Sidley recently marked its 10-year anniversary since opening an office in Boston. On this occasion, we spoke with Liz Fries, the managing partner of Sidley’s office in Boston, the global leader of the firm’s Investment Funds group, and a member of the Executive Committee, about the rapid growth of the office and what sets it apart, as well as a few highlights from celebrating over a decade in Boston.
As you look back on the growth of the office over the last 10 years, what are some of the highlights?
When Sidley opened its Boston office in 2013, there were five lawyers working on securities regulation. Today, we have more than 40 lawyers with experience across a range of legal disciplines, including life sciences, investment funds, private equity, insurance, commercial litigation, energy, and securities regulation and enforcement, and have increased the partnership ranks in Boston to 14.
In 2023, we welcomed our largest summer associate class to date with 11 law students. This fall, we have six first-year associates joining our office, which will bring our lawyer headcount to nearly 50.
We’ve also been heavily focused on creating the infrastructure to support our rapidly growing office. We added an office manager and recruiting, IT, billing, and marketing and business development professionals on the ground, all of whom help our legal team and clients be successful. In 2022, we extended our footprint — taking over the entire 37th floor at our 60 State Street office to add a cafeteria and to accommodate our planned future growth.
You have served as managing partner of Sidley’s Boston office since 2019. How do you see the office continuing to grow in the years ahead?
Sidley’s strengths are well suited to Boston’s core industries — life sciences, biotech, healthcare, financial services, and technology — which we expect will continue to create long-term demand for our team. We are particularly focused on expansion in the life sciences industry, which, despite economic headwinds, remains robust. As private equity transactional work picks up after a brief pause, our strong, stable, and diverse practices allow us to continue to capitalize on opportunities to invest in this area.
While we aren’t striving to reach any specific size, we are always looking for lateral partners in our strategic practice areas who are a good fit culturally, and for young lawyers in whom we can invest and help develop into the next generation of firm leaders. These two strategies have been very effective for us. It’s not the fastest way to grow, but we believe it is the strongest and most sustainable, and we are extremely proud of the team we have built, and continue to build, here in Boston.
We’ve also been working hard to make sure our team receives the local recognition they deserve, which is key to our ongoing efforts. Over the past two years, Kathryn Alessi, Scott Kaplan, Jack Pirozzolo, and Doreen Rachal have all received awards for being at the top of their fields, and Emily Deagen and Louisa Kiu have been recognized as rising stars. We are also excited that our office was recently selected by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly for their inaugural 2023 “Empowering Women” awards. These awards are a general supplement to our global and national rankings, such as Chambers and The Legal 500.
Finally, our lawyers are active in the community, with several serving in leadership roles at the Boston Bar Association, Greater Boston Legal Services, and the New England Legal Foundation.
How would you describe the office culture?
First and foremost, our office, like Sidley overall, is defined by our deep-seated culture of collaboration and collegiality. For those of you who remember the television show “Cheers,” which was set in Boston, we are an office “where everybody knows your name.” Because of our size, we truly know each other, not just as colleagues, but as people. We know each other’s stories and families — spouses, children, pets — and we genuinely support each other and enjoy practicing law together.
Our tight-knit office culture provides many opportunities for our team members to participate in high-level client activities, business development, and leadership, and our clients have the best of both worlds — access to Sidley’s global platform with a stronghold in our local community.
Can you share with us some of the interesting local work the office has been involved with recently?
Jack Pirozzolo is currently representing Vineyard Wind, the developer of an approximately US$3 billion offshore wind project off the coast of Massachusetts, in several matters in the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts that have been filed challenging the permitting of the project by the U.S. government.
Doreen Rachal, along with members of another national firm and several public interest organizations, is leading an important, nationally watched case with the NAACP Boston et al., defending the Boston Public School’s (BPS) implementation of an interim admissions policy geared toward creating racial equity representation of students of color at Boston’s elite exam schools, where the student body does not mirror the city’s diverse population. Her April 2021 win in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts upheld the policy and enabled BPS to enroll a more diverse student population. Doreen and the other team members are now leading the appeal at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Oral arguments concluded in December 2022, and the decision could have broad implications across the country.
The Boston office has had some pretty cool client events recently. Tell us about those and how you celebrated your “big 10” anniversary.
We’ve had some amazing client-centric events over the past year, including two SidleyWomen events at Fenway Park with our women lawyers and clients to see Lady Gaga and P!nk and a client event at Bruce Springsteen’s concert at the TD Garden.
We officially kicked off our 10th anniversary celebration last October with a large event — for our office, clients, and families — at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston for a private viewing of The Obama Portraits Tour. As many people know, the Obamas have a special connection to Sidley, since it was where Barack and Michelle first met, which gave us a unique branding opportunity that we identified well in advance of the portraits arriving in Boston. It was an unforgettable night with 220 people in attendance.
The finale of our 10th anniversary festivities was a family-friendly gathering in July at the New England Aquarium, attended by our lawyers and professional staff, clients, alumni, and summer associates. It was a blast!
The Boston office has formed a relationship with Artists for Humanity. We’d love to hear about that and how the organization was involved in your 10th anniversary celebration.
Artists for Humanity (AFH) is a Boston-based nonprofit that provides under-resourced teens the keys to self-sufficiency through paid employment in art and design. Our first project with them was the commission of 10 works of art for our additional office space. We had a party to unveil the art, and several of the teen artists joined us, which was very memorable. In fact, it was extra special because, coincidentally, one of the artists is related to a member of our firm — which was a welcome surprise and a reminder of all the connections in our Boston community. Plus, the art is fantastic!
AFH also developed a 10-year anniversary commemorative design for us that we are using throughout the year. A group of AFH teen artists joined our aquarium event to guide guests through recreating the new logo on a big panel. It was just for fun, but we plan to hang it in our office. Another group of AFH teens led a paint activity for the children in attendance. A separate AFH paint night for summer associates was also a big hit.
It’s a great organization and we look forward to our ongoing partnership with them.