New firm strikes an important balance; Yarashus, Wagner launched on May 1

Issue June 2008 By Tricia M. Oliver

The monthly MBA Leadership Roundtables — in which leadership and the commitment to service are discussed — served as the impetus for a unique vision for a law firm in the commonwealth. As a result of in-depth conversations at the roundtables, the law firm of Yarashus, Wagner, Cook, Freiberger and Washienko was born.

In the eyes of the two founding partners — Valerie A. Yarashus and Charles P. Wagner — bar leadership and giving back to the profession and their communities enrich lifelong learning. These very principles are central in each of their professional worlds and provided the foundation for their brand new firm, where the partners’ practice areas include personal injury, medical malpractice, employment and business litigation.

The new law firm with partners Yarashus, Wagner, Kathy Jo Cook, Marc Freiberger and Patricia Washienko launched May 1. Much buzz surrounded this new and exciting collaboration with deep ties to the MBA.

Yarashus is the current MBA treasurer and was recently named president-elect for the upcoming association year, beginning in September. She is also the co-chair of the Diversity Task Force and the Plain English Jury Instruction Task Force, as well as a past chair of the Health Law Section and a past president of the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys, an affiliated bar association of the MBA.

Wagner sits on the MBA Executive Management Board, the House of Delegates and the Diversity Task Force and is a member of the MBA Individual Rights & Responsibilities Section Council. He also serves as co-chair of the Massachusetts Lesbian & Gay Bar Association, one of the MBA’s affiliated bar associations.

Wagner and Yarashus got to know each other during their involvement on the MBA Diversity Task Force, but then conversations they shared as part the MBA Leadership Roundtables brought about a stronger realization of their shared professional views. That strengthened relationship gave way to the concept of developing a firm around bar leadership and excellence in client representation. From there, the idea expanded and Cook, Freiberger and Washienko were naturally folded into the mix.

Around Yarashus’ dinner table, plans were cemented for a new kind of practice culture that she and Wagner had envisioned. “All five of us went around the table talking about how to create our dream job, both in terms of our relationships with our clients and with our colleagues,” said Yarashus. “As we formalized our new firm, we kept that vision at the core of the continued discussions and planning.”

“We had many hard conversations in a short period of time,” said Cook, who also explained that bar leadership and giving back to the profession were central to all partners’ perspectives during those talks leading up to the firm’s May 1 opening. In addition to chairing the MBA Judicial Administration Section Council and serving on the House of Delegates, Cook is now eight weeks into her term as president of the Women’s Bar Association.

“I’m delighted to be working with such bright and wonderfully spirited people,” said Wagner, who has enjoyed steady referrals since the firm opened its doors.

“I’m proud to be part of a firm that is redefining what it means to be a successful practitioner,” he added. “By including bar leadership and community service into that model for success, I really feel we are all able to have a sound life balance.”

The partners of the firm believe that this ultimately translates into better client representation.
Wagner explained that interestingly, but not surprisingly, all five partners are equally involved in their hometown communities. Whether they volunteer to coach their children’s sports teams, serve on town committees or enjoy other civic involvement, all of the partners lead rich and busy lives outside of the office and bar commitments.

Just two weeks into the firm’s steady stride, Yarashus noted that the greater legal community has shown a tremendous amount of support. Yarashus is humbled by the amount of referrals the firm has enjoyed over the last month and said that it appears to be an “indication that our colleagues in the legal community want to see us succeed.”

Yarashus commented that the new collaboration is more than she could have asked for. “It has been a treat to enjoy such compatible philosophies on excellence in practice, leadership in the bar and an effective business model to better serve our clients.”

That business model comes naturally to all partners, as well as their executive support staff. According to Yarashus and Wagner, the selections of Firm Administrator Scott M. Griffiths and Operations Manager Katherine Villard-Howe were essential in delivering the type of quality service that the partners want clients and colleagues to experience.

Although the new firm’s offices occupy the 33rd floor of One Beacon St., the partners find that many of their conversations continue to take place at bar association events throughout the state, or at the MBA offices at 20 West St. “The MBA is our mother ship,” said Wagner.

“We often joke that we are more likely to see each other at MBA House of Delegates meetings than at the office,” said Wagner. However, joking aside, that was reality last month when Wagner, Yarashus and Cook attended the May 14 HOD meeting in Salem and then on May 21, all of the partners congregated at 20 West St. for the morning Leadership Roundtable program.

Yarashus explained that most of the five partners’ previous firms were supportive of their bar leadership work, but developing bar association work as a founding principle for a firm is quite unique.

“We all feel bar leadership contributes to the success of a law firm. Besides, it’s the right thing to do,” Yarashus said.