Lisa Wood ’84 participated in LAB in her second year at BC Law. It was â€œhands downâ€ her favorite law school class. Lisa practices law at a big firm, doing complex accounting, antitrust and securities litigation, yet credits her LAB experience at BC Law for impacting her career more than any traditional law school class.
We asked Lisa about LAB and how it shaped her career:
Q: Â Why was LAB your favorite class?
First, I got great trial experience.Â I tried a landlord-tenant matter in the Waltham District Court before a judge who did not believe in the student practice rule. She kept screaming at me to sit down, and let the real lawyer (the supervising law professor who was watching but did not come to my aid) take over. Somehow I powered through, handled the witnesses and did my closing. When our client prevailed I was thrilled, and relieved the whole unpleasant experience was over. I have never had another such experience in court and am rarely nervous even though the matters I now work on are far more complex, and the stakes much higher.
I also handled a very amusing food stamp matter for two women who lived together to save funds on housing, but were not married, or otherwise a couple. The food stamp administration had reduced their food stamp ration because they lived together, and I had to make an engaging creative presentation showing how they did not buy food as a couple. It was a take on the Odd Couple, and even the administrative law judge thought it was funny. We prevailed, and I learned a good lesson about being creative and drawing on the human experience in trial and motion presentations.
Second, LAB taught me about client-centered decision-making.Â That is very important when dealing with economically disadvantaged clients, but it is also very important with all clients, no matter how sophisticated. I have very much enjoyed hearing from clients about their business objectives, and helping them decide how to proceed in litigation and antitrust matters.
Third, LAB taught me a lot about the access to justice crisis in our country.Â It demonstrated to me how difficult it is for the poor to enjoy the important protections our democracy offers through the rule of law. I have remained active in access to justice issues my whole career, serving on the Board of the Volunteer Lawyers Project for over 25 years, chairing the Massachusetts IOLTA Committee for 9 years, serving as a trustee for the Boston Bar Foundation, and serving as a leader in the Boston Bar and American Bar Associations. I now serve as the Chair of the ABA’s Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants, the oldest standing committee of the ABA, and have had the privilege to speak and testify around the country on access to justice issues.
Q: Â Has your commitment to public service been valued in your career?
I am sure it is no accident that I have chosen to practice law at two Boston firms who value my access to justice work as much as my litigation practice.
I first practiced at Nutter, McClennen and Fish for 20 years. Nutter was founded by Louis Brandeis, who had an impressive corporate practice, but also handled significant pro bono matters. I left Nutter in 2004 to join Foley Hoag, another Boston firm with a great pro bono tradition. I have handled significant pro bono matters at both firms, while also enjoying the opportunity to serve in various leadership positions.
At Foley Hoag, I principally handle auditor defense matters for the six largest national accounting firms, in both private and government litigation. I continue to handle antitrust matters in both the litigation and advice context, and have enjoyed representing hedge funds in private litigation and SEC matters. As the chair of the firm’s litigation department, I am very interested and focused on the changing market for legal services, and the continued access to justice crisis. Our courts are not adequately funded, and most citizens cannot afford a lawyer. Many law students graduate without a job, and a crushing debt burden. I think this situation threatens all clients because it threatens the credibility of our justice system and the rule of law.Â
Q: Â What are law schools doing to alleviate this crisis?
I am very encouraged by the effort of law schools to develop alternative education models that focus more on the clinical, and that provide students with the training to come out of law school ready to hang out a shingle and represent the average American with everyday legal problems. I know BC Law has started working on an incubator program and hope other law schools will do the same.
Q: Â Do you encourage law students to gain clinical experience?
Based on my own LAB experience,Â I encourage law students who interview with or work at our firm over the summer to take clinical courses rather than weighing down their schedule with corporate law classes, and I look for applicants who have had past job experience or clinical class experience.
Perhaps not coincidentally, my husband Peter Michelson ’85 also participated in LAB and other clinical programs, and remembers them fondly. As the Deputy General Counsel at the University of Massachusetts, he reviews many lawyer resumes, and always looks for clinical experience.
Lisa and Pete live in Medfield, MA and have two daughters, who, according to Lisa, have shown no interest in becoming lawyers.