Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Encomium to Hon. Harry M. Grossman

Nicholas P. Shapiro

Editor’s Note:  These remarks were delivered by REBA Clerk Nicholas P. Shapiro at REBA’s 2023 Annual Meeting and Conference on November 6, 2023.

“It is my profound honor to introduce the Honorable Harry M.

Grossman, this year’s recipient of the Richard B. Johnson Award.

“I had the invaluable experience of interning and clerking for Judge Grossman at the beginning of my legal career. He has been a precious mentor to me throughout my professional life. Mentorship is a hallmark of Richard B. Johnson Award recipients, and Judge Grossman honors past recipients with the indelible imprints that he has made on innumerable lawyers’ careers and lives.

“Stretching back centuries, with Inns of Court and apprenticeships, mentorship has always been an essential ingredient of our professional community. Apparently, the term “mentor” comes from a character in the Odyssey who was the trusted advisor of Telemachus, Odysseus’s son, in his father’s absence. Obscured, but present, in this lofty, mythological history is the intensely personal quality of the mentor’s role in the mentee’s life today. Mentors are trusted advisors in family’s absence. Mentors are like professional parents or older siblings. Young and new lawyers do not obtain their JDs, pass the bar, and are, then, fully formed legal adults. Like all children, we need people to teach us things that you cannot learn by reading law books: values, ethics, philosophy, and that most uncommon of professional virtues, practical common sense. What type of lawyers do we want to be? How do we want to treat each other? On paper, zealous advocacy can lead to non-collegial and even antisocial results, if a sage mentor is not there to show the young or new lawyer how our obligations to clients, the courts and each other, frequently at abstract odds, can be reconciled. Judge Grossman defines the sage mentor.

“I shudder to think how I would have come out, if I had not had a legal father like Judge Grossman. I cannot think of a better teacher of values than Judge Grossman. Through an extremely varied and long career in the law, from being a young litigator at Brown Rudnick, handling the types of cases that young lawyers are often called upon to try—ones that more senior lawyers seek to avoid—to holding some of the highest-level legal posts in state government, such as the Department of Revenue’s First Deputy Commissioner and the General Counsel for the Executive Office for Administration and Finance, to serving on Marblehead’s Zoning Board of Appeals, to taking the seventh seat on the Land Court bench pursuant to the Permit Session Act, Judge Grossman has seen it all, dealt with almost any imaginable type of legal scenario, and most importantly never lost track of what matters, his values and his integrity.


“Even after retirement from the bench, Judge Grossman’s service and contribution to our real estate bar have continued apace, as he is one of REBA DR’s most prolific neutrals, helping people to this day find a way to bridge their divides and resolve their disputes.

“I have no qualms about making a shameless pitch for Judge Grossman as a REBA DR neutral because I have seen, first-hand, what he brings to any situation and legal dispute: high intellect, hard work, integrity, mutual respect and compassion. The man’s legacy also continues to this day in this very room, with other leaders of our Association and legal community, such as Kim Bielan, Kathleen Heyer, Crystal Huff and Keeley Rice; all excellent lawyers and pillars of our community who got some of their first, practical legal experience in Judge Grossman’s chambers.

“I am sure that he will bestow some of his wisdom on us with his remarks. But, let me briefly share what I learned from Judge Grossman—the values, handed down by him, that I aspire to keep close to my heart as I proceed through my professional life. First are diligence and preparedness. While lawyering may seem glamorous in public discourse, the essence of being a good attorney is hard work and, quite-frankly, drudgery—being willing to read everything when others may not. The answer is frequently found in the needle in the proverbial haystack. Second are independence and integrity. We take an oath not just to our clients, but to the rule of law—we are officers of the court, with special duties of candor, and to the effective administration of justice. Third and most important is humility. It is very easy given the special position of lawyers in society, and the pomp, circumstance, and rituals of our legal system to lose track of our basic humanity—to come to believe in our own hype or that we are special, different and better than everyone else. Humility means that we do not know or have all the answers, and treating every person, regardless of their role or station in society, or a given organization, with the same basic and essential dignity and respect. As Judge Grossman would frequently remark, we all put our pants on the same way; one leg at a time. Any special privilege that we lawyers have been given is just that: a privilege and, with privilege, comes great responsibility—responsibility to strive to prove that privilege has not been wasted on us.

“How do we strive?

“We practice these values, handed down by our mentors such as Judge Grossman, as best as we can, knowing that our practice of these values is always aspirational because we humble ourselves to our privilege and to the challenge of being attorneys worthy of our bar admission. Thank you, Judge Grossman for being such a wonderful and peerless role model, friend, mentor, and legal father to me and to others who have worked for and with you, and for your immense contribution to the real estate bar.”