Sitting on a desk in Ben T. Clements' new law office, next to a
framed drawing from his little girl of the two of them playing
hockey, is an inscribed photo from Gov. Deval Patrick. "To my
favorite lawyer," is scrawled across the bottom of the photo, which
features three smiling attorneys: Clements, Patrick and Michael J.
Pineault, who was the governor's deputy chief legal counsel.
"I have been lucky in my career," said Clements, who in November
left his position as chief legal counsel to Patrick and launched
his own firm, Clements & Pineault LLP, with Pineault.
Clements, who Patrick calls "the father of ethics reform" in
Massachusetts, is jumping back into private legal practice after
serving three years as the executive branch's top lawyer.
"I have held a series of challenging and rewarding positions in
the public and private sector and I have really enjoyed moving from
one to the other and the ability to serve in both worlds," he
A graduate of Dartmouth College, cum laude, and Cornell
Law School, summa cum laude, Clements began his legal
career with summer associate jobs in New York and Washington, D.C.,
before serving as a law clerk for the chief judge of the U.S. Court
of Appeals for the First Circuit.
In 1990, Clements entered private practice at the Boston firm
Hill & Barlow, which included a brief stint as special
assistant district attorney for Middlesex County. In 1994, Clements
was appointed an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of
In 2001, Clements re-entered private practice, becoming a
partner at Boston's Sullivan, Weinstein & McQuay PC before
founding Clements & Clements LLP with his brother Jeff in
During the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston,
Clements lunched with Patrick, a former Hill & Barlow partner
and colleague who was Coca-Cola's vice president and general
counsel at the time. The two had become friends while working
closely on a number of cases at Hill & Barlow, and it was at
that lunch that Clements learned Patrick was thinking about running
"At the time, I was distraught about where the politics of this
country were headed, and I was very excited about the new direction
and leadership that Deval would bring to our politics and our
government," said Clements.
In January 2005, when Patrick began his run for governor,
Clements became a legal advisor for the campaign while maintaining
his practice at Clements & Clements LLP. When Patrick won the
election, Clements was offered - and accepted - the chief legal
counsel position in the Patrick Administration.
"I believed strongly in Patrick as governor, and still do. When
the person you helped campaign for governor gets the position and
asks you to take a senior position in the administration, there is
really only one answer. I couldn't pass it up," said Clements.
An American growing up in Canada, Clements moved from Toronto to
Connecticut when he was 10 years old. The youngest of four,
Clements and his older brother Jeff are the first two lawyers in
"We did not necessarily think Ben would become a lawyer," said
Jeff. "But we knew he would use his considerable intellect, sense
of right and wrong, and competitive instinct in whatever work he
At Dartmouth, Clements was drawn to studying moral and political
philosophy as well as legal and political theory - sparking his
interest in law school and prompting him to attend the Cornell Law
School with Jeff.
"We had a great time in law school, from playing hockey together
to being moot court partners," said Jeff, who was a year ahead of
his brother at Cornell. "We were both among those who actually
enjoyed law school immensely, and believe law and litigation, even
with its shortcomings, to be a high calling and a real means of
"I didn't go to school with a specific plan in mind, but I knew
I was interested in pursuing a career in law," the younger Clements
said. "I was also interested in government and how it works. I see
the two as closely interrelated, but I had no set idea on the path
I would take."
Although the Clements brothers would pursue different legal
ventures post-college, the pair reunited professionally in 2003 to
open Clements & Clements LLP - a boutique litigation firm.
"Whether we were at different firms or at different law
enforcement agencies, we would share the joys, frustrations and
occasional absurdities of active litigation work," said Jeff.
When Clements was offered the chief legal counsel position and
left the firm in early 2007, he thought he would return to the firm
in two or three years. However, soon after he left for public
office, Attorney General Martha Coakley asked his brother Jeff to
run the Public Protection Bureau, and Clements & Clements LLP
"There is enough of an overlap in what we do, and we have such a
strong bond, that I expect we will work together on things in the
future," Clements said.
In 1994, in his first public position, Clements was an assistant
U.S. attorney responsible for investigating and prosecuting a wide
range of federal crimes, including public corruption and civil
rights violations. It was through these investigations that
Clements first gained legal experience on political issues such as
campaign finance law - experience and expertise he would later lend
to Patrick's campaign.
"As a relatively young lawyer, I was lucky to work with some
superb prosecutors, who taught me a great deal about what it takes
to be an effective federal prosecutor," he said. "It requires
combining the skills of a dogged investigator, a careful and
diligent lawyer, with a willingness and ability to make thoughtful
and difficult judgments."
The Hon. Tim Feeley, associate justice of the Superior Court,
worked with Clements for seven years at the U.S. Attorney's office.
The two worked as trial attorneys in the Major Crimes Unit before
Feeley was appointed chief of that unit in 1995 and Clements
transferred to the Public Corruption and Special Prosecutions
"Ben took full advantage of his time at the U.S. Attorneys'
Office to gain trial experience," said Feeley, who said Clements
was an attorney who did not try to avoid tough cases. "Ben invited
and solicited work that would make him a better lawyer."
Chief legal counsel highlights
As the Patrick Administration's first chief legal counsel - a
job likened to "trying to drink water from a fire hose," Clements
advised the governor on legal and policy issues, judicial
selection, legislation and all legal issues concerning the
"Ben is both a respected colleague and dear friend," said
Patrick. "I trust him. We know each other's blind spots - not that
he has any - and have learned over many years how to lean on each
Clements, whose three-year career as chief legal counsel is
highlighted by his work in establishing the governor's judicial
selection process and helping to institute Chapter 28 of the Acts
of 2009: An Act to Improve the Laws relating to campaign finance,
ethics and lobbying, also became a key advocate for the courts.
"If the issues were easy, they wouldn't get to the governor's
legal counsel," said the Hon. Robert J. Cordy, associate justice of
the Supreme Judicial Court and Massachusetts Gov. William Weld's
first chief legal counsel. Cordy characterized the chief legal
counsel position as one where an individual must constantly
interact with difficult, different, time-sensitive issues, noting
"there is no handbook on how to be the governor's chief legal
Clements, who became a liaison for the courts during one of the
most fiscally challenging times in recent history, feels "the
courts are the bulwark of our constitutional democracy," a view he
says is shared by Patrick. "I don't think you could find a governor
anywhere with more respect for the central role played by the
courts in a democratic society," said Clements.
However, with the state budget posing a significant challenge to
every aspect of government, he also believes the courts will need
"to continue to be part of the solution of this unprecedented
"The great challenge for the legal profession and the courts in
maintaining a strong and independent judiciary will be to preserve
and increase the public's understanding and respect for the
essential role of the courts," he said.
When Clements began his chief legal counsel position after the
election in November 2006, he also became responsible for
establishing and overseeing the work of Patrick's Judicial
Nominating Commission, a 21-person committee charged with reviewing
applications and making recommendations to the governor's office
for all judicial and clerk-magistrate appointments. Under Patrick's
executive order establishing the current JNC, the committee
recommends between three and six applicants for each vacancy.
"The most important legacy that any chief legal counsel can
leave is the judges," said Cordy.
Clements, who oversaw 56 appointments to the judiciary (52
judges and four clerk-magistrates), reviewed the applications
passed on from the JNC and interviewed each applicant before making
a recommendation to Patrick for particular vacancies.
"Ben dedicated a tremendous amount of time to this process,
which gives my work and the work of the Judicial Nominating
Commission a great deal of meaning," said Elizabeth Dubin Nadzo,
who was one of Clements' deputy legal counsels and the executive
director of the JNC.
As part of his work with the judicial selection process,
Clements also coordinated the review of likely nominees by the
Joint Bar Committee on Judicial Appointments (JBC), a committee
chaired by the Massachusetts and Boston Bar Associations, which
conducts an independent screen of the nominees.
"Ben was a very active and hands-on chief counsel. He had a
close working relationship with the JBC and respected the voice
that the private bar has in the judicial selection process," said
Martin W. Healy, MBA general counsel and executive secretary for
the JBC. "In addition to his quick, analytical mind, he brought a
great sense of compassion to the job. He truly cared about the
individual judicial aspirants and was a good shepherd in what can
be an enigmatic and complex environment. In the past six
gubernatorial administrations that I have worked with, Ben has
clearly distinguished himself among the top echelon of governors'
past legal counsels."
Clements came away from the judicial nomination process
"inspired and reinvigorated by the legal profession," with the
"idea that you can find judicial excellence in a whole range of
Noting that Patrick sought out and appointed "excellent judges
from an extremely diverse range of backgrounds, both personal and
professional," Clements believes Patrick's legacy in the judiciary
will be his consistent appointment of highly qualified jurists who
understand "judging is more than getting the rules right; it is
appreciating the real-world impact on real people of every decision
that a court makes and appreciating the importance of how those
people are treated in getting to those decisions."
"Father of ethics reform"
Along with the judicial selection process, Clements' tenure as
chief legal counsel was marked by the passage of Chapter 28, the
comprehensive legislation on reforming the ethics and lobbying laws
In late October 2008, Patrick asked Clements to put together a
Task Force on Public Integrity after a series of highly publicized
allegations and charges of official misconduct left the impression
"amongst the public and people in government, that there was a
crisis of confidence in state government."
Patrick signed an executive order to form the Task Force on
Public Integrity on Nov. 7, 2008, and charged the task force with
examining the existing regulatory frameworks that govern ethics,
lobbying and public employee conduct. Clements ended up chairing
the 12-member bi-partisan task force, which included members with
experience both in and out of government and with public integrity
and bribery issues.
"Ben is the perfect example of what a governor's legal counsel
should be," said Doug Rubin, Patrick's former chief of staff, who
worked with Clements when the issues with ethics and lobbying laws
"Ben, in a short period of time (60 days), put together the
furthest-reaching ethics reform legislation [that this state had
seen] in 20 to 30 years," said Rubin, who believes Clements'
greatest strength as an attorney is his integrity. "He is somebody
that - no matter what comes up - he has a very strong moral code.
When you get an answer from Ben, you can be 100 percent confident
that it is the way to move forward."
The legislation the task force recommended outlined several key
categories for reform, including: provisions to strengthen the
gifts and gratuities laws; clarifying and strengthening lobbying
laws; giving state agencies responsible for investigating and
prosecuting ethics and lobbying violations adequate tools; updating
civil and criminal penalties for ethics and lobbying violations and
for bribery; and establishing mandatory education for government
employees and lobbyists so individuals know the laws and can
"Ben is the father of ethics reform in Massachusetts," said
Patrick. "He did the homework, consulted broadly, got unanimous
support from the task force, drafted the legislation and responded
to questions and concerns from lawmakers and constituents
throughout. The bill brought sweeping reform … I placed my trust in
him and he did not disappoint. In fact, he made me proud."
As he re-enters private practice, Clements reflected on some of
the accomplishments of the past three years. "In terms of the work
that we did with judicial appointments, the ethics and lobbying
reforms, as well as important reforms in state pension law and
transportation, and the quality of the legal advice that we were
able to give the governor on legislation, policy and many other
issues, day in and day out, I feel very good about what we
accomplished during my tenure as chief legal counsel," said
Clements. "After the governor signed the ethics and lobbying
legislation in the beginning of the summer, I felt that we had a
very solid record of accomplishment and that it would be a good
time to return to private practice and let someone else take on the
chief legal counsel role through the election and into the second
Clements & Pineault LLP
With the establishment of Clements & Pineault LLP, Clements
will once again be involved in the "competitive, fast-paced" world
New law firm partners Clements and Pineault have a long history
of working together. The partners attended Dartmouth College
together, but were first introduced while clerking in the U.S.
Court of Appeals.
"For much of the last 20 years, we have worked together, and it
has been a real blessing to have Mike as a colleague and as a
friend." said Clements. "[Pineault] is one of the best lawyers I
have ever met."
Pineault, who wanted to open a law firm with someone he
respected professionally and personally, is looking forward to
doing high-quality work in a collegial environment with Clements.
"I want a colleague whose judgment I value and trust, to talk to
and be each other's reality check," he said. "You treasure such
colleagues when you find them."
Clements & Pineault LLP, located on Federal Street in
Boston, will focus on white-collar criminal defense, government and
internal investigations, business litigation and advice, appeals
and related fields.
"I think one thing that sets us apart is the depth and breadth
of experience and training we have had over our careers," said
Pineault, who noted that both have been in public and private
practice, acted as prosecutors and defense attorneys in federal and
state courts, held legal positions in government, and have jury and
appellate trial experience. "We are fortunate to have had those
opportunities. With our background and training, we can provide
very high quality legal services in a small-firm setting that is
efficient and cost-effective."
"We work so well together because our approach to issues is
similar," added Pineault. "This really results in a lot of trust in
each other's judgments. We can bounce things off of each other,
which is something that I value tremendously."