In Memoriam: Nick Littlefield

February 8, 2017

We are deeply saddened to report that our friend, colleague and partner, Nick Littlefield, passed away on February 4, 2017. He is survived by his wife, Jenny, children Frank, Tom and Kate, and numerous grandchildren.

Nick grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, where he attended the Moses Brown School and graduated from Milton Academy. Nick went on to Harvard College (as a classmate of a number of future Foley Hoag partners including Barry White, John Henn and Phil Burling), and the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Nick initially began his career working on campaigns for Rhode Island’s governor John Chafee and practicing law at a corporate law firm in New York. He then became an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and later Chief Counsel to the Massachusetts Special Anti-Corruption Commission. Nick honed his lifelong passion of combining public and private service as the Edward R. Johnston Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School.  He encouraged students - and also his colleagues in later years - to embrace public service and to have a career of “zigs and zags.” This exhortation was usually accompanied by Nick waving his arm one way for the “zig” and another way for the “zag.”

Nick joined what was then Foley, Hoag & Eliot in 1981, and was a partner from 1982 to 1989. During that time, he worked with Lew Weinstein, Paul Tsongas and many others, advising corporate and individual clients on complex civil and criminal litigation matters. Nick left the firm in 1989 at the request of Senator Edward Kennedy to take the position of Staff Director and Chief Counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources (currently known as Health, Education, Labor and Pensions). While working for the Senate, Nick was instrumental in shaping healthcare and education legislation that would have positive, lasting impacts for generations to come: The Americans with Disabilities Act, Ryan White AIDS Care Act, Food Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, Employee Pension Protection Act, Children’s Health Insurance and Lower Deficit Act, Family and Medical Leave Act, and Civil Rights Act of 1991 - among many others - were all accomplished under Nick’s guidance.

After his public service in the Senate, Nick returned to Foley Hoag as a partner in 1997, serving as chair of the firm’s newly-formed Government Strategies Group.  Nick used his extensive public policy background to provide clients with legal, legislative, regulatory and strategic planning advice in the areas of healthcare, biosciences and technology, education, venture capital and other industries. Notwithstanding his return to private practice, he continued to have a significant role in advocating and crafting healthcare legislation, including the enactment of the Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Benefit as part of the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003; the establishment of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) as part of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act of 2006; and provisions of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (Obamacare). Nick retired from the firm in December 2013, after his illness made it too difficult for him to continue practicing.

During his tenure in the Senate, Nick carried a notebook to every meeting he attended with Senator Kennedy. Putting the shorthand he mastered during his time as Assistant U.S. Attorney to use, Nick meticulously wrote down - sometimes word for word - the Senator's views, comments and objectives.  After years of drafting and redrafting, and even after he had become seriously ill, Nick turned the collection of more than 150 notebooks and observations on the political process into Lion of the Senate, a 505-page book recounting his years working alongside Kennedy. The book received widespread critical praise. The Washington Post called it “Compelling . . . as a story about how the Senate operates - well, how the Senate used to operate - and a story about perhaps the greatest Senate lawmaker of the second half of the 20th century, Lion of the Senate succeeds, and with a writing style that will make it accessible beyond the specialists and political junkies.”

Those who knew Nick well were privy to the fact that, in addition to his public and private service, his true passion was for the performing arts and sports, particularly tennis and the Red Sox.  He performed and sang with Harvard’s renowned Hasty Pudding Club, and spent a year as a professional actor prior to attending law school, appearing in summer stock productions of “My Fair Lady” and a revival of “Kismet” at Lincoln Center in New York. When his close friend Senator Kennedy passed away in 2009, Nick sang “Love Changes Everything” at Kennedy's memorial service. That tribute can be seen here.

Nick had long, distinguished career in both public and private service; the Boston Globe published a piece chronicling just a few of his contributions. Nick epitomized the values on which Foley Hoag was founded.

A memorial service will be held at Sanders Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts on Friday, March 3, 2017, at 11:00 am.

In lieu of flowers, contributions in Nick’s name can be made to the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate – an institution Nick helped to found and which he passionately supported for its role in educating people of all ages about the unique and exciting role of the United States Senate in our democracy.

EMK Institute for the United States Senate
Columbia Point
210 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, MA  02125




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