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Volunteer legal group Green Pro Bono goes international

Chris MorrisNancy Reiner says most lawyers want to have a positive effect on the world.

She knows that some people call her a wishful thinker.

But Boston attorney Nancy Reiner believes many of her colleagues, despite their sometimes rapacious reputations, are idealists at heart.

“I might be a Pollyanna, but most lawyers I know went to law school because they wanted to have a positive effect on the world — or at least that’s what they started out thinking,” said Reiner, managing director of Major, Lindsey & Africa, a Boston legal recruiting firm.

That’s why she created Green Pro Bono, which finds free legal help for nonprofits and entrepreneurs working to fight climate change. Since it was founded in 2009, the all-volunteer organization, based in Cambridge, has done legal matchmaking for 80 organizations, mostly in New England but also nationwide.


For example, a Foley Hoag financing lawyer assisted EGG-energy, a solar power company cofounded by an MIT grad; a Nixon Peabody corporate attorney helped the nonprofit Wakefield Climate Action Project; and a Goodwin Procter media lawyer helped Fosfo (also known as Citizens Market), a nonprofit incubated at Harvard’s Kennedy School that was developing an eco-friendly smartphone app.

Now Green Pro Bono is going international.

Reiner said the group frequently gets overseas requests for help but hasn’t had the resources to accommodate them. But now that most major law firms have an international presence, Green Pro Bono’s legal network is wide enough to assist non-US companies, too.

Some lawyers assume only specialists in environmental or energy law are needed, but that’s not the case, said Reiner, who has also headed the Boston office of Counsel On Call and was a longtime partner at Brown Rudnick, where she worked on the historic tobacco industry lawsuit that landed an $8.3 billion settlement for the state.

“The greatest need is corporate lawyers,” she said, for tasks as varied as processing legal documents, resolving employment disputes, and handling intellectual property issues. “It could be any area of the law.”


Plus, she said:

“Most people feel really good about this work.” — SACHA PFEIFFER

A special place in the hearts — and the wallets

The opportunity to bring back an iconic financial brand from the dead was simply too good to pass up for Joe Piazza.

He was an executive at Robertson Stephens in July 2002 when its owner, FleetBoston Financial Corp., abruptly shut down the once high-flying investment bank that roamed Silicon Valley for big deals. But Piazza never gave up on “Robbie,” as it was affectionately known, and colleagues over the years suggested he revive the company — or at least the part he ran, which managed money for wealthy clients.

Piazza eventually bought the brand name, Robertson Stephens, for $260,000. Two years ago, he reopened Robbie at 555 California St., the same 52-story San Francisco skyscraper where the firm was once based.

The new Robbie is focused on wealth management, not red-hot technology IPOs, for which its predecessor was known.

So far, the company employs 23 people, at least half of them former colleagues of Piazza at the old Robertson Stephens. Many left their jobs to go back to work with Piazza, and he regularly fields calls from other Robbie alums who want to climb on board.

Now it’s returning to Boston, once its second-biggest city. Piazza last month hired away Jerry Nigro and Virginia Madden from UBS to launch a small office at Two International Place. There are also plans for offices in New York, Chicago, and Southern California.


“The respect for our brand is very strong in Boston [and] there’s an increasing amount of ‘new wealth’ throughout New England,” said Piazza, who came out of retirement to run Robbie.

“Things have changed, times have changed [but] they’re different in a good way. I could be the happiest post-retired, 72-year-old on the planet.” — JON CHESTO

At bankers’ group, a new steward at the helm

Back in the 1970s, when he was studying business at the University of New England, James Lively cast about for an internship that would help him pay for his education. The Holbrook native landed a humble job doing a variety of clerical duties at Casco Bank & Trust.

“I was trying to figure out who I was,” Lively said.

He did. The internship launched Lively on a four-decade run in banking, much of it at Bridgewater Savings Bank. He has been president of the Raynham company since 1995.

And now he has another capstone to his career: chairman of the Massachusetts Bankers Association. Lively took over the trade group this month for outgoing chairman Richard Holbrook, chief executive of the state’s largest community bank, Eastern Bank.

“I come from a small bank, so that will be different,” Lively said. “It’s a complicated business. There’s a lot of regulation, and it’s a challenge for a lot of us in community banks . . . but I’m an optimist.”

During his one-year term, Lively said, he expects the association to continue focusing on state foreclosure legislation. It has fought tougher foreclosure rules that several Massachusetts cities adopted after the housing crisis, including requirements that banks enter mediation with struggling homeowners before foreclosing and that they handle the upkeep of vacated properties. — DEIRDRE FERNANDES


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