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Bold Types

Clients’ cyber attacks turn lawyer into a go-to expert

Chris Morris for the Boston Globe

Some attorneys brag about client lists stacked with Fortune 500 companies, the hottest start-ups, or big-name celebrities.

But if you’ve landed on the roster of Doug Meal, a lawyer at the Boston firm Ropes & Gray, you’re probably not happy to be there.

Meal and his team have become the go-to attorneys for retailers, hotel chains, and supermarkets hit by cyber attacks — and the slew of lawsuits from credit card companies and consumers that have followed.

His clients include the victims of some of the biggest data breaches in recent years, including Target (at least 70 million consumers affected), Sony (100 million affected) and Home Depot (56 million affected).

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“Last year,” Meal said, “was a very busy year.”

So how does a corporate lawyer become an expert in data-breach cases?

It started Dec. 18, 2006, when Framingham-based TJX Cos., already a client of Ropes & Gray, called to say it had experienced a data breach and needed advice. A month later, the parent company of the off-price retailers TJ Maxx and Marshalls disclosed the incident, which would turn into one of the largest cyber thefts in history. The attack exposed at least 45.7 million credit and debit-card accounts to possible fraud.

TJX spent millions to settle the case, including the $40.9 million it paid banks and card companies that had to eat the cost of fraudulent purchases and replace compromised cards.

The case was so large and unprecedented that it provided Meal and his team of lawyers with a crash course on every facet of a data breach, from what companies should do to protect information to what regulators expect. The firm now devotes more than 20 lawyers to the violations side of the practice.

“One thing led to another, and it kind of snowballed,” Meal said. — DEIRDRE FERNANDES

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Coming soon: a governor with a shaved head

So is the governor a little nervous about his date with the razor?

Charlie Baker heads to Quincy on Tuesday morning to join Granite Telecommunications CEO Rob Hale’s fund-raiser to benefit Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. For the second year, Hale’s company will donate $5,000 for every person who agrees to have his or her head shaved. Hale says nearly 550 employees will participate, and Granite plans to give nearly $3 million to the cause.

Baker and Quincy Mayor Tom Koch will be there, getting their impressively full heads of hair shaved down to buzz cuts. (Tough break for Koch: It’s an election year in Quincy.)

Hale said he wasn’t sure if he would hold this event again — until Baker told him last year that he would get his hair shorn for Dana-Farber if he won the governor’s race. Baker’s pledge helped serve as a catalyst to bring the event back this year. (Hale’s son Trevor is holding a similar event at Deerfield Academy this week.)

The pending haircut was certainly on Baker’s mind Thursday, when he was approached by an Emerson College student on Tremont Street outside an event. She wanted a photo with the governor. Baker graciously complied — but not without mentioning how the photo could be a collector’s item of sorts. “By the way, that’s going to be one of the last selfies of me with a full head of hair,” he told her.

The student didn’t know what to say. Was Baker telling her that he might be going bald? She did her best to reassure him: “No!” she said, never losing her smile. “You’re awesome!”

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Baker quickly clarified. Don’t worry, he said, I’m getting a buzz cut for Dana-Farber. Translation: It will grow back, eventually. — JON CHESTO

Ex-Middlesex prosecutor leaves Nixon Peabody

One year after Scott Brown left Nixon Peabody to run for the US Senate in New Hampshire, another prominent former politician is walking away from the Boston law firm.

Unlike Brown, Gerry Leone has no plans to get back into politics.

The former Middlesex district attorney, now 52, plans to join Consigli Construction Co. in Milford on May 4, as vice president of people development. Leone’s last day at Nixon Peabody is April 17.

The new job grew out of a lunch that Leone had with company president Anthony Consigli around the corner from Nixon Peabody’s Financial District office late last year. The two friends are former football players and often talk in sports lingo. In this case, Consigli was talking about wanting to hire a head coach of personal development for the 800-person company, the state’s second-largest general contractor, after Suffolk Construction.

It didn’t take long for Leone to realize that this seemed like it could be a fun job. (An added plus: The office isn’t far from Leone’s Hopkinton home.)

Nixon Peabody will still have a few prominent former public officials once Leone leaves. They include Brian Kelly, the former federal prosecutor who led the Whitey Bulger case, former state rep Jim Vallee, and former state revenue commissioner Navjeet Bal. — JON CHESTO

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Upgrading a websitewith a 1917 kind of look

If you’re wondering how to do meaningful corporate volunteer work, consider how MetroCreate Studios has done it.

Each year since 2009, the small Cambridge marketing firm has developed a free website for a New England nonprofit. This year’s winner, chosen from 30 applicants, is the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, which is headquartered in Roxbury and offers free workforce development training.

MetroCreate’s founder and CEO, Eric Wing, said the Urban League was selected largely because of how primitive its current site is. “If the Internet had been in existence in 1917, I’d guess that’s when its website was from,” he joked.

If you think that’s a bit harsh, it’s gentle compared to Urban League development director Nancy Rachel Rousseau’s critique.

“If you saw our website, you’d wonder how we stay in business,” she said. “It’s extremely embarrassing. But the problem is [an upgrade] costs a lot, and we can’t raise money that easily for that sort of thing.”

That, and the organization doesn’t have in-house technical expertise.

So she applied for MetroCreate’s free program, and when she learned her application had been picked, “my first reaction was to cry,” she recalled.

Wing estimates the value of the work at $5,000. And heads up, nonprofits: He’s already accepting applications for next year’s free website program.

Past beneficiaries: ArtSpace Maynard, Cambridge Art Association, Framingham Education Foundation, Maynard Family Association, Spontaneous Celebrations, and Vincita Institute. — SACHA PFEIFFER


Can’t keep a secret? Tell us. E-mail Bold Types at boldtypes@globe.com.

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