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Most Interesting Lawyer of the Week: Locke Lord’s Paulette Brown

Women’s History Month Feature Series
Paulette Brown: Making Strides While Making History

“It is important for our youth to see the diversity of our profession and for members to show them what is possible, because it’s difficult to aspire to be something you can’t see.”

That’s what Paulette Brown told the ABA Journal shortly before starting her term as president of the American Bar Association (ABA) in September of 2015.

Brown was the first African American woman to lead the ABA, and she made diversity in the legal profession the focus on her term. Motivated by Bureau of Labor statistics showing the legal profession to be among the least diverse s in the country, Brown convened the Diversity and Inclusion 360 Commission, which gathered thought leaders across the country to focus on a comprehensive plan for diversity. She took that plan – and that focus – to all 50 states as ABA President. During her visit to Massachusetts in March of 2016, Brown moderated a panel at the BBA with other professionals who hold diversity in the legal profession as a high priority.

One result of the Commission’s work was the passage of ABA’s Resolution 113, an initiative designed to increase diversity in the legal profession. The Resolution urges all legal services providers to expand and create opportunities at all levels of responsibility for diverse attorneys, and urges clients to direct a greater percentage of the legal services they purchase to diverse attorneys. A report on the Resolution includes a model survey for providers of legal services to complete, which would allow prospective clients to view current levels of diversity among providers.

Brown’s leadership in driving the profession – both nationally and here in Massachusetts – to renew their focus on taking concrete steps to increase diversity in the legal profession caught the attention of the BBA; she was selected to receive the Beacon Award for Diversity and Inclusion, which will take place on March 30th at 6:00pm at the Taj Hotel in Boston.

In November of last year, the BBA announced its strong support for Resolution 113 and is working with other partners in Boston on the implementation of the model survey.

“We applaud the American Bar Association for advancing Resolution 113,” BBA President Carol Starkey said. “We are grateful to the ABA for their leadership on this important issue, and we look forward to learning of this initiative’s progress in the coming years. We strongly believe that one of the most significant benefits of this initiative is that it will facilitate an ongoing constructive dialogue between law firms and corporations concerning diversity and inclusion within our profession. We view this initiative as one that affirmatively supports change through collaboration, and we are excited to be part of that discussion.”

Before serving as ABA President, Brown was on the Commission on Women in the Profession and was a co-author of “Visible Invisibility: Women of Color in Law Firms.” She also chaired the ABA Council on Racial and Ethnic Justice (now Coalition on Racial and Ethnic Justice) and is a past co-chair of the Commission on Civic Education in our Nation’s Schools. Brown has been recognized by the National Law Journal as one of “The 50 Most Influential Minority Lawyers in America.”

Meet the Managing Partner: Sugarman Rogers’ Christine Netski

Talking witness preparation, office culture, and keeping the firm nimble and collaborative

It’s unusual for an attorney to find her professional “home” by the summer of her second year of law school, but Christine Netski did just that. And in January, Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen tapped Netski to be Managing Partner and Chair of the Executive Committee. In her new role, Netski will focus on the firm’s strategic direction, while continuing to serve as the Chair of the firm’s Employment Practice Group and Co-Chair of the Business Dispute Practice Group.

What inspired you to become a lawyer?

It wasn’t until my junior year in college that I considered pursuing a career in law. I was weighing various options for graduate school and decided to participate in a summer program that Cornell Law School offered for undergraduates. The program was designed to give students a real taste of what law school would be like. The courses were taught by well-known professors and were based on the traditional first-year model, including the Socratic Method.  I absolutely loved the experience and, against the advice I usually give to college students today, I went straight to law school after college without really having a clear vision of where it would take me.  Needless to say, I am fortunate that it ended up being the right decision.

What brought you to Sugarman Rogers?

When I was a 2L at Boston University School of Law, I had an on-campus interview with Natasha Lisman, who was then a young partner at the firm. She really stood out among the other lawyers I had met during my job search – and I had interviewed with lots of different firms and for positions in the public sector. She was so passionate about her work and the firm, and she was living proof of the special opportunities that were available to young lawyers at the firm. She had tried cases, she had handled high-impact pro bono cases, she was active in the legal community and she seemed really fulfilled, both professionally and personally. I was thrilled when I was called back for a second interview.

When I showed up for the second interview, I was told that I would be meeting with 12 of the firm’s attorneys in a conference room, including, of course, the founding partners. At that time, the firm had 14 lawyers, and the practice was for every attorney, if possible, to participate in second interviews of candidates, even summer law clerks. This sent a powerful message that cultural fit was very important to the firm. Although this experience was a tad intimidating for a 23-year old who had gone straight to law school from college, I was able to see how the group interacted and I came away with the strong sense that these lawyers really liked and respected each other and truly enjoyed the practice of law.

You’ve stayed with SRBC ever since that first summer: is the culture the same?

Of course, nothing stays exactly the same over more than 30 years, but we have certainly maintained the most important aspects of our culture. I think our high level of collegiality and genuine love of the profession help us build the kinds of relationships with clients, with each other, and with the community that make for a successful enterprise. The world has changed dramatically since I joined the firm, but we have, by design, maintained a manageable size that has allowed us to retain our very collaborative structure. This, in turn, has allowed us to be nimble in responding to the rapid changes in the legal market that we’ve been experiencing. On top of that, we continue to attract really talented lawyers who share our values as a firm.

What’s a memorable moment for you as a lawyer?

One of the most satisfying and challenging aspects of litigating cases is preparing witnesses and seeing how their testimony unfolds at deposition or trial. For me, some of the most memorable moments have been those situations where witnesses really shine under pressure.

One example was in a case where our client, a technology company, was sued by a customer for allegedly misrepresenting its capability to deliver a global recruitment outsourcing solution. The project at issue in the case was very technical and the evidence was full of “business speak,” but there was a human story underneath the surface that explained why things went wrong and why our client wasn’t at fault. One of our key witnesses was the director of the consulting services unit that implemented the project for the customer. She explained the scope of the work in clear and simple language, much like a good teacher, articulating the customer’s lack of participation and “buy-in” at each critical juncture of the timeline. She was able to communicate our themes in a way that clearly resonated with the jurors’ everyday experiences, capturing the motivations and perceptions of the people involved and providing the overall structure for how we hoped the jury would view the rest of the evidence in the case. Her testimony went so well that the client’s CEO commented that he learned valuable information about their business from watching her testify. And, after it was over, the witness commented that she really appreciated the opportunity to excel in this challenging context, especially in front of the CEO.

Of course, testifying is not always such a positive experience for the witness, but the hard work of witness preparation often yields results that no one anticipated and sometimes those results have little to do with the case itself.

The Most Interesting Lawyer of the Week: Spartan Race’s Darren Braham

“My daily to do list and what I end up actually doing are usually very different!”

 Darren Braham’s words describe the practice of every in-house lawyer. But as General Counsel and Senior Vice President of Spartan Race, the variety of tasks on his plate is wide. One day, he might visit the site of a race (there are more than 120 of them around the world). The next, he might be negotiating with strategic partners on a project like opening the first ever Spartan Gym, which recently opened in a South Beach hotel or dealing with national sponsors such as Panasonic or TomTom. Other days, he might be on the phone with NBC. The network televises races on NBC Sports and launched a competition-based reality show, Spartan Ultimate Team Challenge, last year on NBC Broadcast.

If that wasn’t enough to fill a work day, he also oversees the company’s insurance and intellectual property portfolios, as well as managing the company’s litigation working with outside counsel. Part of Braham’s work centers around liability concerns, and the safety of participants, which is paramount.

Or maybe you’ve done a race yourself. Spartan Race hosts a popular event at Fenway Park every November, one, Braham, said he loves because of the iconic status of the venue and the proximity to the corporate offices in Boston offering Spartan’s HQ personnel to experience the product. The Fenway race is a “Sprint,” which means it’s about three miles long (as opposed to Spartan’s longer Super and Beast races). The obstacles in the path of the participants range from the expected – such as ropes and walls to climb – to the unexpected, like a cargo net participants must scale alongside the
Green Monster.

“Whether it’s the vendors, venues, sponsorships and transactional matters that go into producing a race …my to-do list is about 45 different things outstanding, and inevitably, something new comes up every day!” Braham said.

Spartan Race has four production teams in the US and Braham states “an important part of our risk mitigation process is to make sure practices are consistent at every race.”

Braham ensures the company’s trademarks are protected around the world, from competing organizations as well as well-meaning participants who may design t-shirts or other race materials that unintentionally infringe.

Braham has been with the company for nearly three years, and in that time, the relatively new industry of popular obstacle course races has proliferated.

“It’s been a fun few years since I’ve been here. Spartan Race and the sport of obstacle course racing has grown exponentially and it’s been quite a ride: personally and professionally. When I thought about moving in-house, being involved in every aspect of the company really appealed to me and this role has not disappointed,” he said.

For an attorney whose background is not in litigation – Braham practiced commercial and corporate law in a firm setting before joining Spartan Race – the learning curve was swift. But Braham embraced the challenge with enthusiasm, delving into other matters related to intellectual property, insurance, brand building and event planning that had not previously been part of his repertoire.

On moving in-house, Braham offers two pieces of advice: go to a company that offers a service or product that you can personally get behind, and remember that you will always have something to do when you get in to the office tomorrow.

“It’s very different being at a law firm where you’re billing your time and making sure that everything is perfect. You’re dotting “I”’s and crossing “T”’s – which is what paying clients expect and should receive,” Braham said. “Working in-house, I’m constantly drinking from a firehose and I don’t have the luxury to spend the same amount of time on matters as I did in a law firm setting. I make sure the company is protected, but if the formatting is off, then so be it!”

He does, however, have the luxury of being able to catch a race now and again.

“When you’re in HQ in Boston, it’s very different from being on a mountainside in Breckenridge, Tahoe, or Killington. Breckenridge’s highest obstacle is almost 13,000 feet up in the air, and we have 10,000 to 12,000 people running through a 15 mile course around the mountain,” he said. “It’s a very positive tribal atmosphere and it’s gratifying to see the legal department’s work become realized.”

Hear Advice From Brand Yourself 2.0 Speakers

The legal profession is rapidly changing. Gone are the days where you make partner first and build a book of business second. The ability to foster relationships and leverage contacts as an associate is critical to showcasing your value to the firm and pushing you forward on the path to partnership.

On February 2nd, the Boston Bar Association will host Brand Yourself 2.0. This interactive workshop-style conference will provide the opportunity for mid-level associates to work with business development and marketing professionals to build written business development plan as well as a strategy to remain accountable to that plan.

We reached out to some of our Brand Yourself 2.0 panelists to ask them:

“What advice would you give to an associate looking to cultivate a personal brand?”

Keynote Speaker David Ackert – Ackert Advisory
“Your brand defines a significant component of your business development strategy, so I would tell an associate to consider what skill set they are looking to highlight. For example, a general commercial litigator must make the case that he/she has a meaningful understanding of the trends and nuances that pertain to a wide range of prospective clients. On the other hand, the litigator who has branded his/her practice per a specific industry (e.g. SaaS companies), will have tried numerous matters directly related to SaaS, attended SaaS conferences, presented to SaaS audiences, understand SaaS jargon, and ultimately be a more attractive option for a discerning client in that space.”

Kristen Weller – Burns & Levinson
“I would advise an associate to ask him/herself two questions. Who do you want your clients to be? What kind of challenges are you the best at solving? You want to create and build a personal brand based on the intersection between the problems your clients have and the solutions you can provide. Keep this top of mind as you interact with current clients, introduce yourself to people, join organizations, write your bio, develop your LinkedIn summary, and post content for your followers. Choose marketing activities that fit your strengths and put you in front of potential clients. Don’t forget to develop and nurture everyone in your network – family, friends, colleagues, competitors, school alumni, community – and make sure they understand your personal brand and what you have to offer. You never know who might hire or refer you, so you need consistent messaging in every facet of your life.”


If you would like to register for Brand Yourself 2.0, please click here.

Meet the Partner in Charge: Verrill Dana’s Kevin O’Connell

Verrill Dana’s Partner in Charge Talks Strategic Growth, Trusting His Instincts and Witnessing a Real-life Lawyer Joke

After just two years with law firm Verrill Dana, it’s clear that Kevin O’Connell has made an impression; the firm recently appointed the M&A attorney as its partner in charge. In his more than 27 years of practice, O’Connell has negotiated and closed countless mergers, acquisitions, joint ventures and similar transactions, and gained a lot of insight along the way.  In a continuing series of Q&As with Boston area managing partners, Voices of the Bar sat down with O’Connell to discuss his path to becoming an attorney, and what he hopes to help the firm accomplish in the coming year.

What inspired you to become a lawyer?

There’s no Eureka! moment here. I went to Holy Cross as an undergraduate, and other than studying liberal arts and trying to get a broad based education, I didn’t really know going in what I wanted to do when I got out. There were some really smart people that I was going through college with that were focused on law school and talked about it. I like to read and I like to write, and I knew I’d do plenty of that in the practice of law, so I thought “I should look into this.”

What’s your most memorable moment as a lawyer?

I have two, actually. Early on, I was interning with the corporation counsel in DC. I was working with the prosecutor there, and I would spend some mornings sitting in on court arraignments. One morning – and really, I swear this story is true – a man who had been arrested and was sitting in the dock kept shouting “This is mistaken identity! This is mistaken identity!” until the judge finally let him be heard.

The judge asked his name and looked over the file, “Hmm. Indecent exposure. That’s a serious crime. Let me appoint counsel.”

“I don’t need a lawyer! This is just a case of mistaken identity, I swear!”

On cue, the judge said: “So you’re saying the police arrested the wrong man?”

“No, no. I’m not saying it wasn’t me that exposed himself to that lady. It’s just that I thought she was someone else!!”

Another time, when I was a fifth year associate in Manhattan, my firm was representing a public company that was contemplating doing a securities offering in Taiwan. I was given just 12 or so hours to figure out how we, as a foreign issuer, could register an offering. As I’m researching it, I’m realizing that as a foreign issuer, our client cannot can do the kind of offering that was being contemplated. The clock’s ticking and I’m sweating thinking, “I don’t think we are even allowed to do this.”

So I get in early the next day and the meeting is like a who’s who of investment bankers and commercial bankers. There must have been 40 people in the conference room. So I get my senior partner’s attention and explain to him that I don’t think we can do this, that I think it’s unlawful.

He just lit into me, figuring I was wrong, saying “We wouldn’t have 40 people in this room talking about this if it couldn’t be done! I’m not telling them that, you can tell them that.”

So I explained to the assembled group the restriction I found, and I didn’t get too far down the road before the lead investment banker says “well, of course we know that, it would take a special act of the Taiwanese legislature to allow us to do this. We understand that. We’re wondering which lobbyists you’re going to work with to get the laws changed and how long that might take.”

It was a moment when I thought “I know I can do this; I shouldn’t have doubted that I had the analysis right.” And that’s the advice I would give to new lawyers: trust your instincts, believe in yourself, and have confidence in your training and your abilities.

Verrill Dana attorneys are active in the BBA and other non-profit organizations. How does involvement in the community fit in with Verrill Dana’s core values?

I think here partners view themselves not as owners of a business, but as stewards of an institution that means a lot to the communities in which we operate. It’s definitely something we live and don’t just say. There’s a significant premium placed on getting out of the office and giving back. I sit on a couple of charitable boards, and that work means a great deal to me. I was hoping when I came here that I wouldn’t be discouraged from being as involved as I am, and people have been nothing but encouraging.

What do you think makes Verrill Dana stand out?

I moved over to Verrill Dana because some of my clients had grown to the point where they needed a little more than I could provide at a mid-sized firm. I was looking for a place where I could maintain the nimbleness that is afforded by a mid-size firm, but without having to double my billing rates. Verrill Dana has been that place. The depth of expertise here is incredible; it’s basically Big Law, but at a third the size and half the price.

What does success mean for you this year?

I think success in 2017 is strategic growth. Our Portland office has been around for more than a century, and we’ve been in Boston for 11 years. Two years ago we acquired a firm in Westport, Connecticut, and we want to continue to grow the regional footprint. We’re on a great path.

In the short term, I’d like to round out our roster here. When my predecessor, Dennis White, was partner in charge we grew from 12 lawyers to 31.  I want to continue his work and grow us strategically as he has. We don’t want to grow just to grow; we want to do it in a way that gives our existing clients what they need and makes us attractive to prospective clients.

Where do you like to take clients in Boston?

Our clients come in from all around the world; my favorite place to show them is Louisburg Square and the whole “Make Way for Ducklings” route, especially if they have kids and they’ve read the book to them. It’s a hidden jewel. And because I grew up in Ashland, I like to take them out along the Boston Marathon route.

Meet the Managing Partner: Foley Hoag’s Kenneth Leonetti

Foley Hoag’s New Managing Partner shares his favorite work days of the year, what success means to him, and what it’s like to save someone’s Christmas

In October, Foley Hoag tapped litigator Ken Leonetti to be Co-Managing Partner alongside Adam Kahn.  In his new role, Leonetti will lead the implementation the firm’s strategic plan, ensure efficient and responsive client service, oversee growth, and attract and retain the best talent to serve clients’ needs. Voices of the Bar sat down with Leonetti to discuss his path to becoming an attorney, and what he hopes to help the firm accomplish in the coming year.

BBA: What inspired you to become a lawyer?

KL: It’s funny, my parents told me when I was young – because I used to argue with them all the time – that I should “become a lawyer and get paid for it” as opposed to giving them grief. And I suppose it worked.

I think as I got older and looked at law more seriously as a career, I liked the combination of intellectual rigor with problem solving as a way to help people. Your primary job as a lawyer is to take a set of problems that a client has and figure out how to solve them. If you’re a litigator, which is what I do, you’re presented with a dispute after the fact and have to figure out how to help the client with  resolving that dispute. The other part of my practice is bankruptcy law, and there you’re really helping people out of their problems.

What’s your most memorable moment as a lawyer so far?

I moved to Boston as a third year associate, and after I had been here a couple of months I was working on a small bankruptcy matter for a client who was having the discharge of her debts challenged. It was my first trial, and it was December 23rd, so just two days before Christmas. And the other side was trying to, in essence, ruin this woman’s life.  It was a very tough, hard fought case, and at the end, the judge ruled from the bench in her favor. It was so emotional for the client. She turned to me and hugged me in the courtroom and I realized that this is why I went to law school and became a lawyer: to help people.

Last month, several hundred new lawyers were sworn in at Faneuil Hall. What advice do you have for them?

We just had our new lawyers start about a month ago, and as managing partner, one of my jobs is to greet them on their first day. It’s one of my two favorite days of the year, the other being when we elect our new class of partners. Both of those days are about new blood and the future of the firm, which I really like.

Practicing law is about personal relationships. I represent some very large, multinational companies, but it still comes down to people who have put their heart and soul into building, growing and managing their business; it’s a people business at every single level. So my advice for any new lawyer is to get out, meet people and get involved. Find an organization or a practice area that you’re really passionate about.

The BBA is a great example. For me, it’s been the BBA Bankruptcy Section. What I love about it is that the Bankruptcy Bar in Boston is a pretty tight knit community, but it’s also a welcoming group to newcomers. I’ve gotten a whole range of benefits out of it: networking, CLEs and everything in between. There’s the opportunity to take on pro bono projects, and the chance to comment on changes to rules. And I think the people who have been chairs of the section have done an incredible job building the section.

What makes Foley Hoag stand out?

Every year, we refresh our strategic plan. One of the planks of the plan – which I think really makes us stand out – has stayed the same for a long time.  It states that Foley Hoag should be a rewarding and exciting place to work. And by that I mean working to make sure that the people here really love practicing law, and we have a real shared commitment to excellence in practice. The way we have achieved that is to focus on some key industry verticals – including life sciences, technology, and investment management —  and to use that expertise to help bring in interesting and cutting edge work from clients, so there’s an external part to this as well. And clients can see that the people here really love what they do and do great work, and that in turn brings in more interesting work. It’s a virtuous cycle.

What does success look like for you in the coming year?

It has to do with retention, promotion and diversity. I think we’ve done a good job of trying to identify, retain and promote more diversity at our firm, both in terms of gender diversity and racial diversity, but we have a long way to go. The ABA recently came out with Resolution 113, and a number of our clients have come out with similar challenges. Even before these challenges, we formed a working group on associate retention and advancement, and out of that we developed a telework policy, which is something that helps people balance work and their personal life. We also have a Women’s Forum, where female partners are mentoring female associates in business development and professional development, and a Diversity Committee led by my co-managing partner Adam Kahn, focused on improving diversity and ensuring inclusion in our workplace.

This year, five of our eight partner promotions were women, and three were attorneys of color. When you say what does success look like, one year from now, I want to look back and say we have done as much as we can to help give this talented group of partners – both women and men – the tools they need to succeed in the profession and also be able to balance life outside the firm.

When a client comes to Boston and they aren’t familiar with the city, where do like to take them?

If it’s the winter, the place I love to take clients is Bistro Du Midi on Tremont Street. It’s got this beautiful view of the Gardens, and in the winter, when the lights are all lit up, it’s just a spectacular setting. If its summer, I like to take them anywhere here in the Seaport.

“An Expression of Who We Are:” Sunstein Raises Holiday Cards to an Art Form
Artwork by Wilfredo Chiesa. Card designed by MB Flanders, of Flanders Associates. Artwork curated by Andrea Marquit Fine Arts.
Artwork by Brian Kink. Card designed by MB Flanders, of Flanders Associates. Artwork curated by Andrea Marquit Fine Arts.
Artwork by Suzanne Ulrich. Card designed by MB Flanders, of Flanders Associates. Artwork curated by Andrea Marquit Fine Arts.
Artwork by Grace DeGennaro. Card designed by MB Flanders, of Flanders Associates. Artwork curated by Andrea Marquit Fine Arts.
Artwork by Jill Weber. Card designed by MB Flanders, of Flanders Associates. Artwork curated by Andrea Marquit Fine Arts.
Artwork by Peggy Badenhausen. Card designed by MB Flanders, of Flanders Associates. Artwork curated by Andrea Marquit Fine Arts.
An example of the interior of a Sunstein Holiday Card.

Now that we’re well into the month of December, chances are your office inbox is filling up with holiday greetings. Maybe the cards are on display; maybe they’re in a neat stack. Perhaps, even, they find their way to the recycling bin following a cursory glance.

But for the several card1thousand people on the greeting list of Sunstein Kann Murphy & Timbers, the arrival of The Card is as anticipated and celebrated as an Oscar nomination reveal. For the last 20 years, firm founder Bruce Sunstein has been using the work of emerging artists – both locally and around the world – to make a statement about his firm.

“Our cards are a direct link to our clients and friends; we want to send a greeting that’sappropriate to who we are,” said Sunstein. “We are an intellectual property firm. Art is protected by intellectu al property, so it’s a natural fit for us to feature compelling art in our greeting. We see ourselves as an intellectual property firm on the cutting edge, so we need to have cutting edge art. The cards are our effort to identify art from emerging artists that we think speaks to the occasion of the holidays and the cutting edge nature of the firm. It’s one of the great things I look forward to every year.”

The process begins as early as September, when art consultant Andrea Marquit fills – literally – the firm’s main conference room with as many as 100 options. An internal committee spends the better part of a day reviewing the artwork, but more often than not, Sunstein says, consensus on which piece of art to feature is quick. He attributes that to the team’s intimate knowledge of what does – and doesn’t – render well in card form.card3

“The test isn’t: would we like it hanging on our wall?” explained Sunstein. “The test is: what art will make a card that says something about who we are and what we think matters? You can’t simply snap of photo of the
work and say ‘here’s the card.’ It has to be designed, and the designer, in turn, needs to think about paper and about ink. It’s an amazing exercise.”

And it’s an exercise that, from the very first year, grabbed the attention of their clients. That, says Sunstein, makes the annual effort worthwhile.

“We get tremendous feedback every year. Some say ‘I like this year’s better than last year’s’ or ‘I still like 2013 the moscard4t.’ The point is that they remember what the card looked like in years past, and that’s always been our goal. We wanted to celebrate emerging artists who are doing something memorable in a way that made us stand out. The thing about our card is, you can stare at it. Even for an hour or two. And that’s not true of the cards that have Santa Claus on the rooftop making a lawyer joke.

“It’s not a simple exercise, and every year it’s a different exercise. Every year we have to think differently about the work. But if you want to send something that is meaningful, you have to get in there and do it. Maybe I’m spending time that’s viewed by some as wasteful, but it’s an expression of who we are, and for that reason I think it’s worth the effort. It’s a wonderful experience.”



The Most Interesting (Pro Bono) Lawyer of the Week: Peter Haley of Nelson Mullins on Representing Boston Marathon Bombing Victim in Case Against Glenn Beck

haley_peterPeter Haley and his colleagues at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, like everyone else in the city of Boston, were deeply affected by the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. When the Boston Bar Association established the Marathon Assistance Project, they were eager to help in any way they could.

That was how Haley met Abdul Alharbi, and began to build a defamation case that would garner significant attention in the media and in the legal profession. In Haley’s words:

“Abdul was a spectator at the marathon, was injured and was brought to the hospital after the attacks for treatment.  While there, he was questioned by law enforcement and agreed to allow the FBI to conduct a search of his apartment.  The search was highly public. But within a day or so, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security concluded he had no involvement and most commentary ceased, with one notable exception.

As set forth in the complaint, Glenn Beck, through his radio and television broadcasts continued to insist that Abdul was involved and ultimately asserted that he was the “money man” who funded the attacks.”

The BBA Marathon Assistance project referred Alharbi to Haley a few months after the attack. Between then and their ultimate decision to file a complaint in March of 2014, Haley’s team at Nelson Mullins prepared Alharbi for the many legal and personal challenges the case could bring. Defamation claims are hard to prosecute, damages are difficult to prove, and bringing the claims in the first place could add to Alharbi’s personal embarrassment and prolong his time in the spotlight due to Beck’s allegations.

For Haley’s part, he was wary of influencing the public discussion surrounding the case.

“I think cases against well-known defendants can sometimes be perilous in that, if you want it, they can provide a forum for counsel to insert himself or herself into the public debate about the case.  For the most part, I find that to be a mistake,” he said.  “People call you because your client has entrusted you with handling the matter on their behalf. It’s about the client; it’s not about you.”

He added, “A civil action, in most instances, is a means to a monetary end, it is not a forum for personal or moral judgment.”

The terms of the settlement are confidential. According to a statement released by both sides when they reached the settlement last month, neither side had to admit wrongdoing, and Beck and several companies associated with him “agreed to settlement of the pending action in furtherance of fundamental principles of journalistic integrity by preserving the confidentiality of their sources consistent with their rights and privileges under the First Amendment.”

Haley said he found it to be a great privilege to appear before Judge Saris and her staff, and commended the attorneys he argued against for a job well done.

Haley also praised his colleagues and the management of Nelson Mullins for allowing him to spend a significant amount of his time and energy on Alharbi’s case.

“It was an unusually large commitment and prevented me from carrying my share of the work and revenue burden that fairly belongs to me.  No one ever mentioned it, other than to offer encouragement.  This matter brought home to me how much I like and respect each and every one of those partners and how grateful I should be for their support,” he said.

Most of all, he said, he valued the chance to meet and assist Alharbi. For Haley, working on the case underscored the gap between affordable legal help and those who need it.

“One thing the case brought home to me is how ruinously expensive litigation is for most people, and how horribly underserved most Americans are by the judicial system as it exists,” he said. “This was a case that needed to be brought. I now know how much that cost, and I know that a free lawyer was the only way it would have been brought. That is something we should correct.”

Voices of the Bar 9/8/2016: What Are You Most Looking Forward To This Program Year?

With the new program year just beginning, we thought it would be great to hear from some of our section co-chairs about what’s ahead.

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

What Are You Most Looking Forward To This Program Year?”

Real Estate Section

Daniel P. Dain – Dain, Torpy, Le Ray, Wiest & Garner, P.C.
“I am the co-chair of the BBA’s Land Use and Development Subcommittee. Last year, our theme for our monthly brown bag lunches was working with the professional team, including civil engineers, architects, permitting consultants, and others. This year, our theme is going to be hearing from real estate developers themselves about how they do their business, how they work with outside counsel, what their concerns are, and what are their thoughts and strategies for the future.”

Labor & Employment Law Section

William E. Hannum III – Schwartz Hannum PC and Robert A. Fisher – Seyfarth Shaw LLP, Section Co-Chairs

“Our goals for the Labor & Employment Section Steering Committee are: to provide timely continuing legal education; to promote discussion regarding new or important issues facing labor and employment law practitioners; to promote friendship and professionalism; and to help fulfill President Carol Starkey’s vision of providing programs offering thought leadership.”


Voices of the Bar 9/1/2016: A Year in Voices of the Bar

Our new program year begins today, and we have so much to look forward to! With a change in the BBA’s volunteer leadership and new programs filling up the calendar, September is always an exciting time here.

But as one program year ends and the next one begins, we also have many occasions to reflect. So for this week’s Voices of the Bar, we thought it would be fitting to look back at some of our favorite questions from last year.

We asked members:

…What first brought them to 16 Beacon:

Kathryn Van Wie – Vertex Pharmaceuticals
“Having just finished law school in North Carolina, I relocated to Boston to take the bar exam and begin the job search in a state I had visited only twice. The BBA was my first stop and an integral step in connecting with the Boston legal community. I had my sights set to work in house, but I was aware I would be fighting an uphill battle to find an entry-level attorney position. Through the BBA’s industry-specific events, as well as general networking events, I was able to better hone my search, develop my network, and eventually found a role that continues to challenge and excite me. ”

…About their most memorable moment practicing in front of a judge:

J.W. Carney – Carney & Associates
“I will never forget the day that a District Attorney moved to dismiss three criminal convictions against Dennis Maher after he was exonerated by DNA testing. He had served 19 years in prison, and I had been his prosecutor.”


…What they enjoyed most about volunteering for our Law Day in the Schools program, during which they traveled to schools in Boston and educated students about Miranda rights:

Bruce Falby – DLA Piper
“My partner Mike McGurk and I oversaw a trial of the big bad wolf in a fourth grade classroom at Samuel Adams School in East Boston.  I’ll remember two things.  First, the jury was out all of 2 minutes before coming back with a verdict finding the wolf guilty of deliberating blowing down houses and eating pigs, yet when we polled the witnesses, both prosecution and defense, they would have acquitted.  Second, the defense attorney departed from the script by making an extemporaneous  argument for reconsideration after the jury came back.  Procedurally irregular, but we admired his passion.”

…Which Supreme Court Decision is most important to them:

Carol Starkey – Conn Kavanaugh Rosenthal Peisch & Ford (Current BBA President)
“The case that had the greatest impact on me personally, and in my view, on the country as a whole, was Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S.  (2015), the landmark Unites States Supreme Court case in which the Court held in a 5–4 decision that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  Justice Kennedy pointed to the evolution of our understanding of injustice when he wrote, “The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times. The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning. When new insight reveals discord between the Constitution’s central protections and a received legal stricture, a claim to liberty must be addressed.” And so it was with the Obergefell decision.”

And finally, we asked members what they thought about the now-infamous government order that Apple unlock an iPhone on the grounds that it contained vital evidence pertaining to the San Bernardino shooting. So many attorneys weighed in on the conflict between investigating the crime and avoiding setting a dangerous precedent that it’s difficult to pick just one response to highlight! We encourage you to look at the original post and read the fascinating discourse.

Thank you so much to everyone who answered a question during this past program year!

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].