A partner at Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, Lisa Goodheart concentrates in environmental, real estate and general business litigation. She has extensive experience in cost recovery cases, permitting appeals, land use disputes, enforcement actions, insurance coverage disputes, design and construction matters, and a broad range of business litigation matters. Also an active supporter of the arts community, Lisa has served as a director and officer of several nonprofit corporations operating modern and jazz dance companies. Lisa has served as President, President-Elect, Vice-President, and Treasurer of the BBA, and has been a member of the Executive Committee, Council, and Environmental Law Section, for which she also served as co-chair. She is also President-Elect of the Boston Bar Foundation, as well as a member of its Executive Committee, Grants Committee, Board of Trustees, and Society of Fellows.
- What did you learn over the course of your Presidency at the BBA? What was the biggest difference from where you started to where you ended?
I think one of the things that the BBA presidency provides for anyone in the position is an amazing perspective on the whole breadth of what goes on in the Greater Boston legal community. I got to see how much range there is in the scope of what lawyers do, both in terms of their substantive practices and in terms of civic engagement and public service activities in the community. In particular, I learned a lot about the many different ways in which lawyers contribute to their communities and our government, and I think about that now in a more expansive way than I had before.
One hugely educational opportunity for me was the opportunity that every BBA President has to work with leaders of the judiciary on various issues. Those included concerns about ensuring adequate funding for judiciary, the development of pro bono initiatives, and a whole range of access to justice concerns and administration of justice proposals that are very important to the system. The judiciary properly counts on having the engagement and support of the legal community for those things.
- As Chair of the Judicial Nominating Commission (and in other leadership roles as well), how did you filter the directives or mandates handed down to you and communicate them with other members of the group?
At the JNC, I did not view my responsibility as one of filtering and communicating mandates; it was much more a matter of trying to be faithful to what I understood and believed Governor Patrick to be looking for in terms of the qualities of judicial candidates. What I tried most to do as Chair was to help set a tone and create an opening for a discussion that would produce good results. The goal is to present the Governor with a slate of recommended candidates for every judicial position who have the best quality of mind, personal demeanor and character, integrity, and work ethic, and who can give the Commonwealth what it deserves. So I was mostly focused on trying to create an environment that would allow the necessary questions to be asked and answered, which meant – for all of us on the Commission – showing respect for the different experiences of different people, listening with an open mind to others’ points of view, and, when necessary, finding ways to disagree without being disagreeable.
All of the members of the Commission were very conscious of trying to honor the values that we heard Governor Patrick articulate. At every swearing-in for every new judge, he talks about what he considers to be the qualities of a good judge, and they include being humane as well as smart, wise, and hard-working; being patient and respectful to people who come before the court feeling frightened, confused, and under great stress about whatever their problem might be; and working to make sure that everyone who comes before the court leaves with the feeling that they have been listened to and heard, and will be treated fairly. These were things that we all took to heart and worked together to try to bring about, and I know that the current JNC Chair, Macey Russell, continues to be focused on those things.
- What advice or wisdom do you know now that you wish you had known or someone had told you when you were just starting your career?
I haven’t really had one particular “a-ha!” moment where I felt like I finally unlocked the secret! But when I look back on my early experiences when I was just starting out, I did get something very important, which was encouragement from more senior lawyers whom I respected. That was so very important to me when I was starting my career, so it is something that I hope I will remember to do for others now that I’m further along, because it is even more daunting now to begin a legal career than it was when I started. I think people may get discouraged from time to time, and having a more senior person provide support and offer confidence is extremely valuable.
Relationships are so important in this profession – in many ways they are at the heart of what we do. Sometimes the kinds of professional relationships that young lawyers need will develop organically, and sometimes it takes bit more effort to get them to develop. There are a lot of different ways for making that happen, ranging from just working closely with people to more structured formal mentoring programs to social relationships of various kinds. The most important thing is to connect yourself, one way or another, with those who are going to be supportive when you need support, and for whom you can do the same.
- How has your leadership in the legal community, both at your firm and at the BBA, translated to and helped in other areas, such as your leadership within the arts community?
In a sense, any leadership opportunity you have in one context will help you be a better leader in other settings. But the connections are not always very direct or obvious. I got involved in the arts community because I was a dancer and I loved that world, and at a certain point in time it became clear that my legal skills could be helpful, in terms of helping the small dance companies I was involved with to become incorporated, gain tax-exempt status, develop a management structure and run in a more businesslike fashion – all of which does not necessarily come naturally to people in the dance world! I found myself getting involved because I loved particular groups of dancers and I wanted to support them and they asked me, and not at all because I was looking for a possible leadership opportunity. My law partner Alan Geismer is also a long-time dance lover and he has done the same for other groups, and probably for many of the same reasons. It is a great feeling to contribute to something that moves you.