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.

Voices of the Bar 1/12/17: What Part of Chief Justice Marshall’s Legacy Means the Most to You?

Boston Bar Foundation’s annual John & Abigail Adams Benefit is in less than two weeks, and the event will honor Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall, whose work as a champion for equal justice cannot be summed up in one e-mail. As we prepare for Jan. 28, we have launched a #ThankYouJusticeMarshall Twitter campaign, and we wanted to hear from members regarding what they most admire about Chief Justice Marshall’s work.

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

“What part of Chief Justice Margaret Marshall’s legacy has had the greatest impact on you?”

William Hannum – Schwartz Hannum
“The courage and wisdom of the Chief Justice’s Goodridge decision is an inspiring reminder of what the practice of law can be, and what it can mean to people, when we bring our best selves to the practice.”

Eric Gyllenborg – Rackemann Sawyer & Brewster
“Her extremely successful effort in 2002 to streamline the entire court system throughout Massachusetts.”


Diana Lloyd – Choate, Hall & Stewart
“The Chief has devoted much of her life to fighting for equal access to justice – from her days fighting apartheid in South Africa to her courageous and ground-breaking decision in Goodridge.

Anthony Froio, Boston Bar Foundation President – Robins Kaplan
“Chief Justice Marshall has had not only a groundbreaking career as a student anti-apartheid leader, attorney, jurist, and mentor, she also has had a profound impact on legal history through her 2003 opinion announcing the SJC’s decision on marriage equality in Massachusetts.We are enormously proud to honor her at the Adams Benefit.”

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].

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.

Voices of the Bar 12/15/16: What Are You Most Looking Forward to in the New Year?

As 2016 winds down, we are looking ahead to the many programs and events we have planned in 2017 at the BBA. This week, we wanted to hear about the big plans that our members have, and what is most important to them as they head into the new year.

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

What are you most looking forward to in the new year?

Melissa Sydney – Tarlow Breed Hart & Rodgers
“I hope that in 2017 we, as a nation, can put the ugliness of the election behind us and focus on uniting our country in order to address our nation’s most pressing issues.”


Thanda Fields Brassard – Fiduciary Trust Company
“I look forward to tackling new adventures and challenges personally and professionally in 2017.  I look forward to using my energy and creativity to help my clients address the important issues they face, and to ensure that their estate plans stay in line with any new laws (or changes) that may emerge next year.  Finally, I am committed to doing my part in 2017 to make the world a better place, particularly in my role as a trustee of Judge Bakers Children’s Center, which is committed to improving the lives of children with mental health and behavioral issues.  With a brand new year ahead of me, I feel that anything and everything is possible.”

Stephen Nolan – Nolan Sheehan Patten
“On the personal front, I am looking forward to interesting travels with my wife, including a trip to Macchu Pichu.  On the career front, I am looking forward to another year of engaging legal work dealing with the challenges of community development and affordable housing.  On the local front, I am looking forward to the commuter rail running on time.  On the national front, I am looking forward to (hoping against hope for), an awakening of the disengaged citizens in our country to the importance of becoming informed and participating actively in our political system.”

Stephanie Parker – O’Connor, Carnathan & Mack
“I am most looking forward to celebrating special milestones and moments with friends and family.  This spring, I will be traveling to New York to watch one of my closest friends graduate from medical school, and in the fall, I’ll be celebrating the big 3-0.”

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].

“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.”



Voices of the Bar 12/8/2016: What Do You Love About the Adams Benefit?

The John & Abigail Adams Benefit is an extraordinary evening of art and music hosted by the Boston Bar Foundation at the Museum of Fine Arts. The annual event is the largest fundraiser of its kind in the Boston area, with 100% of the proceeds funding direct grants awarded to local organizations. Our grantees serve thousands of individuals and families struggling with critical issues such as homelessness, domestic violence, and various forms of injustice.

For a good cause, attorneys come together for a remarkable night. This year, the BBF will honor Chief Justice Margaret Marshall at the Benefit.

Needless to say, we’re very excited, and wanted to check in with our members to see what they are most looking forward to.

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

“What do you love about the Adams Benefit?

Lisa Goodheart – Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen
“I love that the Adams Benefit does a great job of supporting legal services for people who need it the most. In addition, it is so much fun to attend. It’s an annual ritual for Boston lawyers to dress up in something glittery or a tux (or both, if you like) and stroll through the galleries at the MFA on a cold winter’s night, chatting along the way. Once a year, for at least one enchanted evening, even the crankiest of opposing counsel are thereby transformed into gracious, witty, elegant and delightful people (they don’t do this in other cities, you know!).”

Megan Gates – Mintz Levin
“I love so many things about the Adams Benefit! The opportunity to get creatively dressed up and spend the evening in such a beautiful place, surrounded by amazing art, terrific food and colleagues from different firms, agencies and schools around the city – it’s one of the best events of the year. There’s also just something about being in the MFA at night that makes it incredibly special – and for a great cause to boot. Definitely a “can’t miss” event for me and many of us at Mintz Levin!”

Elizabeth Kayatta – Arrowood Peters
“I love the Adams Benefit because there’s nothing like getting dressed up to spend an evening in the company of Rembrandt, Monet, and Sargent.”


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].

Voices of the Bar 11/9/16: What Does Veterans Day Mean to You?

At the BBA, we are proud of our volunteer leaders who invest their time and energy into improving access to justice for active duty military personnel, veterans and their families. As Veterans Day nears, we want to give members the chance to tell us why the day is important to them.

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

What does Veterans Day mean to you?”

Richard Harper – U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission
“To me, Veterans Day means thinking about the people who have undertaken the sworn oath to support and defend the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic, and to obey the orders of the President and the officers appointed over them.  As I have become a husband and a parent, their service has meant that much more to me.  All of these people are someone’s son or daughter.  If they make a career of military service, they are likely someone’s spouse, or dad, or mom.  Their devotion to duty, in the service of protecting our rights and freedoms, deserves our respect and gratitude every day, but especially on Veterans Day.”

Cynthia MacCausland – Attorney at Law
“Growing up in Canada Veterans Day was always associated with the sudden explosion of poppy pins on every lapel. Distributed in small blue and white boxes for a small donation to various veterans groups, everyone wore a poppy to remember those we had lost and to support those who continued to serve. Since moving to Boston to attend New England Law | Boston, I have lost track of this very simple but meaningful tradition, glimpsing poppies only in pictures of the royal family or the occasional Canadian news update. This year I revived my poppy pin tradition with a small and beautifully made pin I purchased online. Of course most around me don’t recognize or are not familiar with the significance of such a small burst of red on my lapel, but to me the symbol has become more meaningful and more potent following my involvement  with various volunteer efforts through the Boston Bar Association and throughout the broader community, including my involvement with the Military and Veterans Committee and attendance at several Yellow Ribbon Events. Publicly observing and displaying my thanks and appreciation for our service members and their families is special for those of us who try to understand the great sacrifice and, hopefully most of all, to those who served.”

Frank Moran, Attorney at Law – Colonel, USAF, Retired
“Veterans Day is a time for all of us to recognize the sacrifices our military service personnel have made for our country.  I am proud of the volunteer work of our BBA Military & Veterans Committee that provides much-needed legal aid to our veterans.”


Donald R. Lassman – Attorney at Law
“Veterans day is a time to honor those who have served our country, remember the sacrifices that have been made, to reflect upon how we have been able to provide assistance for our veterans in the year just past and to think about renewing our commitment to helping the men and women of the military in the coming year.”

David Soutter – Ropes & Gray
“Growing up, Veterans Day meant parades featuring American flags, hearing Taps at a cemetery and paying respects to my community’s mostly elderly Veterans. While serving in the Army, Veterans Day became finally understanding and greatly appreciating the sacrifices of those who came before me and later a day to honor my fellow Soldiers who returned from overseas broken or who did not return at all. Today, November 11 not only is a day to remember the millions who have served, but as a lawyer, it is a reminder that, on a small scale, I can help my fellow Veterans overcome some of the legal challenges many of them face.”

Jack Regan – WilmerHale
“When I think of Veterans Day, I think of the sacrifice and service of my father.  He was from Lawrence and enlisted in the Army, with many others, a month after Pearl Harbor.    After training, he was assigned to a Sherman tank in Company D, 10th Tank Battalion of the Fifth Armored Division, part of the Third Army under the command of General George Patton.  My father’s unit figured prominently in the breakout from the Normandy Peninsula and  the liberation of Paris and Luxembourg.   He was wounded in the Compiegne Forest outside of Paris.    After three months on convalescence in England, he was returned to the front just before the Battle of the Bulge began.  His war ended, with a Purple Heart and Bronze Star, when his unit was halted and met the advancing Russian Army only 45 miles from Berlin.  He rarely spoke about any of the horror he witnessed.  His memories were always focused on  the men he served with, those like him lucky enough to return home and those who lie fallen in Europe.   The 1919 poem “In Flanders Fields”, by John McCrae,  also comes to mind:

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].

Voices of the Bar 11/3/16: Life Sciences Conference Preview

With burgeoning industries come new legal issues, and for the first time, the BBA will host a conference that is all about life sciences. Home to a vast array of big-pharma companies, biotech startups, top research institutions, and venture capital firms and funds, Boston is on the cutting edge of the industry. The goal of this conference is to provide a unique educational opportunity for all life sciences practitioners to exchange ideas and learn about new perspectives.

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

“What can attorneys and life sciences practitioners expect to get out of the BBA Life Sciences Conference?

Cynthia Mazareas – WilmerHale
“The role of legal practitioners in advising life sciences companies is critical given the complex and high stakes challenges that these companies face. From preparing to bring a product to market to protecting it once there, success for these companies requires a broad range of expertise from financing and strategic collaborations to IP and regulatory guidance: all topics to be covered at the conference.”

Mark Gaffney – Ironwood Pharmaceuticals 
“The biotech industry is premised on highly collaborative environments with the goal of advancing treatments for patients in need.  This conference creates an opportunity for lawyers and business leaders to participate in that collaborative environment – by sharing our collective wisdom, we enable our industry to better and more efficiently achieve its goal.”

Joanna Wu – ConforMIS
“Patent attorneys play an important role in the life sciences industry because it is driven by innovation.  Patent rights provide an incentive in long term investment in innovation, and the process of patenting facilitates publication and transfer of knowledge. ”

Jen Sieczkiewicz – Biogen
“Each “side” of practice, whether an attorney is an in-house practitioner and or a private practice attorney in the life sciences sector,  has something to offer the other side. It’s really our synergy that gives the best advice to the life sciences sector, and understanding each other’s perspectives and needs fosters that synergy.”

Thomas Barker – Foley Hoag
“As former Harvard President Larry Summers noted in last Tuesday’s Boston Globe, ‘within a five mile radius of Harvard Square, there is more biomedical research talent than any city in the world.’  This BBA program recognizes the importance of the life sciences industry in Boston to the health care bar.  The program panels will address the multiple facets of counseling clients in the life sciences space.  As attorneys practicing in this field, we are fortunate to be practicing in this area, in this city, at this time.”

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].

Voices of the Bar 10/27/16: What Has Been Your Favorite Halloween Costume?

Through Voices of the Bar, we like to highlight something about our members that you might not know if you encountered them during a typical day at the office. What better time than Halloween?

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

“What has been your favorite Halloween costume?

Jason Curtin – Krokidas & Bluestein
“My daughter dressed as a lion!”


Stacey Friends – Ruberto, Israel & Weiner
“I am a huge Lord of the Rings geek, so my favorite costume was Arwen.”


Natalie Feigenbaum – Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom
“As a kid, my favorite Halloween costume was a witch because I got to have all that green makeup on my face.”



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].

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.”