Annual Conference Notes (AC06)

Issue May 2006

"Lawyers in Transition" track attracts niche group
Networking was the key word for lawyers making career changes and those following non-traditional career paths throughout the March 23 "Lawyers in Transition" track.

David Yas, publisher and editor-in-chief of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, and Lisa Terrizzi, formerly with Harvard University, encouraged those attending the "Non-traditional Legal Path" seminar to use their law degrees to find an enjoyable career..

"Any job will benefit from the talent, training and professional discipline a law degree provides," said Terrizzi.

Yas suggested other non-traditional careers: marketing, public relations, mediation and arbitration, law librarian, writing for the media and court administration. But he stressed that "networking is key. You can never have enough lunches or meetings. And don't be shy to ask your contacts for more information or other contacts."

During the "Lawyers in Transition Forum," attendees heard from professionals who had moved in and out of their fields, and learned more about the MBA committee examining transition issues.

According to Carol Fishman Cohen, author of "From Playdough to Real Dough: Relaunching Your Career after Taking Time Out to Raise Children," networks are more important that resumes when "relaunching."

Brian Leary, who has transitioned in and out of broadcast media work and traditional legal practice, cautioned that making any changes can be filled with trepidation, but "follow your instincts."

The MBA Lawyers in Transition working group will focus not only on men and women re-entering the workforce after taking time off; it also includes those just beginning their professional careers and those who are transitioning out of the field.

by Andrea R. Barter, Esq.

Gathering and protecting intellectual property
In the ever-changing world of intellectual property, an AC06 panel said, it is critical that businesses realize that their own intellectual property is a corporate asset, and therefore, must be protected.

Peter D. McDermott, Banner & Witcoff Ltd., focused on two prevalent branches of IP, patents and trade secrets. He described the absolute importance of getting the upper echelons of management, as well as the research and development departments, on board with the IP program. He said instituting an IP program should involve three components: record keeping by company personnel, management reviews and decisions, and securing effective IP protection.

James C. Donnelly Jr., Mirick, O'Connell, DeMallie & Lougee LLP, addressed the subject of trade secrets and what to do to protect them in day-to-day business. He also spoke about the importance of actually enforcing an IP program. "An unfulfilled IP protection plan is almost as bad as no plan at all."

Stephen Y. Chow, Perkins, Smith & Cohen LLP, discussed the significance of contracts interrelating with intellectual property. He explained how contracts are used to define or protect IP and create "IP-like" rights. Using examples from everyday life, such as opening a new software package or a new CD, he showed how important the use of licensing has become.

by Ann Karpenski, Esq.

Environmental justice moves past its infancy
The first suit challenging the proposed site of a waste facility on the basis of civil rights discrimination was filed in 1979, and the first national study linking race and toxic-waste site location wasn't published until 1987. But state environmental justice advocates are hoping this year that Senate Bill 471, still facing House opposition, becomes another landmark in an uphill push for equal protection.

"What EJ is about is triggering additional provisions and community outreach associated with state approvals and creating additional protections for disproportionately impacted communities," said Sen. Jarrett T. Barrios, D-Cambridge, one of the bill's sponsors, at a March 24 briefing. "There is a large principle at play that this bill only touches on."

The panel underscored alarming in-state statistics associated with the disproportionate environmental risks borne by low-income and high-minority communities, including the fact Massachusetts communities with large minority populations contain 23 times more toxic waste per square mile.

The bill would comprise the first such EJ legislation in state history. It also provides tax incentives for environmental restoration projects in designated neighborhoods.

by Chad Konecky

Extent of Patriot Act powers a surprise
Individual Rights and Responsibilities' March 24 briefing on the Patriot Act left attendees in disbelief as they learned the true extent to which citizens' individual liberties and the governmental system of checks and balances have been breached.

Massachusetts American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Carol Rose and Individual Rights and Responsibilities Council co-chair Kevin G. Powers astounded audience members as they delivered a "good-news-bad-news" review of provisions of the re-authorized Patriot Act, as well as recent revelations about President Bush's use of a "signing statement" laying out his interpretation of the law when he signed it.

"The Constitution assumes each branch of the government will assert itself and we don't have that happening right now," cautioned Rose. "Separation of powers is so fundamental to our system of law that the president saying he doesn't have to play by the rules governing our country for 200 years is really quite extraordinary."

by Andrea R. Barter, Esq.

Rainmaking and marketing yourself
Beth Cuzzone, director of business development at Goulston & Storrs, explained the networking essentials for "Rainmaking and Marketing Yourself."

"Rainmakers" build and maintain their client base, Cuzzone explained.

"There are a lot of good lawyers in Massachusetts. You need to distinguish yourself. Do something about your professional service that will speak to your clients. It's easier to keep your existing clients than to go out and find new ones," she said.

Cuzzone mapped out ways to go out, meet people and build a book of business. She stated that the single most important quality she's found in successful rainmakers is their ability to listen to their clients. An attorney should get to know their client and take the time to look at the case from their perspective.

"Don't look at your client as a file, but as a relationship. Relationships beget relationships. Take some time off the clock and help your client in other areas. Go above and beyond your legal obligations," she said.

She stressed the importance of responsiveness to clients as key to maintaining the relationship. Cuzzone also offered ways to stay connected with clients once the case is over, including contacting everyone in a database at least four times a year.

"Maintaining the relationship is important so your client returns, or refers you to friends and family," she said.

by Ann Karpenski, Esq.

Forum explores path to firm and fair trial dates
A forum moderated by Superior Court Chief Justice Barbara J. Rouse aimed at reviewing the court's 15-month-old firm, fair trial initiative generated a frank dialogue with an overflow audience.

Superior Court judges Stephen E. Neel, the initiative's chair, and Nonnie S. Burnes, regional administrative justice for civil business in Middlesex County, assisted in the panel discussion.

The briefing focused on three critical areas of improving the administration of justice in civil courts: more proactive, judge-conducted final pre-trial conferences; emerging techniques in "smart calendaring" trial dates based upon those conferences; and Standing Order No. 1-06, a new procedure governing continuance requests in all counties.

Since the Monan Committee Report delineated widespread deficiencies in the commonweath's court-management system in early 2003, the Trial Court Department has aggressively worked toward what Rouse calls a "more informed trial calendar."

by Chad Konecky