free speech and the first amendment, reflecting that part of Albano’s practice.

When he first started out as an associate at Bingham, Dana & Gould LLP (later Bingham McCutchen LLP) after finishing law school Albano envisioned staying long enough to pay off some student loans and then moving on to either teaching or public service.

Thirty-five years later, that’s not how things transpired. Albano was with Bingham McCutchen up until it was absorbed by Morgan Lewis at the end of 2014, and though he has gained a multitude of experience since starting out, the focus of his work is largely the same.

“I grew to love litigation more than I ever would have imagined,” Albano said. “Starting out, I didn’t see myself representing bloodless, soulless corporations fighting over money. But I quickly learned that all those disputes have elements to them that are deeply personal to the people involved.”

Business law, to Albano, is about people’s lives and livelihoods. Representing media clients, he is most drawn to the idea of defending the public’s right to know. It all comes back around to doing right by people – not just his clients, but other lawyers as well. The combination of enjoying the company of lawyers and a desire to meet new people and learn more about them, are what drew him to the Boston Bar.

“The relationships I’ve formed and the people I’ve had the opportunity to work with are why I love this job, along with the work itself,” Albano said. “I like lawyers, and I have a lot of respect for what they do. They are solving problems every day, and no matter their practice area, they are serving a client or the public.”

His spirit of civility is evident even, or especially, to attorneys opposing him in court. Former BBA President Joan Lukey, a partner at Choate, first got to know Albano on the opposite side of a matter that made its way through the courts for seven years. Though they were fighting for opposite outcomes, Albano demonstrated concern and compassion when Lukey came down with the flu in the middle of a trial.

“It isn’t every day that opposing counsel in a hotly contested case becomes a good friend and trusted adviser, but that speaks to the kind of person Jon is,” Lukey said of Albano. “Jon is one of the wisest, warmest and kindest people I have ever known.”

Over the years, they have gone on to refer business to one another, and Lukey relied on him as counsel in a situation of professional transition.

“I trusted, and still trust, his judgment completely,” she said.

It was his affinity for connecting with other lawyers that led Albano to want to become more involved with the Boston Bar. Through that involvement, he has worked on many significant policy projects.

Albano has served as the co-chair of the BBA’s Civil Rights & Civil Liberties Section. From 2011 to 2017, he was on the BBA’s Amicus Committee, which he thinks of as one of the highlights of his work with the Boston Bar. Most recently, Albano drafted the BBA’s brief in Commonwealth v. Joyce, in which he argued the government’s motion to disqualify former Senator Brian Joyce’s defense violated the first and sixth amendments of the U.S. Constitution. The motion was denied.

Looking ahead to his year as president, Albano has several priorities in mind. Last year, the Boston Bar launched the Service Innovation Project. In its pilot phase, the project focuses on the school-to-prison pipeline, and the legal community’s role in disrupting it. The project steering committee is working to develop opportunities for lawyers to get involved in addressing school discipline and related issues. Meanwhile, September’s Annual Meeting program will seek to educate attendees about the many factors that contribute to this devastating societal problem.

“I am very hopeful the project is going to do some valuable work and demonstrate that lawyers can analyze a problem in a way that leads to solutions,” he said. “I know that it’s not going to be easy, but I hope we can take a step forward on it, and I look forward to engaging our community partners to that end.”

Albano is also passionate about finding ways to bring lawyers together around problems facing the legal profession.  The opportunity he has had to meet and collaborate with other lawyers through the BBA is important to him personally and professionally. He worries that, for younger attorneys, the value of face-to-face networking has been diminished by digital communication, working remotely, and focusing on billable hours at the expense of forming valuable connections outside the office.

“When I work with younger attorneys, I always tell them to make time to invest in themselves and become an impactful part of the community. It’s a difficult balance, but I believe it’s an equally valuable use of their time,” Albano said. “I think it’s important for younger lawyers to realize the benefit of getting more involved with bar association activities.”

Deana El-Mallawany, who is now counsel at Protect Democracy, joined Bingham McCutchen in 2010 as an associate. With an office right next to Albano’s, she witnessed “steady foot traffic past [her] door of colleagues en route to Jon’s office,” to seek his advice on all matters, professional and personal.

“He was everyone’s best sounding board, shoulder to lean on, and sage advisor. I was no exception. For me, lucky as I was, Jon became a lifelong friend and mentor,” El-Mallawany said.

When El-Mallawany began working more closely with Albano, she recognized a great legal mind at work.

“Jon is creative, nimble-minded, and deeply knowledgeable. He loves thinking through legal problems for his clients, and his enthusiasm is contagious,” she said. “Jon inspired me, like dozens of other lawyers early in their careers, to practice law not just with rigor but with curiosity. What’s more, he gave us countless opportunities to do so.”

Albano readily admits he himself has achieved success largely by learning from other lawyers, and he believes so strongly in the importance of mentorship because of his own mentors. Past BBA President Joseph L. Kociubes, a former partner at Bingham, Dana & Gould and later Bingham McCutchen, was a rising attorney at the firm when Albano was hired.

Having known Albano his entire career, Kociubes sums him up as being “committed – in the best sense of the word, to his profession, to his clients and to his friends. You see it in everything he does.”

As Albano’s colleague, Kociubes observed him to be empathetic. Though Kociubes turned the occasional project over to Albano when he was a junior attorney, the two got to know each other socially rather than by working on cases together. Kociubes says Albano’s down-to-earth sensibility and sense of humor make him a great friend. His values make him a great confidant and will make him a great bar president, in Kociubes’s opinion.

“He’s loyal and he cares about people. His values always jumped out at me, and I’ve always felt that was very important,” Kociubes said. “A number of different constituencies exist in the BBA’s membership. Successful presidents are able to keep the BBA’s core values front of mind while respecting and being open to views and interests of those different constituencies. Jon has the ability and inclination to navigate that.”

For K & L Gates Managing Partner Mark Haddad, who has known Albano since the fifth grade, Albano’s greatest asset as a leader is his ability to draw people together and build a sense of community. The two have remained friends and became roommates during their undergraduate and law school careers at Boston College. While Haddad admires Albano professionally, he notes that he is particularly impressed with Albano’s long-accumulated 45 record collection.

“When thinking about Jon Albano, it may be difficult for most people to see beyond his tremendous professional achievements, arguing law-making cases before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and the Federal Circuit Courts of Appeal and becoming a partner at one of Boston’s most respected firms,” Haddad said. “Still, I think of Jon as I always have, as  the kid from Pittsfield who spent hours on Saturdays and Sundays playing basketball and games at the Pittsfield Boy’s Club, who worked at Friendly’s Ice Cream shop throughout high school, who proudly drove a ’64 Plymouth Valiant with a push button transmission and who ultimately perfected a pretty decent jump shot from the top of the key.”

“Jon is truly one of life’s great people,” Haddad continued. “I have been lucky to have him as my friend for all these years.  The BBA, and Boston’s bar as a whole, is fortunate to have him serve as the BBA’s next President.”

Why are you a BBA member?

We always greet the new program year in September with excitement, and with that anticipation in mind, we wanted to ask some of our members what they value most about belonging to the Boston Bar. Hear from members of our leadership, past and present, about what is most important to them:

“Why are you a BBA member, and what are some of your favorite aspects of membership?”

Former BBA President Renee M. Landers – Suffolk University Law School
“At the start of my legal career, I was fortunate to work for one of the BBA’s sponsor firms, so was enrolled as a BBA member. Almost immediately, I realized that BBA membership provided access to a community of lawyers in the profession. Now that I have to pay for my own membership, I continue to do so because I am proud to be connected to an organization that engages in so much thoughtful study and advocacy on policies relevant to the law and the legal system such as diversity in the legal profession, criminal justice reform, and adequate public funding for criminal defense and civil legal services. The BBA forms an existing network of knowledgeable professionals able to enter the policy debate in a way that is useful to decision-makers and the public. In addition, the excellent educational programs help lawyers continue to learn as is necessary throughout a career in the law. Finally, I value the personal relationships I have built with excellent lawyers of integrity through the years of involvement with the BBA. These relationships sustain one’s spirit and commitment to leaving the profession and the justice system better than we found it.”

Financial Literacy Co-Chair John Loughnane  – Nutter
“I am a member of the BBA because, over the years, I have found the organization to be very effective in carrying out its core mission.  I fully support all efforts to  advance excellence in the profession, improve access to justice, and  improve the Greater Boston community.   Particularly impressive is the BBA’s  ability to tap the talents of  members drawn from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines.   With a very effective governance structure and a world-class professional staff, the BBA succeeds at every level.   Witnessing the  organization’s ability to  improve  the lives of others year after year  makes membership an easy decision.”

 Insurance & Tort Litigation Section Co-chair Nigel Long – Liberty Mutual
“The BBA is welcoming to all members of every experience level.  There’s no ego in the BBA’s leadership or membership ranks which makes it a very welcoming group to be a part of. The BBA is also relevant.  Over the years, the BBA has constantly kept its fingers on the pulse of what is relevant and of concern/interest to its members.  It puts on relevant programs that add value to the legal fabric within which we work on a day-to-day basis.”

One Attorney’s Experience Volunteering at an Immigrant Family Detention Center

This is a guest post from Foley Hoag Counsel Christopher Hart, who spent one week volunteering with the Dilley Pro Bono Project to assist detained and separated immigrant families in Texas.

Dilley, Texas, is 80 miles southwest of San Antonio and houses a few ranches, a Burger King, a men’s prison, and an immigrant family detention center called the South Texas Family Residential Center (STFRC).  STFRC is the largest family detention center in the country; it houses women and children, mostly from the Central American “northern triangle” (Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador), most of whom have fled horrific gang violence or domestic abuse.  My law firm, Foley Hoag, sponsored my one-week pro bono trip at STFRC during the first week in July, in which I became keenly interested after reading about the crisis of immigrant children being separated from their parents upon crossing the border, indefinitely, as part of an immigration deterrence strategy.  I volunteered with the Dilley Pro Bono Project, which is a partner in the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Immigration Justice Campaign.  You can read more about it here: http://caraprobono.org/volunteer/.

My work, along with the work of the full-time attorneys and paralegals and the more than 30 volunteers who staffed the project during my week of volunteering, consisted of preparing our clients — women and sometimes children – for their Credible Fear or Reasonable Fear Interviews (CFI or RFI).  (For those of you unfamiliar with asylum law, as I was before volunteering, under federal law, before an asylum seeker can file an asylum application and appear before an Immigration Judge, she must first pass through a screening interview and present “Credible Fear” – up until recently a relatively low bar available mostly to first-time immigrants – or “Reasonable Fear” – a much higher bar required of those, among others, who have previously crossed into the United States and have been subject to a deportation order.  There are various nuances I am leaving out, of course.  An Asylum Officer (AO) ultimately makes the determination.)  I would also often accompany clients to their interviews with the assigned AO and advocate for them during the interview.

To get a sense of place, STFRC is a 50-acre complex of permanent trailers that house the detained women and children (that is, the asylum seekers), and provide offices and courtrooms for AOs and Immigration Judges, as well as a visitor’s center, where volunteers do their work.  In addition to the pro bono staff and volunteers, there are three other groups of people who interact with the asylum seekers.  STFRC is run by CoreCivic, formerly known as the Corrections Corporation of America, a company that owns and manages private prisons around the country, and there are numerous CoreCivic staff throughout the complex.  USCIS officials, in the form of AOs and Immigration Judges, staff the offices and courtrooms.  And ICE officials are on hand to handle enforcement issues, such as deportations.

During my week in Dilley, I prepared or accompanied about two dozen women and children for their interviews.  Interview preparation consisted, in my experience, of spending anywhere from one to six hours trying to understand a client’s story and help her tell that story in a way that fit the credible or reasonable fear requirements.  These were often 24-48 hours ahead of the interview.  All of the interview preparation was in Spanish (save for some immigrants who speak an indigenous language as their native tongue).  All of the preparations were emotionally difficult for our clients: often, it was the first time they would tell their stories.

Their stories were horrific and heartbreaking, something to which anyone who has done asylum law can attest.  After preparing the first few clients, stories began to fit familiar patterns: families had already seen loved ones killed because of defiance to the gang members that have effectively supplanted the state’s police authority, and they and their children now lived under death threats – I would listen as children would tell their parents for the first time stories of death threats or violence they have experienced; years of domestic violence escalating into mortal danger; the inability to go to the police for any kind of assistance; the inability to escape to another part of the country – and all of this coupled with often severe poverty and an inability to find any kind of employment.  These women and children had faced the worst kind of hardship on their journey, as well, often being subjected to serious physical harm or sexual abuse on their way to the United States.  And then, finally, many had been prevented by U.S. officials from crossing through a port of entry, or had had U.S. officials separate family members from them at the border.  The amount of bravery and perseverance from each person I interviewed was palpable and inspiring.

Advocating for clients before an AO is also an important task; but, unfortunately, as I observed, it can be a challenging and frustrating experience depending on the AO.  Some are very accommodating to attorney representation and advocacy, allowing for translation corrections, advice to clients during the interviews, and the submission of closing statements or direct questions.  Others were hostile to my very presence.  During the week that I was there, asylum law at the screening stage was beginning to change, with the Administration promulgating guidance making asylum claims based on gang and domestic violence nearly impossible to proceed.  In addition, the reunification issue at the time (and still) seemed intractable, with simply the ability to obtain information regarding the whereabouts of family members nearly impossible.

The work that the full-time staff at Dilley does is remarkable.  Staff and volunteer days are intense, often 15 or more hours long.  Twice per week, the full coterie of staff and volunteers are invited to speak as a group and share with each other about their experiences.  And because of the separation and reunification crisis, the Dilley Pro Bono Project had never seen so many volunteers – they have had such an outpouring of support that they are booked with volunteers for the rest of 2018.

There is much more to say about this experience than space will allow.  I am grateful to Foley Hoag for supporting this pro bono effort; I am grateful to have had the opportunity to help these incredibly courageous women and their children to the extent that I could; and, I am grateful to now have the ability to move forward with some amount of knowledge and experience to continue with asylum work here in Boston.

Supporting Freedom for All Massachusetts “Yes on 3” Campaign

This fall, voters will be asked at the ballot box whether they want to keep in place the current non-discrimination law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity in places of public accommodation.  In keeping with its mission of promoting equal justice for all, the BBA is building on its decade-long advocacy for transgender rights by joining in the current effort to ensure that we maintain these critical protections in Massachusetts.

On Saturday, June 30, a group of BBA members and staff canvassed for Yes on 3: Freedom for All Massachusetts to spread the word about the importance of upholding public accommodations protections for transgender people in the Commonwealth.  Braving the heat wave, they spent three hours going door-to-door in Quincy, MA, engaging voters in a dialogue about the issue.  Collectively, volunteers at the canvass had close to 100 conversations with voters, moving us that much closer to making sure that we hear a resounding “YES” in November on upholding equality.

We asked a couple of volunteers about their experiences at the canvass:

“The news is full of stories of people being demonized just for trying to live their lives in safety and dignity.  I volunteered because it was an opportunity to help change that narrative.”  – Valarie Rosen, In-House Attorney

“The canvass emphasized for me the importance of engaging people around this issue. I had one conversation that I felt really made a difference in that voter’s willingness to vote to keep the law—despite his initial hesitation, at the end of our time talking he said that he agreed that no one should face discrimination based on who they are. I also talked to several people who were strong supporters of transgender rights, but didn’t realize that the question will be on the ballot in November!  I will definitely take part in future canvasses to make sure that more voters are ready to vote Yes on 3.” – Hannah Poor, BBA Staff Member

If you are interested in joining in the fight for equality, check out our recent Action Alert, which contains information about ways to get involved with the campaign.  Please help us spread the word!

“Innate Leadership:” Boston Bar Recognizes Chief Justice Paul Dawley’s Judicial Service with the 2018 Haskell Cohn Award

Hon. Paul Dawley and BBA President Mark Smith

When asked what drives his ongoing commitment to our Commonwealth’s judiciary, District Court Chief Justice Paul C. Dawley reflects on how the role of the district courts has evolved over the last decade beyond solely being a decision-making body.

“In addition to that, the court is in some respect a problem-solving vehicle,” Chief Justice Dawley noted.  “People come to the court, whether it’s for domestic violence protection orders or mental health proceedings to get somebody in their family mental health treatment or to access drug treatment.  All of those things happen on a daily basis in our 62 courts.  Our courts will handle about a quarter of a million cases a year.”

In his 17 years on the bench, Chief Justice Dawley has proved himself to be a dedicated guardian of equal justice.  Dawley was appointed as an Associate Justice of the Brockton District Court in 2001 by Governor Jane Swift.  In 2005, he was appointed as a Regional Administrative Justice of Region 2 in the District Court Department.  In 2009, he was appointed as First Justice of the Brockton District Court.

Boston Bar Association President Mark D. Smith shared his thoughts on what makes Chief Justice Dawley an ideal recipient of the 2018 Haskell Cohn Award for Distinguished Judicial Service.

“The District Court Department, the largest court department in the Commonwealth, has faced significant challenges in the past few years,” Smith observed.  “With his wealth of experience and keen insight, Judge Paul Dawley has led the charge as Chief Justice of the busiest courts in Massachusetts and brought about progressive change and creative solutions to ongoing challenges facing the department.  The department and the citizens of the Commonwealth are extremely fortunate to have had Judge Dawley at the helm during what has been, and continues to be, a pivotal time period for the criminal justice system.”

In September 2013, Trial Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey appointed Judge Dawley as Chief Justice of the District Court.  “I have had the opportunity to work closely with him over the past five years in his role as Chief Justice of the District Court,” noted Chief Justice Carey.  “He has led that department, the largest in the Trial Court, with dedication and passion.  He has an innate sense of fairness and performs selflessly.  He has earned the respect of the judiciary, the bar, and others as a leader who is open and collaborative, a true consensus builder.  His commitment to those concepts has served not only the District Court but the entire Trial Court.  I am so fortunate to have him as a member of my leadership team.  I am thrilled to congratulate Chief Justice Dawley on receipt of the Haskell Cohn Award.”

Chief Justice Dawley has also formerly served as a member of the Administrative Committee for the District Court Department and as the Chair of the District Court Committee on Probation and as a Justice of the Civil Appellate Division.

“The District Court really is a community court,” Chief Justice Dawley explained.  “It has been asked to solve the problems of many people in our communities, relating to substance use disorders, issues related to mental health, poverty.  When you think of public service and you think of a judge’s ability to make a positive difference in the community, those are the problems you’re dealing with.  It’s challenging but it’s also very satisfying as a judge to be in a position to positively impact those people, to put them on a path that improves their lives.”

University of Massachusetts General Counsel Gerry Leone, the former Middlesex County District Attorney, has known Chief Justice Dawley since they met in law school thirty years ago.  He calls Chief Justice Dawley the “perfect choice” to receive the 2018 Haskell Cohn Award.

“He exhibits and epitomizes integrity, commitment, dedication, and humility.  These are just some of the traits that make him a terrific father, husband, friend, and Judge,” said Mr. Leone.  “The people of the Commonwealth are extremely fortunate to have him as a tireless public servant.”

Those sentiments were echoed by Justice Frank M. Gaziano of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, who called Chief Justice Dawley a “natural leader” with “incredibly integrity.”  Justice Gaziano overlapped with Chief Justice Dawley at law school, and they became friends and colleagues working together in the Plymouth County District Attorney’s Office.

“He has innate leadership qualities,” Justice Gaziano shared.  “People rallied around him and people sought his advice because he listens to people.”

Prior to his appointment to the bench, Chief Justice Dawley worked as Deputy First Assistant District Attorney in Plymouth County.  He pointed to that time in the District’s Attorney’s Office as formative toward shaping his view of public service and the law.  “You’re providing a voice for victims who don’t have a voice,” he said.

In 2000, Chief Justice Dawley received the William C. O’Malley Prosecutor of the Year award from the Massachusetts District Attorney’s Association.  He is a graduate of Boston College High School, Tufts University, and Suffolk University Law School.  He is also a longtime member of the faculty of Stonehill College.

The ceremony for the Haskell Cohn Award for Distinguished Judicial Service will take place on June 20. For more information, please click here.

Judge Joan N. Feeney, Founding Co-Chair of BBA M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program, Receives BBA’s Normandin Lifetime Achievement Award

Hon. Christopher J. Panos (US Bankruptcy Court) and Charles P. Normandin Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Hon. Joan N. Feeney (US Bankruptcy Court)

While presenting Judge Joan N. Feeney with the Boston Bar Association’s Charles P. Normandin Lifetime Achievement Award at the 28th Annual Bankruptcy Bench Meets Bar Conference on May 24 at Boston’s Omni Parker House, Judge Christopher J. Panos highlighted not only the breadth of Judge Feeney’s accomplishments but also her generosity of spirit.

“As most of you know, Judge Feeney has attained national prominence as a jurist, academic, champion for access to justice, supporter of continuing legal education, diversity efforts, and bench/bar coordination,” noted Judge Panos before emphasizing the collegiality Judge Feeney engendered among the judges, court members, and staff of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the district of Massachusetts.  “Judge Feeney is the heart of this court. She plans birthday parties, the public events, and seems to go to every wake. She cares deeply for the Court family, the attorneys who practice in her Court, and the parties that come before her. Her personal commitment is extraordinary.”

That praise is as well-deserved as it is effusive.  Judge Feeney’s career has indeed had a uniquely profound impact on the practice of bankruptcy law in Massachusetts.  Judge Feeney has been a United States Bankruptcy Judge for the District of Massachusetts since 1992, and she served as Chief Judge from 2002 to 2006.  She is also a member of the First Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel.  Judge Feeney served as President of the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges in 2011 and 2012.  She is an Associated Editor of The American Bankruptcy Law Journal, and a Fellow and a member of the Board of Regents of the American College of Bankruptcy.  She has served on the Board of Directors of the American Bankruptcy Institute.  She is the co-author of the West publication Bankruptcy Law Manual and the co-author of The Road Out of Debt published by John Wiley & Sons.

Judge Feeney received the Normandin Lifetime Achievement Award not only in appreciation for her outstanding contribution throughout her career to improving the quality of the practice of bankruptcy law, but also for the significant impact on the community she has had through her work with the BBA’s M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Project, of which Judge Feeney is a founder and the project’s Co-Chair.  Since 2005, the project’s 1,500 volunteers have reached more than 6,200 students statewide, covering topics including personal finance & budgeting, using credit & credit cards, and the consequences of poor financial management.

Upon receiving the Normandin Lifetime Achieve Award, Judge Feeney noted that she had joined the Boston Bar Association’s bankruptcy section as soon as she passed the bar exam and began her career as a bankruptcy court law clerk.  She recounted that, through her participation in the bankruptcy section, she had the opportunity to meet Charles Normandin and observe firsthand the qualities and values that made him an icon of the bankruptcy profession.  Judge Feeney noted that Normandin was “a superb advocate and masterful facilitator, champion of the bankruptcy system, and volunteer to the poor in need of legal services” and that he “set the highest stands of competence, professionalism, and integrity – he was a model of what a bankruptcy lawyer should be, always taking the professional and ethical high road.”

While the award recognizes the impact that Judge Feeney has had on the practice of bankruptcy law, Judge Feeney reflected on the impact that the bankruptcy law profession has had on her.  She shared, “My colleague on the United States District Court, Judge William Young, has said, ‘A judge is a teacher.’  I would like to add a corollary to that: a judge is also a student.  Throughout my bankruptcy career, I have learned something new every day.  Bankruptcy law has inspired me, challenged me, and sustained me.”

Judge Feeney, a 2005 recipient of the BBA’s Haskell Cohn Award for Distinguished Judicial Service, is a graduate of Connecticut College and Suffolk University Law School.  Prior to her appointment, she was an associate and partner in the Boston law firm Hanify & King, P.C. and was a Career Law Clerk to the Hon. James N. Gabriel, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge for the District of Massachusetts.

The Bankruptcy Bench Meets Bar Conference is an annual opportunity for bankruptcy professionals and the Federal Bankruptcy Court Judges to meet and share insights, observations, and analysis on key issues pertaining to bankruptcy law.  The conference is the principal event put on by the Boston Bar Association’s Bankruptcy Law section, which offers informative programming year-round, as well as volunteer opportunities including the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Project.  The project first began in 2005 under the direction of Judge Feeney, Ellen Carpenter (then President of the BBA), and Janet Bostwick.  In 2008, the project received the LexisNexis Community & Educational Outreach Award from the National Association of Bar Executives and LexisNexis.  The Bankruptcy Law section was co-chaired in 2017-2018 by Lee Harrington of Nixon Peabody LLP and Jennifer V. Doran of Hinckley Allen.

Venture Capital & Private Equity Conference Keynote Speaker Jeff Bussgang Gives Preview

Flybridge Partners General Partner and Mastering the VC Game author Jeff Bussgang will deliver the keynote speech at the Venture Capital and Private Equity Conference on April 24. He answered some questions we posed about Boston’s VC/PE legal scene, and gave us a preview of his remarks.

There are still open spots at the conference! Be sure to register to claim your spot soon.

Q: What makes Boston a unique environment for venture capital?

Boston attracts some of the world’s smartest people who enjoy tackling some of the world’s most ambitious problems. The confluence of top academic institutions and a long history of entrepreneurship make Boston one of the top 5 cities in the world for venture capital and startups despite its relatively small size (#10 metro area in the US and #92 in the world).

Q: Attorneys in this space need to help clients avoid risk and stay in compliance – in your opinion, how can counsel accomplish this while still adding value to a deal? Is it a challenging balance?

A:The best lawyers have an understanding of the business objectives at hand and are pragmatic about shaping the legal framework and direction to mitigate risk and ensure compliance. It is challenging in gray areas like crypto / blockchain.

Q: With Mastering the VC Game, you offered your story to entrepreneurs and venture capitalists as someone who has been on both sides. What does “mastering the VC game” look like for attorneys? What additional questions must they consider?

A: Attorneys need to understand the point of view of both entrepreneurs and VCs in every transaction:  what are their incentives? What is their frame of reference? That perspective will enable attorneys to help steer their clients to more effective outcomes.

 

Q: Without spoiling your speech, is there anything else you can tell us about what conference attendees can expect to take away?

A: My talk will be focused on the future of work as a result of the powerful, disruptive twin forces of demography (looking at you, Millennials) and automation (the robots ARE taking over). It should be a lively discussion!

BBA Ethics Committee Members Weigh in on ABA Formal Opinion 480

The following is a guest post from BBA Ethics Committee Co-chair Paul Tremblay and Ethics Comittee Member Jeffrey Woolf:

A recent ethics opinion from the American Bar Association (ABA) offers lawyers guidance about the care needed when using social media to discuss their work.  That opinion is somewhat less relevant to Massachusetts lawyers than to most lawyers in the country, because of the different language of the confidentiality provision in the Commonwealth.  But lawyers who are admitted or practice temporarily in other states that do follow the ABA’s Model Rule ought to play close attention to the ABA’s guidance.

In Formal Opinion 480 (March 6, 2018), the ABA’s Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility concluded that “[l]awyers who blog or engage in other public commentary may not reveal information relating to a representation, including information contained in a public record, unless authorized by a provision of the Model Rules.”  Model Rule 1.6(a) states, “A lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation of a client unless the client gives informed consent, the disclosure is impliedly authorized in order to carry out the representation or the disclosure is permitted by paragraph (b).”  The exceptions covered by 1.6(b) include prevention of death or substantial bodily harm, preventing certain frauds, and the like, and have little or no bearing on activities such as blogging or using social media.

The thrust of the ABA opinion is that lawyers may not disclose information about clients, including the very fact of representation, unless an exception exists within Rule 1.6.  The fact that a lawyer represents a client is “information related to the representation,” and therefore may not be revealed without the informed consent of the client.  That the representation may be known to others through public documents, such as court filings, does not make a difference.  Rule 1.6, the ABA reminds us, does not have an exception of information that is generally known.

The result is different in Massachusetts.  Massachusetts’s Rule 1.6(a) states (and the italics are ours), “A lawyer shall not reveal confidential information relating to the representation of a client unless the client gives informed consent, the disclosure is impliedly authorized in order to carry out the representation or the disclosure is permitted by paragraph (b).”  Rule 1.6 in Massachusetts therefore covers much less information than the Model Rule.  The Comment to Rule 1.6 defines “confidential” as follows:  “‘Confidential information’ consists of information gained during or relating to the representation of a client, whatever its source, that is (a) protected by the attorney-client privilege, (b) likely to be embarrassing or detrimental to the client if disclosed, or (c) information that the lawyer has agreed to keep confidential.”  In many instances, the fact of representation or the information contained in active court records will not be “confidential” by that definition.  Massachusetts explicates its departure from the Model Rule in comments [5A] and [5B] and somewhat closes the gap between the two rules.  However, these comments do not imply that the lawyer’s representation of the client, by itself, is confidential, as does the ABA Formal Opinion.

The difference between the Model Rule and the Massachusetts provision suggests at least these two pieces of advice for Massachusetts lawyers.  First, even if the facts of a client’s matter do not qualify as “confidential” under our Rule 1.6, a lawyer’s fiduciary duty to her client, along with sound business judgment, will lead her to refrain from discussing the client’s facts publicly without the informed consent of the client.  And second, Massachusetts lawyers who are admitted in other states, or who practice temporarily in other states, need to be mindful of the stricter Model Rule provision, which likely will be in place in the other states.  Most states have adopted the language of Model Rule 1.6(a).  In particular, a multi-state lawyer or law firm should not blog or otherwise mention that it represented a particular client without the client’s permission, even if that representation is a matter of public knowledge.  Since most states have advertising rules that are more restrictive than Massachusetts, any web page, blog or other material should conform to both the new ABA Formal Opinion as well as the most restrictive advertising requirements in which the lawyer or law firm practices.

Strang, Scott, Giroux & Young to Move to Beacon Hill

Strang, Scott, Giroux & Young is moving out from under the Citgo sign and over to Beacon Hill, where the firm will take up residence a few doors down from the Boston Bar Association and a lot closer to the courthouses where they represent the majority of their clients.

Their new address at 6 Beacon Street isn’t official until the end of the month, but preparations are well underway. Founding partner Christopher Strang said he has spent an increasing number of hours in the office at night and on the weekend to prepare for the move, while also handling outreach to insure the firm’s clients know where to find them.

The foundation of the firm’s business is working with businesses, especially in real estate and construction law matters. While many of the firm’s clients are based outside the city, the move to Beacon Hill represents better access to other professional opportunities for the office’s seven attorneys. Strang is currently the treasurer of the Boston Bar Foundation and a member of the Society of Fellows. He has held a number of leadership positions within the Boston Bar over the past ten years, including co-chairing the New Lawyers Section.

“To be honest, one of the major reasons to moving to the new spot is that it’s closer to the BBA and professional development and networking opportunities that downtown offers,” Strang said. “It’s also convenient for us to be closer to Suffolk Superior Court.”

The move is bittersweet, however. The firm moved into its current space in 2011, and has become part of the fabric of Kenmore Square, when much else in the Fenway and Kenmore neighborhoods has changed in the past seven years.

“This is a historic neighborhood, and we really feel like we’ve become part of the community here. We’re definitely going to miss that,” Strang said.

In a smaller office, a big change like a move can be all-hands-on-deck, especially when it comes to packing up files. But with the assistance of professional movers, Strang feels confident the process will continue to be relatively stress-free.

Beginning April 1, Strang, Scott, Giroux & Young will have an office available to sublet. Their new space at 6 Beacon has an extra office, and Strang said he would love to see someone like a solo practitioner take over that space.

For inquiries about subletting the office, please contact Christopher Strang at [email protected].

Julie Jones, First Woman to Chair Ropes & Gray, Talks Empowerment & Collaboration

She grew up in Peabody and is a “lifer” at her firm, having started as a summer associate in 1993. She attributes her success in her career to her laser focus and her willingness to seize opportunities to learn new things. Her portfolio includes work with high-profile clients such as Bain Capital, TPG, J. Crew and LPL Financial.

She is Julie H. Jones, and in two years, she will take over as the first female, firm-wide chair of Ropes & Gray.

“The significance of having a woman in this position is not lost on me, and it sends an important signal to my colleagues,” Jones said in a recent interview. “People, especially women, look to change because it gives them hope, and it gives them the feeling that opportunities exists for them, too.”

For Jones, it’s crucial to empower her colleagues in the same way that she has always felt empowered herself. Jones is known for taking on challenges, and for providing outstanding counsel to her clients. Her philosophy, that it’s “important to be a well-rounded and thoughtful corporate lawyer,” is a belief the firm has championed, and Jones plans to encourage firm leaders to carry on the tradition of giving associates the “building blocks to succeed.”

Jones will take the reins in 2020 from R. Bradford Malt after he retires in late 2019, at which point she will lead the firm’s 11 offices around the world. She already has extensive travel planned, with a trip to Asia ahead in March, and visits to Ropes & Gray’s offices in London and California thereafter.

“My immediate priority during the transition is to spend time with our partners, and to be out with those partners in front of our clients,” she said.

Though Jones acknowledges the immense responsibility that comes along with chairing the firm, she won’t shoulder it alone. It’s not her approach, she said, to govern in a vacuum. Her style is to build a consensus and make decisions.

“It’s critical to open channels of communication. My style is to speak with clients, to get information that enables us to home in on their needs,” she said.

Jones honed her collaborative style over the course of her career, advising private investment funds and public companies in major transactions. She became the practice group leader of Ropes & Gray’s Securities and Public Companies group during her second year as a partner, and has also served on the firm’s Policy Committee for six years.

“It almost feels more incremental than revolutionary to take on the role of chair,” Jones said. “I’ve been integrally involved with the firm’s management priorities for six years. That said, it will be different when the buck stops with me on everything.”

But Jones is not intimidated by the challenge. While she said it would be “premature” to comment too extensively on her agenda as chair, she did name a few key areas.

“The focus will stay squarely on understanding legal trends, and differentiating ourselves. The level of competition among law firms is hotter than ever, and there is also more partner mobility than before. When I started, people stayed at their firm until retirement. We want to make sure our partners see Ropes & Gray as a firm they want to retire from,” she said.

Jones also stressed the importance of public service, and said there has “never been a more important time for lawyers to dig deep” and dedicate resources and expertise to representing vulnerable clients in pro bono cases. She pointed specifically to the firm’s long history of legal involvement with LGBTQ rights, including arguing the landmark marriage equality case before the U.S. Supreme Court, immigration and asylum cases, voting rights issues and work on behalf of military veterans.

“Of all the work we do, pro bono can be the most intimidating. These are oftentimes matters with individual lives at stake,” she said. “But we have so many lawyers who are passionate about it, and whose focus is on going above and beyond the firm’s pro bono requirement. We are deeply engaged in a number of important social justice initiatives.”

A self-described people person, Jones anticipates that tackling challenges will be both fun and fulfilling as she leads Ropes & Gray. When she reflected on the trajectory of her career, she credited the firm with providing her the tools to become “not only a great lawyer, but to become a great leader.”

“The issues that women have faced in their careers are astonishingly hard. They have never been in sharper relief than they are right now,” Jones said. “There are a lot of demands on women and women lawyers, especially at big firms. You find yourself asking, ‘What clients do I support? What internal initiatives do I support?’”

Her advice to women starting out in the legal profession—which is the same advice she would give to all attorneys—is to “look for things you feel like you do well.”

“Focus on being a great lawyer. If you find an area of law you think you’re good at, success begets success,” she said. “Don’t get distracted; concentrate on just kicking butt. Focus on clients and building a brand – those are the most important things.”