George Cushing
George Cushing

(Foley Hoag 1975-1989)

Trusts and Estates Lawyer
McLane Middleton

 

In the Beginning

I started my legal career in 1970 at Hill & Barlow, which had a strong Trusts & Estates practice group. After the enactment of ERISA in 1974, I became their chief expert on those sweeping new rules. However, I was frustrated because the firm was not encouraging me to stay. So in the Spring of 1975, I began looking for a firm that would appreciate my interest in T&E and related tax matters. Eventually I found the path to Foley Hoag & Eliot (as it was called back then), which turned out to be looking for a fifth year T&E associate without having yet advertised the position publicly. I was told by my law school’s alumni placement office to “call Jerry Preston.”  I did, and was invited to meet with him.  After our meeting, Jerry told me “If we had been advertising the position, we would have written your resume.”

I officially started at Foley in September 1975.  There were probably 40 to 45 lawyers, possibly more. In those years, the office occupied the top three floors at 10 Post Office Square in Boston, and was managed by a group of senior lawyers who were self-appointed. The head of this management group was Hans Loeser, who practiced administrative law. A major client at the time was Boston Gas. Although there were no formal “departments” at Foley back then, the Trusts & Estates practice group I was joining consisted of Jerry Preston, Hanson Reynolds and Debbie Willard. Shortly after I arrived, we hired our first T&E paralegal, Meg Cabot.

Hitting the Ground Running

Foley was where I learned how to practice trusts and estates law; I learned by doing. Over time, I became a true specialist in T& E matters, including estate planning, estate administration, as well as probate litigation and trust administration. In particular, I enjoyed the degree of independent responsibility that I was granted in managing the cases to which I was assigned. Under Jerry Preston’s guidance, I set up and oversaw - as an associate lawyer - the administration of trusts of which a member of Foley was acting as a fiduciary. I was elected to partnership at the end of 1979, and became the T&E practice head in 1986. That same year, I was also elected a Fellow in the American College of Probate Counsel (now the American College of Trust & Estate Counsel, or ACTEC).

George Cushing circa 1988

 

 

 

 

George Cushing
circa 1988

Looking Back

When I joined Foley, it was a highly regarded place to practice law with a reputation for hiring the smartest law school grads.  It was also reputed to be willing to become involved in a number of public causes, such as the Boston school desegregation litigation, and many of its lawyers were actively protesting the Vietnam war. Getting a job there was thought to be difficult, and it was rumored that they didn't take lateral lawyers. There was a high level of collegiality among the lawyers, both partners and associates and both inside and outside my practice group. The firm was growing rapidly, and there were quite a number of young lawyers who were around my age.

Socialization outside of work was common. Each month, there was a firm lunch at the Downtown Harvard Club (which rented space on Batterymarch Street behind our office). The firm encouraged associates to participate in Bar Association activities and in CLE, as well as softball after work in summer and basketball in the winter. The associates also organized an annual Red Sox Opening Day event, during which the game was televised in a large conference room and a variety of traditional ballpark snacks were provided. Associates were also called on to prepare a skit for the annual holiday dinner party, which was attended by all lawyers and their spouses.

Here and Now

I was with Foley for 14 years, up until May 1989 when I moved my practice to Day, Berry & Howard. After lengthy stints at DBH and K&L Gates,  I joined the McLane Middleton law firm in 2011, where my law practice remains challenging and rewarding, both professionally and economically. This July, I will be entering my 50th year in law practice, with my focus continuing to be on a broad range of T&E practice issues. Whereas I hadn't developed much of my own business during my years at Foley (where most of my work was either generated by the senior lawyers in the T&E and corporate departments or by Lewis Weinstein - who was a one man department!), I began benefitting from referrals from other lawyers as I reached my mid-fifties (and my hair began to turn gray).  My membership in the ACTEC led to a number of referrals from outside of Massachusetts and I started working with some of the major fiduciary institutions in the Boston area on fiduciary disputes and probate litigation matters.

My reputation grew throughout those years, and in recent years I have been engaged from time to time to act as an expert consultant/expert witness in tax and probate law matters, such as interpretations of legal instruments, reasonableness (or not) of attorneys’ fees, legal malpractice and the like.  The highest profile matter in which I have appeared was the recent CBS litigation in Delaware, in which I acted as an expert on Massachusetts law issues on behalf of a Massachusetts trust which was a party to the litigation.  Although I’m not at liberty to discuss the details, I was pleased that the case settled within three days after we filed our Rebuttal Report.

One of the great pleasures I have had in my law practice has been my role in educating young lawyers, both through mentoring various associates over the years and through teaching CLE programs and participating in other educational activities, including teaching Advanced Estate Planning at the BU Law School's Graduate Tax Program.

Looking Ahead

Having just attained the age of 76, I wonder whether I am honest with myself about my own capability. I love going to work and dealing with the problems and situations that I encounter in my practice, particularly the expert witness segments (more arrived earlier this month). I don’t know when I will begin to truly “slow down,” but I’d like to try to keep going for a while longer, so long as I don’t lose my intellectual edge. I hope that the others with whom I work will gently tell me when that begins to happen.