There’s a court in Hartford where lawyers throw elbows, shove each other around and talk a little trash.
New lawyers are always welcome to join the fray, and so are judges.
But this isn’t a story about an unruly courtroom. This is a story about the Lawyers Basketball League at Wilson-Gray YMCA in Hartford, which recently wrapped up its autumn season.
“It was an aggressive league with some physical play,” said Dallas Dodge, an associate at Shipman & Goodwin who helped create the league this year. “There were people diving for balls and boxing out. It wasn’t quite the Big East Conference, but it was aggressive nonetheless.”
Dodge and Alex J. Marrero, an office management associate at Shipman & Goodwin, started talking about forming a lawyers’ basketball league this summer while they were playing in the lawyers’ softball league.
They found out that the Wilson-Gray YMCA was eager to help them create a league, and the Shipman & Goodwin colleagues went about recruiting teams throughout the Hartford legal community. Play began in late September with teams from Shipman, Day Pitney, Halloran & Sage and Robinson & Cole.
Teams needed a minimum of 10 players and entry fees went toward jerseys and a trophy for the champion. Licensed officials refereed the games, the YMCA created the weekly schedules and a YMCA staffer assisted in running the clock. “When it’s an organized league, you take it more seriously,” Marrero said. “The Wilson-Gray YMCA staff was fantastic to work with.”
Ultimately, Day Pitney won the championship in late November, defeating Halloran & Sage by one point in the final game to complete an undefeated season.
“The law firm basketball league is a great opportunity to see former law school classmates, peers and friends at different firms within Hartford,” said Matthew J. Shiroma, a commercial litigation associate at Day Pitney. “It is also a chance to establish new relationships in a non-legal setting while enjoying a little friendly competition. It also never hurts when the best team wins and goes undefeated.”
Law firm rosters included a wide age range of players, both women and men, and playing time was evenly distributed.
One of Day Pitney’s players was Michael P. Shea, former chair of the firm’s appellate practice group who was confirmed by the U.S. Senate earlier this month as a federal judge in Connecticut.
Steve Fisher, an in-house attorney at The Hartford and former Day Pitney attorney, said the Lawyers Basketball League fills a void in Hartford for competitive basketball among local attorneys. Previous iterations of the lawyers’ league had dissolved over the years from lack of interest.
“Many of the partners at Day Pitney often tell stories of their glory days playing competitive sports against other Hartford firms and attorneys,” Fisher said. “That’s something that has been missing in the Hartford legal community for quite some time, and it’s exciting to see it make a comeback.”
An opportunity to compete in a team sport has plenty of benefits, said Evan J. Seeman, an associate in Robinson & Cole’s land use practice group. “I’ve found that organizing firm-wide sporting events or leagues really bolsters collegiality in the firm,” said Seeman. “It’s great to get to know people from our firm and others through these events.”
He added, “The level of competition was high, but not over the top. In the end, people understand that this is just for fun.”
Kevin Riexinger, an insurance litigation associate at Halloran & Sage, served as captain of what was considered to be the team with the most size — meaning it had the tallest players, not the biggest roster. “The league was a lot of fun and it gives that always-necessary excuse to get together socially outside of the office and talk about something non-work related,” Riexinger said.
Dodge and Carrera of Shipman & Goodwin now are working on planning the next basketball season, which may occur after the holiday season or next fall depending on how much interest there is among lawyers and firms. “The goal is to expand the league to get other teams involved,” Dodge said.
And even the Wilson-Gray YMCA has benefitted from the new Lawyers Basketball League. Shipman & Goodwin has donated money to the YMCA’s Strong Kids Campaign that goes toward creating more programs for children at the local Y. “It’s a way to give back to them for everything they do for us and the basketball league,” Carrera said. •