A great friend, and more

Issue March 2014 By Linda Goodspeed

Reflections on the storied career of Michael E. Mone Sr.

Over the years, Michael E. Mone Sr. has represented, pro bono, so many lawyers and judges who have run afoul of the profession, his friends joke that his telephone number is scrawled on the bathroom walls of every courthouse in the state.

"He's very sought-after," says Martin W. Healy, chief legal counsel at the Massachusetts Bar Association (MBA). "I know if I had an issue of any kind, Mike is the first person I would call. That's how highly I think of him."

Healy is not alone. Earlier this year, the Massachusetts Bar Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the MBA, presented Mone with its prestigious "Great Friend of Justice" award.

Mone, a past president of the MBA (1993), is a nationally recognized civil trial lawyer and pioneer in the field of tort litigation. His practice areas focus on medical malpractice, products liability, insurance law and aviation claims. He has won several multi-million dollar settlements and verdicts, and tried cases that established new law. He is the only plaintiffs' attorney to ever lead the American College of Trial Lawyers.

He is often called the "lawyer's lawyer," due to his work representing lawyers and judges accused of misconduct and other professional lapses.

"He considers it critical to provide representation to other members of the bar. It's his way of giving back to the profession," says Mone's son, Michael E. Mone Jr., who practices with his father at the Boston law firm of Esdaile, Barrett, Jacobs & Mone. "He loves the practice of law."

"Mike (Sr.) is a very charitable man," adds Camille Sarrouf, a trial lawyer at the Boston law firm of Sarrouf Law. "He's not looking for self attribution. He has an unselfish commitment to serve his profession."

Born to be a trial lawyer

Mone never wanted to be anything but a trial lawyer. As a young boy growing up in East Douglas, he spent countless hours listening to the courtroom "war stories" of his uncle, a prominent trial lawyer in southeastern Massachusetts. "I was fascinated," Mone says.

After earning a bachelor's degree at Middlebury College in Vermont, Mone graduated from Boston College Law School in 1967, and joined the Boston law firm of Schneider & Reilly. Another BC grad at the firm was a young lawyer named Thomas E. Connolly. Although Mone was only two years older, Connolly soon realized that Mone had a unique role at the firm.

"Mike was on top of everything. He was the guy everybody went to if they had any problem, practical or legal," says Connolly, who went on to spend 22 years on the Superior Court bench before stepping down and re-joining Mone at his current firm. "Mike has this wonderful ability to relate to people. It makes him very effective in the courtroom and everything he does."

Sarrouf agrees: "Mike has what to me as a trial lawyer is a very enviable capacity to translate complex facts so the jury can understand them, and to explain how the law applies. It's a great characteristic."

Leo Boyle, a trial lawyer at Meehan, Boyle, Black & Bogdanow, says Mone was born to be a lawyer.

"He's got that perfect combination of keen mind, an immense understanding of humanity and the quickest wit I've ever known," Boyle says. "Being in the mix - doing bar work, volunteering, trying cases, running a law firm - is not work for Mike. It's fun for Mike. He thrives on it. It's part of his sustenance."

In addition to winning several multi-million dollar awards and settlements for his clients, Mone has established new law, including a discovery rule in medical malpractice cases and bad faith insurance litigation. He has been cited in every edition of "Best Lawyers in America" and has been recognized by "LawDragon" as one of the 500 leading lawyers in America.

"Mike is the epitome of a top-shelf trial lawyer," Healy says. "He's a role model for all of us. He's had some of the leading cases in the state, and created new areas of law for injured victims. He can take a case from start to finish, all the way up to the Supreme Judicial Court. That's very rare in our profession. You can't find such a utility player in our field. He's a giant among lawyers in this state. He's done it all and done it well."

An incredible story

Mone, who calls himself "just a storyteller," says he is most proud of the cases he has tried that established new law, and the work he and his son did to free one of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Mone Jr., who did most of the legal work on the three-year-long case, was finally able to persuade the Irish government to take the prisoner.

"You can't imagine the number of hours I put into this case," says the younger Mone. "My dad allowed me to do all that. He helped strategize, made calls [and] bankrolled the whole thing. It was absolutely his idea that we should get involved. It's as much his achievement as mine."

"Those were very unpopular cases," Mone Sr. says of the Guantanamo Bay detainees. "I felt we had to get involved. I was just overwhelmed that my government, in my name and other citizens, was acting in what I believed to be a lawless manner by imprisoning these men."

Mone credits his son for the outcome - "he single-handedly started a human rights campaign in Ireland" - and says the case was one of the highlights of his career.

"That young man was brought to Ireland in shackles," Mone says. "If I'm remembered for anything in my career, I hope it will be the moment that young man stepped off the plane a free man."

No substitute for experience

Mone is already remembered for much more than that.

"He's had a great career," Healy says. "If anyone did just a fraction of what Mike has done over the course of his career, he or she would have a great career. Mike has really done it all."

Mone says he has no intention of stepping down any time soon. He says the legal profession has changed significantly since he began practicing.

"More cases go to arbitration or mediation. The hardest thing now is how to train the next generation of trial lawyers," says Mone.

He says there is no substitute for experience. "If you want to be a trial lawyer, you've got to find places where you can get experience - the DA's office, pro bono work, smaller firms that believe in giving young lawyers cases to try."
Among the many honors he has received over his career are honorary doctor of law degrees from Middlebury College and Suffolk University.

He has served on judicial nominating committees at the request of former Gov. Michael Dukakis, the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, and Sens. John Kerry and Elizabeth Warren.

"Mike has always been a leader," Boyle says. "He's had a huge impact on our profession."