Bar News - May 17, 2017
Celebrating 50 Years of Law Practice
By: Profiles written by William Robidoux
NH Bar Members Look Back and Share Advice for the Next Generation
Profiles are based on the responses to questionnaires that were sent earlier this year to each of the NH Bar members listed below.
Fifty years ago, in 1967, the war was escalating in Vietnam, and the Civil Rights Movement was intensifying at home. The Supreme Court, in Loving v. Virginia, struck down state laws prohibiting interracial marriage. All the while, people in New Hampshire and around the country listened to the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s album and flocked to see Faye Dunaway, Sidney Portier and Paul Newman on the big screen.
That same year, New Hampshire welcomed a new class of lawyers, who would soon see a unified bar. That summer, the small group sat for the bar exam and labored through three days of essays. Later, they would take their oaths in the courtroom of the old Supreme Court building in downtown Concord.
In the following pages, Bar News celebrates NH Bar members who are marking 50 years in law practice this year and shares some of their stories. You will undoubtedly note some common themes, such as the importance of civility and comradery amid courtroom combat. You will likely also detect genuine humility unaffected by their considerable competence.
– David McGrath
President, Sheehan Phinney Bass & Green
Vice President, NH Bar Association
50-Year Honorary Status NH Bar Members
Ross Deachman: Born and Raised in Plymouth
Ross Deachman, who is still practicing law after 50 years, is a professional who has used his experience as an attorney and his legal skills to become deeply involved in his professional and local community.
Born and raised in Plymouth, New Hampshire, Deachman is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire and of Boston University Law School.
Of his time as an undergraduate, Deachman says, “I had the Honorable Joseph Michaels as a professor at University of New Hampshire, and he was the motivation for my deciding to go to law school.” He also had the privilege of having the Hon. Joseph Nadeau and the Hon. Walter Murphy as his first “bosses and role models.”
Deachman has practiced in Plymouth for the past 47 years, with an emphasis on real estate, probate, trusts and estate planning. He has maintained his firm, Deachman & Cowie, as a “small-town practice” since 1984. Deachman is a past member of the New Hampshire Bar Association Board of Governors, serving as board treasurer, and is a past president of the Grafton County Bar Association.
In addition to his service to his local and state bar associations, Deachman served as Moderator for the Town of Holderness for 30 years, was on the Pemi-Baker Cooperative School Board for 28 years, and also served as the president of the New Hampshire School Boards Association.
Outside of political service, Deachman has volunteered as a softball coach for local and Babe Ruth teams, and has been active in the Plymouth Historical Society. He’s also a past president of the Plymouth Rotary Club, and the 1990 recipient of the Plymouth State University Athletics Department’s Dr. James J. Hogan Memorial Award, which recognizes individuals who have made a positive and lasting impact on Plymouth State Athletics. Deachman also received the James C. Hobart Award for Exemplary Volunteer Service from the Plymouth Chamber of Commerce.
Never content to waste his spare time, Deachman has also been on the Pemi-Valley Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors, was a past member of the Freemasons, and has served on the Plymouth Chamber of Commerce board.
Deachman is married to his college sweetheart, Nancy, and they’ve been together for 53 years. They have a daughter, Amy, and a son, John (who works as an attorney in Manchester), and three granddaughters.
As for retirement, Deachman plans to do some writing on his family history and the history of Plymouth.
“Maintain personal face-to-face contact with your fellow attorneys,” Deachman advises new lawyers, as networking is an essential skill in the modern world.
Joseph A. DiClerico Jr.: An Interest in Law from the Start
Joseph A. DiClerico Jr.
Judge Joseph DiClerico Jr. became involved in the law as a youth by attending local town meetings, where he says his interest in democracy – and becoming an attorney – took root.
Following his first legal job working as a law clerk t the Hon. Aloysius J. Connor, at the US District Court for the District of New Hampshire – the same court where he has served as a judge since 1992 – DiClerico went on to serve as the first law clerk in the history of the New Hampshire Supreme Court. While working there, DiClerico met the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Frank Kenison, who he says ”has been a role model for me ever since I had the opportunity to serve under him as the first law clerk to that court in 1967.”
DiClerico grew up in Nahant, Massachusetts, and attended Williams College before graduating from Yale Law School in 1966. Beyond his early law clerk days, the trajectory of DiClerico’s career has been a steady rise. Highlights include launching a private practice, and becoming Assistant Attorney General of New Hampshire in 1970, where he served under Attorney General Warren Rudman. DiClerico also served as chief justice of the New Hampshire Superior Court. In 1992, President George H.W. Bush nominated DiClerico to a new seat on New Hampshire’s federal bench, a moment DiClerico counts as one of the proudest in his professional life. He served as chief judge of the federal court from 1992 to 1997. He still hears cases, but assumed senior judge status in March 2007.
DiClerico has been repeatedly recognized by the NH Bar Association for his work, receiving the Justice William A. Grimes Award for Judicial Professionalism in 2007 and the Award for Distinguished Service to the Public in 2016.
These days, DiClerico says he enjoys a simple family life; married to Laurie Breed Thomson in 1975, they have one daughter, Devon, and two twin granddaughters. DiClerico plans to spend his retirement by continuing his service on the US District Court as a senior judge (with a reduced caseload), traveling, and maintaining his nonprofit work, which comprises land conservation and human development.
DiClerico’s advice to aspiring laywers is to respect the trust the public puts into its legal officials. Judges and lawyers are the gatekeepers to the legal system, which, in DiClerico’s own words, is “the crown jewel of American democracy.” Through this trust, he adds, “we are committed to protect, defend and preserve that system for present and future generations, undiminished by anything we have done, and hopefully strengthened by the contributions that each of us makes.”
David Fitts: A Commitment to Society at Large
David Fitts considers his license to practice law a “commitment to serve society at-large, and individuals who require assistance in the navigation of the law as it may apply to their daily lives.” Fitts says he feels honored to have been an active member of the NH Bar Association for the past 50 years.
Born in Houston, Texas, Fitts and his family moved to New England when he was young, and he was raised in Newton, Massachusetts. He received his undergraduate degree from Bowdoin College and earned his law degree at Boston University.
Fitts was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1964 through the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) after graduating from Bowdoin. He served on active duty from 1967 to 1969 and was stationed at Ft. Knox and Ft. Lewis. He says his military service matured him from a kid who was “still wet behind the ears.” He learned the virtues of “discipline, commitment and honorable service, even when service meant supporting an unpopular cause.”
Fitts says he considers himself “very fortunate not to have been ordered to Vietnam,” which “would have changed my overall memories of military service.” Continuing, Fitts adds that “my frequent assignments as defense counsel for military personnel [who were] charged with offenses heard by Special Courts Martials was sufficient to convince me that my inclination to avoid trial practice in civilian life was sound.”
Letting fate take the wheel, Fitts says his decision to become a lawyer was based on a “flip of the coin and good fortune,” which “led to a choice of law school instead of business school.” He mentions that he had no friends or family to influence him in his career choice, but was introduced “to the area of the law which I would ultimately make my life’s work” while employed part-time in the Trust Department at a local bank in Newton.
Someone who clearly values business by word-of-mouth, Fitts states that “I am most proud that I have been able to advise clients and their families who have become friends, and their families who have become clients.”
Involved as a member of the board of the United Methodist Foundation of New England for 23 years, including serving 12 years as its chair, Fitts says that he used his “legal training and practical experience” to help grow the small organization into “an integral part of the fabric of the New England Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.” In his own words, Fitts explains that the NEAC “provides first-class stewardship training and investment services to local Methodist churches.”
Fitts has been married to his wife, Elizabeth, nicknamed “Bette,” for 52 years. They have four sons and eight grandchildren together. As for retirement, Fitts says he has “no lack of ideas and is eager for a wide-open schedule.” He plans to travel with Bette and spend time with family.
Fitts tells aspiring lawyers to “try to find a mentor or friend to guide you as you search for your niche which fits your skills and interests.” He also emphasizes that “hard work is a prerequisite for success, but no guarantee for outsized financial rewards.”
John E. Friberg, Sr.: ‘Keep a Sense of Humor’
John E. Friberg, Sr.
John Friberg Sr. is astonished that 50 years in the legal business could pass so quickly. He is still practicing today, and focuses on defense work in medical malpractice and various types of liability cases.
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Friberg was raised in Manchester, New Hampshire. He attended Colby College and earned his law degree from Boston University Law College.
Friberg served four years in the United States Air Force JAG Corps, stationed in Georgia and Thailand. He enjoyed his time in the military and says the experience was “rewarding professionally and personally.”
Following his time in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps, he gained employment at Sulloway Hollis & Soden in Concord, New Hampshire. After working there for a year, he joined Wadleigh Starr & Peters, where he currently works.
Citing coworkers as his biggest role models, he lists his senior partner, Phillip Peters, as his main influence. He also speaks highly of Irving Soden as a guide in medical malpractice cases.
Friberg recalls his most enjoyable cases in liability defense. He has worked for Jeep in rollover cases, defended Sturm Ruger in cases involving the company’s handguns, and even defended product design for a casket company.
Well known for his work, Friberg has received national recognition for his expertise in medical malpractice law and personal injury litigation defense.
Married for 50 years, Friberg and his wife, Ginny, have two sons together – one of which has followed in Friberg’s footsteps, working as an attorney involved in healthcare for a New Hampshire hospital.
“Keep a sense of humor” is Friberg’s message to new lawyers.
Arthur G. Greene ‘Driven by Genetics’
Arthur Greene realizes that “I can no longer consider myself a middle-aged person,” now that he’s celebrating 50 years with the New Hampshire Bar Association.
“I’ve been winding down my law practice for the last 15 years,” says Greene, adding that he feels “lucky to be fully involved in a successful consulting career that takes my focus away from how fast time is passing.”
Born in West Stewartstown, New Hampshire, a small town bordering Canada, Greene moved with his family to Manchester when Greene was a boy. He received his undergraduate degree from Syracuse University and his law degree from Boston University.
Starting in 1967, Greene practiced with McLane Graf Raulerson & Middleton (now McLane Middleton) for 33 years. During that time, he developed a trial practice, participated on the firm’s management committee for 12 years, and served as managing partner for three years. This experience ultimately set him up for his subsequent career as a consultant in the field of law practice management, assisting attorneys and law firms.
Greene says his path to becoming a lawyer was “driven by genetics.”
“I am a third-generation lawyer,” explains Greene, who names his father as a role model who was “well regarded as both a business lawyer and a trial lawyer,” and “had a calm and confident approach to achieving quality work.” He also says Stanley Brown, of McLane, was an early influence, and recalls that he had the opportunity “to work on his cases and carry his bag for a number of years.”
Greene was active in the American Bar Association Law Practice Management Section throughout the 1980s and 1990s, serving as chair from 1999 to 2000. “My volunteer work with the ABA gave me a platform for writing several law practice management books and an opportunity to become a recognized speaker on a number of management topics,” explains Greene. This led to him leaving McLane in 2000 to start his consulting firm (aimed at small to mid-sized firms) in 2002 with Kathy Fortin, a former McLane paralegal.
Giving credit where it is due, Greene says his time at McLane was very important to him. It gave him “the opportunity to develop an extensive trial practice,” as “there are few activities I enjoyed as much as being in the courtroom.” He says that the most satisfying part of his career has been beginning his own consulting business and “being recognized nationally for my work on law firm management topics.”
Greene and his wife, Ellen, will celebrate 50 years of marriage this summer. They have one daughter, Samantha, who is a fourth-generation lawyer and works as a deputy Attorney General in Nevada. Samantha has two daughters, Kendall and Whitney, ages 8 and 9, respectively.
Greene is still very happy with his consulting work. When he’s not working, he says, “I enjoy fly-fishing, skiing, traveling and writing.”
Greene offers valuable advice, not just for newer lawyers, but for anyone starting a career: Consider the office culture wherever you apply, as you want to see employees being happy to show up for work every day; look for a strong, positive leader; and make sure the business offers a career path, not just billable hours, or you can expect a high turnover rate.
Charles A. Griffin: Active in Government
Charles A. Griffin
Charles Griffin was born and raised in Portsmouth, where he still lives and works today. In fact, he feels “truly blessed” to still be doing what he loves, and is currently of counsel with Boynton, Waldron, Doleac, Woodman & Scott in Portsmouth.
Griffin almost opted for a career in the military, but decided to follow after his father, also an attorney, who “impressed on me the importance of being your own boss and not working for a large corporation.”
Griffin received his undergraduate degree from Yale University in 1964 and his LLB from Boston University in 1967. Griffin earned an ROTC commission and had the option for deferment to attend law school, which he did, hoping that the Vietnam War would be over by the time he graduated. But that wasn’t the case, and Griffin served proudly in the US Army as a first lieutenant and then captain.
Griffin’s military career spanned from 1968 to 1973, taking him from Belgium, to Vietnam in the Adjutant General Corps, and finally to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, in the JAG Corps. After one year in South Carolina, both Griffin and his wife, Judi, missed their New England home and wished to be closer to their families. Also, notes Griffin, “we were constantly introduced as being Yankees, and that got tiresome.” They moved back to Portsmouth, and he joined his father, Charles J. Griffin, in the firm of Griffin, Harrington Brigham and Ritzo.
He recalls one of his most memorable cases, from 1979. He was a city council member running for re-election at the time, when a fellow councilor accused him of having a conflict of interest – as he was representing someone whose land was being repossessed by the city. Griffin appealed to the NH Bar Association Ethics Committee, which ruled that neither he nor anyone from his firm could represent the family as long as he was on the council. He consequently resigned his council seat. The next week he had to sit in the audience to hear the council’s decision, after successfully representing his client. The council voted to return his client’s land, and he says the experience “left a bitter taste in my mouth,” frustrated with the bureaucracy of the council.
However, this didn’t prevent Griffin from continuing his involvement in politics. He has been active in government since the late 1970s, serving on the Portsmouth City Council from 1980 to 1981, and the School Board from 1986 to 1999, serving as board chair from 1994 to 1999.
Griffin was active on the school board during the closing of Pease Air Force Base and took on the difficult role of handling layoffs during school closures. During this time, he also helped persuade the city council “to adopt a more favorable approach toward school department budgets.”
He and his wife, who he considers “truly my best friend,” will celebrate 50 years of marriage this June. They have three sons together; Chip, Kevin, and Brian; and four grandchildren.
As he looks forward to retirement this year, Griffin says he and his wife plan to do some traveling, even though, says Griffin, they are primarily “homebodies.” He will also continue his radio work for a local station, swim, and “spread the good news” as a Jehovah’s Witness.
As for his best advice to young lawyers, Griffin says, “When I started out, lawyers were gladiators with briefcases, and the goal was to slay your opponent. Over the years, that approach has changed for the better with the introduction of mediation. There is an old saying that a case well settled is better than a case well tried, and that is what I would advise new lawyers to keep in mind.”
David S. Hope: A Detail-Oriented Man
David S. Hope
David Hope says he wouldn’t have noticed that 50 years had passed since he began practicing law, “if you had not called it to my attention.” He adds that he has “no intention of retirement,” and views his years in the legal trenches as a source of “additional wisdom, a subject not taught in law school then, or now.”
Born in Westchester, Pennsylvania, Hope earned his degrees at Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School. He also attended the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.
Hope is a United States Army veteran with a long military career. After graduation from Harvard and admittance to the New Hampshire bar, Hope enrolled in Infantry Officers’ and Intelligence Officers’ courses. He was sent to Vietnam as a captain, and assigned to the Political Order of Battle Section at the Combined Intelligence Center, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV). Hope explains that his section’s mission was “to collect, by whatever means, and analyze intelligence on the Viet Cong shadow government.” His efforts earned him a Bronze Star Medal.
Hope returned to New England and served as a supervisory special agent (counter intelligence) in the Boston Field Office of the 108th Military Intelligence Group, Fort Devens, Massachusetts. Hope ultimately became a major, performing as a Mobilization Designee with the Special Security Detachment, X Corps, Korea.
Hope has also enjoyed a storied legal career. He began as a clerk for the London-based global firm Dentons and went on to head the bankruptcy practice at two firms in Philadelphia: Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis, and Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young. After a stint as a plaintiffs’ trial lawyer, he became vice president, CFO and general counsel for one of his former clients, American Crane & Equipment Corporation, where he continues to work.
Active in the community, Hope is currently the president of the Coatesville Evangelical Christian Foundation. He is also a member of the Business Litigation Section Client Advisory Board of the ALFA International (formerly the American Law Firm Association) defense lawyers group.
Hope has absolutely no plans of retiring, promising that “you will know I am retired when you see my obituary.” He adds that he has written two books (as yet unpublished), which relate to ethical considerations for in-house counsel and marijuana in the workplace.
Hope has two children, Henry and Yvette, and three granddaughters, Audrey, Daphne, and Giada (who, he is proud to say, “is already bilingual in English and Italian”).
A detail-oriented man, Hope suggests that new lawyers should “find [their] niche in the law, master its intricacies, and enjoy it.”
David Huot: A Laconia Man, Through and Through
David Huot is a retired judge for the Laconia District Court, and currently serves as a representative in the NH House for District 3 in Belknap County. He is proud to say that he was born, raised, educated, and is still living in Laconia.
Huot decided to become a lawyer after being persuaded by friends who practiced law. He also credits sports for getting him into the law game, stating he was “fascinated with the process of applying rules to facts as I became a baseball umpire.”
Attending Saint Anselm College in Manchester, Huot received his A.B. before matriculating at Georgetown University, where he earned his law degree. After graduating in 1967, Huot joined the New Hampshire Air National Guard and served for 31 years at the (then named) Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth. He ended his military career as Lieutenant Colonel and had been assigned as Staff Judge Advocate for the New Hampshire Air National Guard. He remains a director of the National Guard Association of New Hampshire.
Huot worked at the Normandin, Cheney & O’Neil firm in Laconia before becoming a district court judge in 1979. During this time, Huot helped a local youth program get its start by signing up the district court to sponsor them, allowing the group to receive a government grant. The project became known as the Youth Services Bureau, whose mission is to “provide advocacy, counseling, education and intervention for at-risk youth and their families, helping them reach their full potential.” The YSB is still in operation to this day.
Married to Patricia Hawkins in 1981, Huot and his wife had one son together, Matthew, who works as an Assistant Attorney General in Washington state. He also has one grandchild, Gabriel, and is expecting another this spring. After Patricia passed away due to cancer in 2002, Huot remarried to June Marie Russell, in 2004.
After retiring from the court as a senior judge in 2012, Huot ran for and won a seat in the NH House of Representatives. He won again in the 2016 election and doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon, stating that, “the voters are pretty much in charge of my retirement plans, if any!”
Huot’s advice to new lawyers is short and sweet: “Make your word worth more than your signature!”
Bruce Johnson: From Illinois to New England
Bruce Johnson is delighted to still be practicing after 50 years, saying that he “never imagined I would make it this far.”
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Johnson was raised in the nearby town of Geneva, 40 miles away. He graduated from Knox College before attending the University of Chicago Law School. Johnson was motivated to become a lawyer by two of his influential high school teachers, and imagined that a legal career would help him to get into electoral politics (which he says he soon abandoned, stating that it “did not suit me.”)
After being admitted to the Illinois bar, Johnson joined a suburban Chicago law firm. He decided to pursue a career as a trial lawyer, and served several years as an Assistant State’s Attorney before becoming a city attorney for his hometown. Realizing that trial work wasn’t his calling, Johnson was later recruited by a Chicago-based national firm to perform estate planning and probate work. One of his proudest professional moments was during this time, while he was leading a team that handled the estate planning for a Missouri attorney. The U.S. Supreme Court approved a “novel post-mortem planning technique” implemented by Johnson, cementing his place in estate planning history.
Johnson moved from Illinois to New England in 1991, settling in Maine. He became a partner at a firm in Portland, and subsequently left at the beginning of the millennium to start his own, smaller firm. In 2009, the business was moved to New Hampshire for a brief four-year stint. Johnson later relocated back to Maine for family reasons, where he continues to focus on estate planning and probate work to this day.
Johnson and his wife Betsy just celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary. Through their five children, Johnson has a total of 18 grandchildren; the oldest was married the day before his 51st anniversary, and the youngest turned 3 last December. Among the 18 grandchildren are three who were adopted; one from China, and two from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
An ambitious man, Johnson’s goal is to practice for 60 years before retiring. His self-imposed retirement date is October 29, 2027.
Johnson’s advice to fresh lawyers is to “stow your ego at the door. Be confident that you’ll make mistakes; be determined to learn from them.” He stresses that you should “allow space around your words when you’re counselling clients; much good can happen in silence.”
Robert V. Johnson II: ‘Live Free or Die’
Robert V. Johnson II
Robert Johnson II was born and raised in Laconia, New Hampshire, and received his law degree from Boston University School of Law. He volunteered to be a Cub Scout Leader while at BU, and this is where his impressive and relentless passion for community service began.
Johnson first practiced at the firm Upton, Sanders and Upton (now Upton and Hatfield.) While there, one of his most cherished cases involved saving two of the oldest brick mill buildings in the country, located in Laconia: the Belknap Mills. Agreeing to represent a small group of people against the City of Laconia and the Federal Housing and Urban Development Administration, he ultimately succeeded in Superior Court on the very morning of the scheduled demolition. In addition, he persuaded the senior partners of his firm to charge a very small amount for his defense. The preserved mill buildings were later featured in Life magazine.
In 1971, Johnson was appointed by then Attorney General Warren Rudman to become chief of the Criminal Division in the Office of the Attorney General. Accepting, Johnson served the state for six years, and for many of those years held the record for the most cases, civil and criminal, argued in the New Hampshire Supreme Court.
Johnson represented New Hampshire in the United States Supreme Court as an assistant attorney general in the 1976 case of Maynard vs. Wooley. He secured the right to retain the state motto, “Live Free or Die,” on NH license plates – which had recently been contested by Vietnam War dissenters. A patriotic man, Johnson supported Selective Service but also counseled Vietnam War objectors, through the Society of Friends, to serve their country in non-combatant corps.
Also in 1976, the New Hampshire Supreme Court appointed Johnson chair of the New Hampshire Board of Taxation. He served in that position until 1979. Johnson was on the board during a difficult case involving the valuation of the Seabrook Nuclear Plant, hearing testimony from former colleagues and rivals, and under the pressure of anti-nuclear demonstrators protesting in the streets.
Johnson began his own small private practice in Concord in 1977, staffed with only a few full-time lawyers, recent law graduates, and his father, a partially retired attorney.
After being nominated by the Concord city manager, Johnson served on the Concord Conservation Committee from 1971 to 1984, with 10 years as chair. During this time, the Commission began the first Open Space Plan for the city; they acquired 166 acres of open space land, and started the City Forest Management Program, the City Street Tree Program, and the City Trail System.
From 1995 to 2010, Johnson was elected repeatedly to the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative Board of Directors. He went on to serve as chair for every committee on the board. In 2007, he received the Commissioner Service Award from Northeast Public Power Association.
In 2003, Johnson was nominated as a member of the Concord Heritage Commission, on which he still serves. He is a member and former chair of the Demolition Review Committee, as well, which works to save Concord’s historic structures.
Besides legal work, one of Johnson’s favorite pastimes is working with granite and wood. This translates directly to his love of history, as he enjoys restoring historic buildings. This includes the 1848 Greek revival building at 64 North State St., Concord, where his law practice is located and which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Johnson has also spent the last 47 years restoring a colonial building in East Concord, dating back to 1795.
Thomas J. McNulty Jr.: The Portait of Practicality
Thomas McNulty Jr.’s idea to become a lawyer germinated in a very practical way – as a response to legal inefficiency. While still in high school, he was disappointed by his incompetent insurance lawyer’s defense during a fender-bender case. The lawyer hadn’t even read his file before meeting on the morning of trial. McNulty recounts, “I remember thinking, even then, there was something not right about that.”
Originally from Methuen, Massachusetts, McNulty’s family moved to Salem, New Hampshire, when he was a child. He attended Merrimack College in Andover, Massachusetts, and continued on to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. McNulty was a member of the Navy Reserve after spending a year at Annapolis. He values his time in the reserves, and admires and respects all veterans.
McNulty went on to receive both his undergraduate and law degrees from Boston University, where he ultimately graduated in 1966. More recently, he earned his MBA at Suffolk University after, in his own words, “years of part-time study and ‘intellectual hip-checking’ with 25-year-olds.”
Besides McNulty’s early encounter with bad legal counsel, he was drawn to the law by his father’s instruction to “work with your head, not your hands,” which he describes as “sound advice [coming] from the high school graduate son of Irish immigrants, who wanted more for his kids.”
McNulty also considered medicine and priesthood as careers, but says “the idea didn’t crystallize, however, until – believe it or not – while in college, I watched some Boston TV black-and-white coverage of a legal gathering at BU and – this is curious but true – I thought ‘that sounds good to me.’”
Two role models stick out in McNulty’s mind: Paul Liacos and the late Earle Cooley. He remembers Liacos as “a challenging, painfully intelligent, and occasionally funny instructor” from BU, who went on to be appointed as a Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court by then-Governor Michael Dukakis. Cooley was another former professor, whom McNulty describes as “a cracker jack litigator.”
“From him,” McNulty elaborates, “I learned two cardinal rules of litigation: know the rules – and – get to know the clerk. His practical approach… taught us more about lawyering… than perhaps any one- or two-semester course I ever took. Rest in peace, Earle Cooley.”
McNulty’s career has changed over time, and he currently concentrates on estate planning, probate litigation, and consequently what he calls “elder protection law.” Considering his firm “a blue-collar, client-oriented practice,” McNulty claims that “the last place I expected to hang a shingle was Cape Cod, Massachusetts. But that’s what happened. I married a Cape Cod girl.” Locals of the area still call him a “wash-ashore,” despite his presence at the cape for over 50 years.
He has been married to Maureen, his reason for being in Cape Cod, for more than 50 years. Together they have three children and six grandchildren.
With regard to his community service, McNulty is proudest of his time as a member of the Cape Cod Community College Education Foundation Board. “Part of that ‘trying to do good’ vocation thing, I guess,” explains McNulty.
Regarding retirement, McNulty says, “I still come to the office every day – mostly so my wife will not throw me out of the house – but it’s nice to know there are days I don’t have to show up if so inclined.” He and his wife intend to travel and see old friends in New England as their main activity. However, he also plans to do some part-time work throughout his retirement.
McNulty’s reminder to budding lawyers is short and straightforward: “Keep your word, return your calls – in that order.”
John E. Peltonen: Find Balance in Life
John E. Peltonen
John Peltonen retired in March of this year, after 50 years of practice, from Sheehan Phinney Bass & Green in Manchester.
A Manchester native, Peltonen grew up in Salem Depot, New Hampshire, quipping that it was “back when it really was just a depot!”
Peltonen attended Dartmouth College and earned his law degree from Boston College Law School.
Inspired to enter the legal field while attending Dartmouth, Peltonen served on a judicial council in charge of adjudicating student infractions. “The experience gave me a very real sense of the important juxtaposition of rules, facts and the need for good judgment and common sense,” says Peltonen, though he adds that: “I am not certain I demonstrated any of that while an undergraduate, but I at least learned that there was a place where such knowledge and skills could be developed.”
Not content to let his education end after Boston College, Peltonen also earned a master’s degree in political science from the University of Arkansas during his military service. He served as a captain in the United States Air Force Judicial Advocate General (JAG) Corps from 1967 to 1972. Peltonen’s military duty involved both legal and intelligence affairs. He was stationed in Italy during the Vietnam War, but his efforts were focused on the beginning of the Cold War. “The mission was the electronic surveillance of the Soviet Union and East Bloc countries,” explains Peltonen.
After returning from the military, Peltonen was hired by attorney David Nixon. He began a trial practice focusing on personal injury and commercial cases. Peltonen went on to join Sheehan Phinney Bass & Green, and expanded his practice to include environmental cases starting in the early 1980s.
Peltonen gives credit to Nixon for introducing him to big-time lawyers like Jack Middleton, Kimon Zachos, Joe Millimet, Stanley Brown, and Jack Sheehan, naming them as “giants of the bar” in his time. “I have hoped, at least in some small way, to have followed their example,” says Peltonen.
One of Peltonen’s most memorable cases occurred very early in his trial practice career. It involved a young child who suffered from irreversible brain damage. He won a verdict of more than $1.5 million for the family, at the time the largest personal injury settlement in the state. However, it wasn’t about the money for Peltonen. “The important factor was not the amount of the verdict, but the challenge of finding some compensation for a little child,” says Peltonen.
Peltonen has served as both the president of his local Lion’s Club and his town’s Zoning Board of Adjustment. “Serving the community is part of the profession, and I am happy to have contributed, at least in some measure,” explains Peltonen.
He met Kathy, his best friend and wife, while at law school in Boston. They have been married for 50 years, have three kids, and four granddaughters “who, I must tell you,” Peltonen adds genuinely, “are the absolute best granddaughters in the entire world.”
He and Kathy plan to travel the country and fill time visiting family and friends. A philosophical spirit, Peltonen describes that he “hopes during each week to find one moment that is truly enriching and another moment that is filled with joy. I expect that this will be a most enjoyable quest.”
Peltonen urges beginning lawyers “to preserve the ‘New Hampshire Way,’ always being honest and civil with each other.”
He also reminds them to “find balance in your life,” by always searching for and finding time to be with family. Peltonen learned this the hard way at the beginning of his career, after one of his young daughters asked him before bed, “Daddy, where do you live?” That experience broke his heart, and he says that “from that moment, I made sure that I spent every possible moment with Kathy and our children.”
William N. Prigge: Volunteerism and Civility
William Prigge is happy to still be practicing law today, and thankful for his good health. He loves working in New Hampshire and believes that practicing in a place that you care about is more important than any milestone you can achieve.
Prigge was born in White Plains, New York, and raised on Long Island. He attended Amherst College in Massachusetts and earned his law degree at Georgetown University Law Center.
Prigge was originally drawn toward law enforcement after graduating in 1966, but he explains that “unlike today, there were very few openings for police legal advisor programs and the like.” He moved to New Hampshire and found a few open attorney positions in Keene, joking that he “was fortunate enough to latch onto one of them.” He’s been at the same office ever since, and the firm is now known as Goodnow Arwe Ayer & Prigge.
Some of his proudest work professionally includes his membership on the NH Supreme Court Professional Conduct Committee and his position as chair of the NH Supreme Court Committee on Character and Fitness. “Although both committees were very demanding,” says Prigge, “the volunteers from around the state with whom I had the pleasure of serving were very committed to their tasks and great to work with.”
Prigge is also involved in volunteer work and has worked with the Fire Service at the Fitzwilliam and Meadowood County Area Fire Departments, as well as the Southwestern NH District Fire Mutual Aid System.
He and his wife Kirsten have four sons together, and a total of 17 grandchildren. Obviously pleased, Prigge says, “I don’t know that anyone has to expound on how wonderful those relationships are.”
Prigge is not yet planning his retirement and doesn’t seem to be too concerned about it, briefly mentioning that he “ought to give it some thought,” after being asked the question.
Offering some very practical advice on humbleness, Prigge urges new lawyers to “try and maintain as much civility and humility as you can in doing your best for a client in an adversarial process.”
Gerald Prunier: ‘I always wanted to be a lawyer.’
Gerald Prunier, who still practices law at his own firm, Prunier & Prolman, in Nashua, never questioned his professional trajectory when he was young.
“I always wanted to be a lawyer,” says Prunier, who was educated at Columbia Graduate School of Business and received his law degree from Boston College Law School. Today, Prunier’s practice involves mainly commercial real estate development and business law.
After graduating from Columbia, Prunier had the opportunity to work for General Motors, in the Cadillac division. He says this experience cemented his resolve to attend law school. After earning his law degree, Prunier began working at Leonard, Leonard & Prolman in 1967. He made partner two years later, but left in 1975 to open his own firm.
In one of Prunier’s most memorable cases, he represented one of two student activists who set off homemade bombs at the Manchester police and fire stations after an anti-war rally in early 1972.
These days, his firm concentrates its work in real estate development and land use issues, and he has been involved in the re-zoning of large swathes of Nashua, including in advance of the state’s largest real estate development.
Prunier is a former member of the Nashua School Board, and was elected chair of the school board in 1971. He was a member of the board during Nashua’s only teacher strike.
A family man, two of Prunier’s three children live nearby in Hollis, New Hampshire. That’s good for Prunier, as eight of his nine grandchildren live within minutes of his house. Prunier and his wife Estelle have been married for 53 years.
Prunier’s sage advice to prospective lawyers is to always verify the information given to you by clients.
Thomas Richards: ‘Do your best to enjoy the practice.’
Thomas Richards was born and raised in Exeter, New Hampshire. He attended the University of New Hampshire, and earned his law degree at New York University School of Law after receiving the Root Tilden Scholarship.
After graduation, Richards joined the firm Sheehan Phinney Bass & Green in Manchester, New Hampshire. He stayed there for 30 years and credits William L. Phinney, John J. Sheehan, and William S. Green as his personal mentors in the field of law.
Richards focused his career on complex litigation, involving corporate, commercial, and antitrust matters. He names one of his most memorable cases as taking a co-counsel role for IBM in the Memorex vs. IBM antitrust litigation. In summary, IBM and Memorex had been fighting for years over market share in the newly developed technology of disk storage devices, which were used for recording data on computers. Memorex claimed that IBM had used anti-competitive tactics (violating anti-trust laws) to keep a hold on its monopoly in the market. IBM countered by claiming that Memorex had been actively poaching personnel from IBM for some time, stealing trade secrets, and that their presence in the disk storage device market was “unlawful.” Eventually, IBM was victorious. Richards recounts that “it was three years in preparation, with an eight-month jury trial in San Francisco. The jury was out for approximately two months, came back deadlocked, and the judge ultimately granted IBM’s 400-page motion for summary judgment.”
During his 50 years of membership, Richards has been active in the New Hampshire Bar Association, serving as president from 1989-1990, and as secretary. More recently, he has been involved with the Lake Sunapee Protective Association as a board member and of counsel, helping to maintain the quality of Lake Sunapee and its watershed.
Recently celebrating their 42nd anniversary, Richards and his wife Barbara have two sons together, Daniel and Matthew, “both born on Super Bowl Sunday two years apart,” says Richards. Interestingly, their son Daniel was born in San Francisco during the Memorex vs. IBM case, as Richards had moved his family there for the trial. Currently, he and Barbara reside in Sunapee, New Hampshire, where he looks forward to enjoying a happy retirement.
Richards advises new lawyers to “do your best to enjoy the practice. Make an effort to get to know opposing counsel personally. Treat them with courtesy and respect. It will pay multiple dividends. Make equal time for the rest of your life, especially with your family and for activities that add to the enrichment and enjoyment of life.”
L. Jonathan Ross: Be Your Own Boss, Be A Positive Influence
L. Jonathan Ross
Jon Ross says milestones only occur if you’re fortunate enough to live a long life. Ross has accomplished this, and much more – after 50 years, he is still practicing law full-time and he’s “enjoying it immensely.”
Hailing from Northampton, Massachusetts, Ross received his undergraduate degree from Hobart College, his JD from Georgetown University Law Center, and a master of laws degree from Harvard Law School.
Ross decided to become a lawyer for reasons both altruistic and self-motivated: He says he wanted the ability to be his own boss but also felt the urge “to have some positive influence on others and my community.” He adds that he learned the most about the law from Paul Nourie and Dort Bigg, two coworkers at the first law firm to employ him, Wiggin & Nourie in Manchester. However, he says, the biggest role model in his life was always his father.
After graduating from law school, Ross began working at Wiggin & Nourie, where he rose to become the firm’s president before ultimately closing the business in 2012. Since then, he’s been with Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer, which operates out of Manchester and Portsmouth.
Ross is nationally recognized as a trial lawyer and has a long list of honors, awards, and titles.
He was president of the NH Bar Association from 1985 to 1986, has served 20 years on the New England Bar Association Board of Governors, and has represented the NHBA as a delegate to the American Bar Association for the past 20 years.
In accordance with his penchant for public service, Ross is a founder of Bar Leaders for the Preservation of Legal Services for the Poor, whose mission is just that, “to preserve civil legal services for the poor.” Ross is a founding and current member of the NH Access to Justice Commission, which is focused on developing greater access to legal services for people with low income. Along this same line, Ross served eight years on the Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defense for the ABA, as well as the ABA’s Pro Bono and Public Service Committee, of which he is a current member for the third time.
Ross was elected to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers in 1988, and has had several notable cases in the area. One was the Hampers case, in which he won his client primary parental rights, substantial ongoing alimony, child support payments, and a $2.5 million property award. Ross has defended this same client from 2000 to present, through multiple appeals reaching all the way to the NH Supreme Court.
Heavily involved in community service, Ross served on the Derryfield School Board of Trustees for 10 years. During this time, he helped initiate the Breakthrough program, which “gives gifted students from Manchester public schools a summer of intense learning taught by high school and college students and tutoring and mentoring during the year.” The program is now in its 26th year and has expanded under a partnership with Southern New Hampshire University. Ross is also involved with the Kiwanis Club of Manchester, and played a part in adopting an established Manchester children’s home, the Webster House, as a charitable focus.
Ross has been married to his wife Kathy for 53 years, and together they have three daughters: Sara, Rebecca, and Heather. Ross also has three grandsons, Adian, Sawyer, and Kellen.
With a full career behind him and more to come, Ross offers several nuggets of wisdom to new lawyers. He reminds them that the practice of law “is not a part-time endeavor,” and it will take much work and time to develop “the knowledge and skill necessary to properly represent your clients.”
“No client and no fee is worth your integrity,” Ross continues, advising new attorneys to be careful, because “it can all be lost in a short moment of indiscretion.” Finally, in line with Ross’s care for community, he suggests that lawyers use their position “for the benefit of others, both those who can pay you and especially those who, by their present circumstances, are unable to do so.”
Richard Talbot: The Honor of Service to a Community
Hon. Richard Talbot
Richard Talbot, of Keene, feels that he has lead a satisfying career in law. He’s no longer active as an attorney or judge, and notes that he is “pleased to be relieved from the stresses of work.”
Talbot attended Brown University and earned his law degree at Boston University School of Law, where he says he encountered his first important mentor: Paul Siskind. “Dean Paul Siskind of Boston University taught me the law,” recounts Talbot. When it comes to practical knowledge, Talbot says his first partner, “Sam Bradley, of Keene, taught me how to practice law.”
Talbot went on to practice with Bradley in Keene for 17 years. During this period, Talbot also began serving part-time on the bench in Keene District Court. Enjoying the experience, he continued even after leaving his practice with Bradley. “Without a doubt,” says Talbot, “my most satisfying time was the 21 years I presided in the Keene District Court.” Talbot believes that “it is a great honor to serve one’s community,” and feels that he helped to “shape the spirit of Keene.”
Once he had retired, Talbot put his skills to use volunteering at the Cheshire County House of Corrections for a short time.
After 42 years together, Talbot’s wife, Gail, passed away in 2006. He enjoys spending time with his three children and seven grandchildren.
As for retirement activities, Talbot enjoys biking, reading, and spending time with family and friends. He also travels to Florida every year to watch major league baseball spring training, calling it his main “indulgence.”
Charles F. Tucker: A Lucky Man
Charles F. Tucker
Charles Tucker counts himself as a lucky man. He’s been blessed with good health through modern medicine; fortunate enough to avoid catastrophe in his career by the constant counsel of his associates; and managed to escape the front lines of Vietnam by being accepted to the US Air Force Reserve at the last minute.
Born in Lynn, Massachusetts, Tucker received his education from Yale College and went on to earn his law degree from Yale Law School. He was drafted, and though his orders were to travel to Fort Dix and serve as a private in the Army, he was able to join the Air Force Reserve three weeks before graduating law school, through the assistance of a friend who was already in the unit. He ultimately became a captain and served six months on active duty, six years in reserve.
Tucker didn’t always know he wanted to be a lawyer, and struggled to find his path growing up. He eventually decided that going to law school would open the most doors for his future. He lists John Lindsey (former mayor of New York City) and Kingman Brewster (former president at Yale) as role models, attributing their success to their law training.
Beginning his career as a city planner, he worked in both Connecticut and New Hampshire before deciding he could better support his family by going into private practice (“not that I made enough there either, but it was better,” Tucker reminisces.)
Tucker still uses his previous city planning experience, specializing in real estate, land use, and estate planning. He adds that “my work with conservation organizations, municipalities, and landowners to preserve some of the New Hampshire natural landscape has been gratifying.”
As for work in the community, Tucker has served 24 years as Exeter Town Moderator and 14 years as Exeter Regional School District Moderator, moderating meetings with up to 4,000 people in attendance.
Already in semi-retirement, Tucker plans to fully retire at the end of June 2017.
Tucker prompts novice lawyers to join an established firm. “Don’t start solo,” he explains. “If a private firm won’t take you, offer to work for a firm on a contract basis, getting paid only for the work you do, since you will have supervision.” According to Tucker, “there are far too many opportunities for malpractice out there, let alone ethics violations, to ever be learned about in law school, or CLE programs.”
“And accept the fact that there is too much to know, to know it all,” Tucker concludes. “After 50 years, a question I have never contemplated before comes up almost every day.”
Richard P. Vacco: A Teacher All Over the Globe
Richard P. Vacco
Richard Vacco is happily retired from both his law practice and his teaching career, at the age he refers to as “77 years semi-young.”
Vacco began life in Bridgeport, Connecticut, but says he “never went back after college.” He was educated at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, and obtained his law degree from Suffolk Law School.
Unable to join the army due to blindness in his right eye, Vacco says he became a lawyer as a pastime. “It just happened,” Vacco claims. “My wife, Marjeanne, was doing graduate work in Boston and I needed something to do. So, I went to Suffolk Law nights, and then transferred to the day program.”
A bit unorthodox, Vacco says that he has never had any role models in the field of law. Upon thinking of role models in other terms, he answers: “a few now and then. Jimmy Carter comes to mind.”
Vacco has had a dual career in education and law. He was a full-time faculty member at Suffolk Law School for 43 years, and also had a law practice in business and securities. He looks back on his teaching years fondly, admitting that “the moments in my career that were significant were the moments with my ‘victims’ in the classroom. Oops! I mean my ‘students’ at the law school.” Joking aside, he adds that he “loved teaching them and learning from them.”
One of his greatest achievements was having the opportunity to teach students from around the globe in Budapest, Hungary. During the summer of 2010, Vacco traveled to Budapest for a two-week program and taught common law to civil law attorneys from many continents, including Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America. An eye-opening experience, Vacco claims he even taught “Muslim women attorneys who, as women, were not allowed to practice in their countries!” He still stays in contact with some of his international students to this day.
His work in the community is largely due to his children, including sports and clubs (“My son is an Eagle Scout!” exclaims Vacco.).
Vacco and Marjeanne have been married for 54 years. They have two children together, and six grandchildren.
Vacco admits that it’s hard to give wisdom to new lawyers. “It assumes I know something. But the older I get, the more I appreciate how little I know and how much more I have to learn.” He decides that the best advice to give is that “there are few answers, mostly questions. Focus on the questions and you will have a successful professional career.”
Eugene M. Van Loan III: Don’t Take No for an Answer
Eugene M. Van Loan III
Eugene Van Loan III once thought he would become a nuclear physicist – before realizing that calculus wasn’t part of his skillset. Instead, he became a renowned attorney.
He was born 1942, in Ft. Benning, Georgia, where Van Loan’s father was stationed before joining the European front in World War II. After the war was over, the Van Loan family moved to Bedford, New Hampshire, near his mother’s family in Manchester. His father took up work with Van Loan’s maternal grandfather at a meat-packing plant called W.F. Schonland & Sons, which is known best for its “Schonland Franks.”
Van Loan attended Yale University, receiving his undergraduate degree in African and British Commonwealth history. He went on to earn his law degree at Harvard Law School, graduating in 1967.
After Harvard, Van Loan volunteered for the US Army and served four years as captain in the JAG Corps, stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. In 1968, he became part of the first group of military lawyers to be appointed as Special Courts Martial Military Judge, and served as a judge until the end of his military career.
“My time in the service was – to say the least – interesting,” explains Van Loan. “Fort Hood – which was the largest military base in the world – was the place to which most Army vets who had served their time in Vietnam returned to finish out their hitch.”
Post-military, Van Loan began his career as trial lawyer, taking on mostly civil cases. David Souter, who was at the time a Superior Court judge (and chair of the Concord Hospital Board of Trustees) asked him to work as an outside counsel to the hospital. Van Loan accepted, and his practice shifted to focus more on business. He has also “indulged (his) passion for constitutional law” with many pro bono cases over the years.
One of Van Loan’s most memorable cases came about in the mid-1970s. He was co-counsel for Louis Wyman, who ran against John Durkin in a controversial electoral battle for the junior US Senate seat representing New Hampshire. Van Loan became an expert in parliamentary practice, and helped orchestrate the Republican minority in movements against Democratic opposition, which had “a determined plan to steal the election,” in his own words. The US Senate deemed the election a “virtual tie,” and it went back to New Hampshire for a new election. Durkin won, “but at least he did it fair and square,” recalls Van Loan.
Van Loan was Moderator for the Town of Bedford for 30 years, and also Moderator for the Bedford School District. He enjoyed using his parliamentary law knowledge “to allow the participants to civilly conduct their business without murdering each other.” He also served as chairman of the NH Easter Seal Society Board of Trustees for three years, helping to raise funds for and build the organization’s home on Auburn Street in Manchester.
Van Loan has been married to his wife Veronica for 22 years. He has three children; Eric, Ruby, and a stepdaughter, Heather.
Already semi-retired, Van Loan doesn’t mind getting older because it comes with certain benefits, like Medicare, grocery-store discounts, and fewer competitors in athletics. And Van Loan loves sports, including biking, skiing, and rowing. He also continues his work with nonprofits like the NH Easterseals, the NH Supreme Court Society, Amoskeag Rowing Club, and Piscataquog Land Conservancy.
Van Loan warns aspiring lawyers, “don’t be afraid to tell a client ‘no.’ And that means both, ‘no, you can’t do that’ and ‘no, I won’t do that,’” he says because, ultimately, “the ends do NOT justify the means.”
Patrick L.J. Veilleux: An Atypical Story
Patrick Veilleux, in reflecting on the 50th anniversary of his admission to the New Hampshire Bar, finds that he has an atypical story. Unlike most lawyers, he says that he “got a late start,” being admitted to both the Maine and New Hampshire bar when he was 30 years old. “The good part of that being that I was not saddled with debt,” considers Veilleux, “but I had no assets except a law degree from Boston University Law School.”
It all started during Veilleux’s undergraduate studies. “After completing my first two years at the University of Maine,” says Veilleux, “I joined the Maine Air National Guard.” Veilleux trained as a navigator for two years at the US Air Force Navigation and Radar School. Upon completion, he served with the 132nd Fighter Interceptor Squadron and participated in “manning the F-89 [jet aircraft] as part of the (then) US Air Defense System at Dow Air Force Base in Bangor, Maine,” he explains. After his military service, Veilleux returned to the University of Maine to finish his education before going on to law school.
“I opened my law office in the small town of Kittery, Maine, in 1969, knowing few people, having little capital, and a pregnant wife,” recalls Veilleux. He says that he had the desire to work for himself, and though it wasn’t easy taking that risk, it ended up paying off. “As a general practitioner, I dealt with people’s everyday concerns and problems. No big corporate work or big clients, but a lot of ordinary people.”
With Kittery on the border of New Hampshire, it only made sense for Veilleux to expand his practice to Portsmouth. “As time went on,” Veilleux continues, “office legal paperwork took up more of my time. I learned a lot about people, judges, and the evolving legal system.”
Veilleux found success, and reminisces that “everything I wanted that I worked so many years to accomplish, I had: a nice one-person office practice.” However, his attention began to diverge from legal affairs, and he became interested in other areas of life. Veilleux says he “decided to wind down” his practice in 1979, and eventually became inactive in both the New Hampshire and Maine Bar Associations.
Full of advice for anyone interested in the law, Veilleux feels that his legal education “significantly impacted” his life. “I would encourage any young person who is interested in a legal education to go to law school,” begins Veilleux, “but they have to weigh the cost and years in school in light of the changes that are evident in the practice of law.”
Veilleux observes that having a practice like he did is no longer easily realized: “This is the age of specialization, and of big umbrella law firms. Small, one-man operations are fading.” He also says that the advent of technology enables “anyone with a computer to research anything,” giving us all power that previous generations did not possess. Finally, adding an especially interesting perspective on the current legal environment, Veilleux challenges students to “consider doing something different with your education than the traditional practice of law. What is your talent?”
Vincent Wenners: ‘I marvel at the power of our legal system.’
You could say that Manchester-based attorney Vincent Wenners was an overnight success – and he might agree. When recalling his youth, he says “I sometimes joke that within 24 hours, I went from my summer job loading trucks at AG’s (Associated Grocers) to working as a staff attorney at the AG’s (Attorney General’s).”
Hailing from South Boston, Massachusetts, Wenners was raised in Manchester, New Hampshire. He attended the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, and Saint Anselm College in Goffstown, New Hampshire. He earned his law degree from Boston College, and received his master’s degree in law from Boston University.
Torn between becoming a dentist or a lawyer in college, Wenners jokes that “the decision was simple, given that I possess no artistic talent nor mechanical skills.” A man of good humor, he adds that “the real reason I became a lawyer was because I wanted to advocate for others and the things I believed in. Even now, I marvel at the power of our legal system.”
Wenners worked as a staff attorney for the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office after law school. He names Judge George Pappagianis, the Attorney General at the time, as one of his legal role models, as well as Father Robert Drinan, who was dean and professor at Boston College Law School. However, the person he tries to emulate most is his father, who Wenners recounts had a “strong moral compass that began and ended at home with my mother, brothers and me. (My father) was a man of great integrity, and possessed a Herculean work ethic that enabled him to face some of life’s most difficult challenges.”
When asked about his most memorable cases, Wenners says that he no longer “celebrates each win.” Instead he waxes philosophical, stating that “there were some cases that were harder fought, harder won and contributed more significantly to the legal fabric in New Hampshire. Being a part of those cases was a privilege.”
Involved in several community activities, Wenners says that he enjoyed helping to coach Little League the most, by far. “As a young lawyer, I did not have a lot of time outside of the office,” remembers Wenners, and “most days I ended up on the field in wing tip shoes and a white shirt. But there was no better place to spend my free time. The kids played hard, developed resilience and learned the power of teamwork.”
Wenners has been married to his wife Judy for 49 years, and they recently relocated from Manchester to Rye to be closer to family. They have two children, Doug and Mary Ellen, who followed Wenners’ example by joining the field of law – although Doug now works in the healthcare industry. Between their two children, Wenners and Judy have three grandsons and four granddaughters, who all live in Rye.
When asked about plans for retirement, Wenners quips, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” Wenners is still active in his private practice, and doesn’t think he’ll retire any time soon.
Borrowing from strategies learned on the golf course, Wenners says that his advice for up-and-coming lawyers is to “learn how to play it well out of the rough – that’s your opportunity to win. The course is rarely smooth so be prepared, over-prepared, for those tough shots.”