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John J. “Jack” Curtin, Jr., figured out how to combine a high-powered private practice and a rich public life. Curtin served as president of the American Bar Association, taught law for four decades at Boston College, his alma mater, and threw himself into public interest law, all while being one of Bingham McCutchen’s most successful litigators. But don’t expect him to reveal his ten secrets of success. “I just did it,” he says. “When things came along that I thought I ought to support, I just did it, and then juggled it all as I went along.” Curtin, 72, says he was drawn to pro bono work by the same desire to work in public service that first led him to law school and then to work as a prosecutor at the U.S. Department of Justice. Since then, he has lent his name, his time, and his energy to cases and causes involving immigration, homelessness, civil and human rights, and the death penalty. Curtin’s roots at Boston College run deep. He is a graduate of its high school, college, and law school. Four of his five children have earned degrees from the institution. In 1964, the year he started working at Bingham, Curtin began teaching a trial practice course at the law school that he still teaches today. A scholarship student himself, he helped create a scholarship fund to help inner-city students attend Boston College. He and his wife have also created a fund to provide support for public interest law students. Of the many public assignments in his career, Curtin particularly recalls his appointment as special assistant attorney general in Massachusetts in 1970. He successfully prosecuted small loan companies on charges that they had bribed public officials. On appeal, the defense argued that a corporation should not be held criminally liable for the unauthorized conduct of its agents. Curtin delivered over three hours of the seven-hour appeal argument. Ultimately the court affirmed the judgment, establishing a precedent for corporate responsibility in Massachusetts. More currently, Bingham McCutchen is involved in a pair of death penalty cases for which Curtin serves an adviser. Curtin, who is still practicing, yearns to spend more time with his family, which includes a dozen grandchildren. But he also plans to keep teaching and doing public service work for such groups as the Center for Human Rights. Looking back on his long career, Curtin says he found enjoyment in almost all that he did: “I think that’s a key to having a satisfactory life.” He does have one piece of advice for younger lawyers. “I tell my associates to do the right thing,” he says. Back to Main Story

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