Karen Green

20 Questions with 2016 LCA President Karen Green 


1. You just completed a year-long fellowship at Harvard University in its Advanced Leadership Initiative. What was the content and goal of that appointment?

The Advanced Leadership Initiative (“ALI”) is designed to enhance and leverage the skills of experienced leaders so that they can address significant social problems, including those that affect public health, access to justice, education, and the environment. ALI Fellows from the United States and other countries come to Harvard to: take classes, including a core course on advanced leadership taught by professors from five of Harvard’s graduate schools; teach and mentor students; participate in think tanks; and develop plans to address a significant social need or problem. As our project, another ALI Fellow and I formed a startup to develop software that enables parents of toddlers with autism spectrum disorders to optimize their children’s cognitive and social development through early intervention.

2. In your role as a white collar criminal lawyer you have been engaged numerous times to conduct internal investigations for corporate entities. How does one go about such an investigation before ultimately presenting findings to the company’s board of directors?

Generally, we begin by clarifying who our client is and the investigation’s objective. In consultation with our client, we then typically develop a plan to determine the facts relevant to the alleged wrongdoing (whether it’s an alleged violation of law or company policy); secure and review relevant documents, including electronic media; interview witnesses; analyze and apply relevant law to the facts found; and report our findings and conclusions, including recommended remedial actions, to our client.

3. Your husband Mark is also an LCA Fellow and Justice on the Massachusetts Appeals Court. What efforts do you make in your relationship to keep from talking about law all the time?

We have a pretty strict rule that we don’t discuss our work at home. We also try to spend as much of our free time in activities that have nothing to do with the law, whether enjoying the great outdoors, travel, music or the arts.

4. At what age did you know you wanted to be a lawyer?

I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I knew I wanted to be a lawyer. It was probably not until some time after I went to college. However, I specifically recall my parents’ friends and my sixth grade teacher telling me, when I was 11 or 12, that I ought to be a lawyer because I liked to discuss politics, and would argue with anyone, particularly if something struck me as unfair.

5. You were born and raised in greater Boston, crossed the river and attended Harvard University and Harvard Law School, and you have practiced in Boston since starting your career. You and Mark live within earshot of Fenway Park. You’re a connected Bostonian. You go to the South Coast on weekends. It’s apparent you love Boston and the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Tell us what is magical to you about the, indeed your, city and state.

I really do love Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. They’re magical because they boast four, beautiful seasons and are inhabited by people who are diverse, hard-working, and resilient. Our former governor used to say “Massachusetts invented America.” While we have a deep respect for the past, we are also firmly focused on the future and have an entrepreneurial spirit supported by some of the finest educational and health care institutions in the world. We also love being able to travel from the city to swimming in the ocean or skiing in the mountains in less than two hours. Champion sports teams are a relatively new phenomenon, but add to civic spirit. We are Boston strong!

6. How should a trial lawyer face his or her fears?


7. What book should every trial lawyer read?

Just Mercy by Bryan Stephenson.

8. Of all the accomplishments in your career, what do you consider your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement probably is that I have remained fully engaged in the practice of law, the life of my family (which inspires me daily), and my community for more than 30 years. My mother used to say that half of life is just showing up.

9. To what destination do you go to find your own version of solace?

I go to the ocean, particularly the South Coast of Massachusetts. It is a healing and restorative place and its sights and sounds always provide me with a special kind of solace.

10. What is your greatest extravagance?

Travel – I love to go where I have never been and to experience new cultures.

11. If you could meet anyone from history, who would it be, and why?

Jane Franklin, Benjamin Franklin’s sister. Jill LePore’s Book of Ages, a poignant account of her life, left me wishing I had had the chance to interview her.

12. Litigators tend to travel a great deal. What are some of your favorite cities or places, other than Boston, and what fascinates you about them?

I have particularly enjoyed traveling to Hong Kong, Shanghai, Taipei, Hanoi, Mumbai, and Moscow. The sights, sounds, and cultures of each were so different from those of Boston that they appealed to my sense of adventure. I recall being particularly fascinated by: the extreme wealth and poverty that co-exist in Mumbai; how differently lawyers and judges are viewed in Moscow, as compared to the United States; the sheer numbers of people living in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Hanoi, and the hopeful entrepreneurialism of Taipei.

Italy remains my favorite place outside the United States to vacation, however. The food, music, and culture of Florence, Tuscany, Positano and Puglia have seemed surprisingly familiar and comfortable and vacations there have been particularly relaxing. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in a large, extended, Italian-American family.

13. I once practiced with a fantastic, though legendarily difficult trial lawyer named Olin Zeanah. One of my partners at that firm, beginning when we were associates, kept a list of "Zeanahisms." They were little gems of knowledge that Zeanah would occasionally impart. Did you have a trial icon or mentor in your early years of practice who shared with you the wisdom of years of practice? If so, please tell us about them.

The judge for whom I clerked, W. Arthur Garrity, Jr., was an early mentor. He taught by example and encouraged me to “be involved in the significant events of our times.” He also once told me that after many years of practice, he had learned that “no one in this world is indispensable.” I understood him to mean that we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously or forego opportunities to experience life outside of work in the mistaken belief that we are the only ones who can perform it.

14. What has been the biggest change in the way law is practiced between the time you first began until now?

Technology, including advances like email, has greatly changed legal practice. When I first began practicing, it seemed we had more time to think before responding.

15. What intrigues you about prior generations of trial lawyers?

Their level of commitment as “citizen lawyers.” Prior generations, including Hale and Dorr trial lawyers like Jim St. Clair, Harold Hestnes and Jerry Facher, just seemed more engaged in their larger communities, and to take their responsibility to perform pro bono work more seriously, than my generation.

16. Diversity, along with excellence and integrity, is central to the LCA's mission and plays a fundamental role in our selection of Fellows, growth, and goals. We want to quote you on diversity in the next issue of Litigation Commentary & Review, as well as in the Diversity Law Institute's website. In a word, sentence, or paragraph, what, in your opinion, is the significance or importance of furthering diversity within the profession of law and throughout our system of justice?

Respect for the rule of law depends on furthering diversity both within our legal profession and throughout our justice system.

17. You have told me that one of your goals as LCA President is to bring recognition to jurists you have met internationally who respect and are committed to the Rule of Law. Please tell us about some of those individuals.

I suspect I referred to lawyers from other countries whom I first met as an ALI Fellow last year. They taught me about the ever-present and pernicious effects of impunity, which leads to the absence of the Rule of Law and to rampant corruption, on daily living within their countries. One of these lawyers, Alfonso Carrillo, courageously sought to reduce impunity and promote the Rule of Law within Guatemala by formally requesting the removal of corrupt judges and public officials under his country’s Constitution and the appointment of an independent attorney general, judges and magistrates. In the process, he accomplished significant change, restored badly-needed hope among his fellow citizens, and earned the respect and admiration of his ALI colleagues.

18. How would you like to be remembered in life?

I’d like to be remembered as someone who loved and was loved.

19. Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket, and why?

It depends on what you most enjoy. Both have beautiful beaches and stunning sunsets. Martha’s Vineyard has more people and things to do than Nantucket.

20. What is your motto?

Anything worth doing is worth doing well - and as soon as possible.


 By G. Steven Henry