We admit it. Some people don’t like the name of what has become an annual issue of the Law Tribune.
They ask, what does a “Dozen Who Made A Difference” mean? Does it mean these attorneys made a difference in the legal profession? In the court system? In their communities? In some remote village far across the ocean?
Our answer: Yes, it can mean all those things.
The ambiguity doesn’t bother us. We aren’t really handing out awards here. We’re simply trying to wrap up the past year in a little bit different way. By introducing you to some attorneys who have been involved with some of the big stories or big issues of 2012. And by introducing you to others who are seldom in the limelight, but whose under-the-radar efforts have been — we think — noteworthy.

Below is the list of our 2012 Dozen Who Made A Difference.


Vincent Kiernan Brought A School To A Remote African Village

Over the years, Vincent Kiernan has donated hundreds and hundreds of hours in pro-bono legal services — writing contracts, providing employment counsel, advising on business decisions. This year, Kiernan decided there was even more he and his family could do. And that’s how he found himself in a village in Malawi, Africa, lugging bricks.


Brenda Bergeron Helps Cut Through Red Tape During Emergency Response

When Connecticut confronts a crisis, Brenda Bergeron is on the front lines. She’s the lawyer for the state Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, and she helps coordinate public and private emergency response efforts at the local, state and federal levels, applying her legal skills from the Emergency Operations Center in Hartford’s fortress-like state Armory.


Ryan Suerth Goes The Extra Mile To Assist Military Personnel

After serving five years in the U.S. Army, attorney Ryan Suerth knew exactly what he would do when he began practicing law in Connecticut. He’d find multiple opportunities to serve military personnel and veterans, just as he did when he was part of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate’s General (JAG) Corps.


Michael Jefferson Has His Own Ideas About Addressing Urban Violence

If New Haven attorney Michael Jefferson could make one wish, it wouldn’t be anything for himself. In a city where shootings are commonplace and gang members are a menace, Jefferson has long tired of the standard solution of rooting out the troublemakers and putting them behind bars.


Michael Albis Launches Scholarship For Latino Students

For the town of East Haven, 2012 was a year of identity confusion and controversy. Federal authorities arrested four police officers accused of racial profiling and mistreating Latinos during traffic stops. That was followed by controversial remarks by Mayor Joe Maturo, who answered a reporters’ question about what he would do for the Latino community by saying, “I might go home and have tacos.” That, in turn, was followed by a pro-immigrant march.


Pat Kaplan Spent Decades Fighting For Legal Aid Funding and Clients

When Pat Kaplan began her career at New Haven Legal Assistance Association in 1978, legal aid lawyers weren’t considered equals by their brethren in private law firms. Just over a decade earlier, the group’s first executive director, Fred Danforth, had actually been barred from bar association meetings. “He was not a real lawyer,” Kaplan said, voicing the conventional wisdom of the time.


Visiting Federal Judges Respond to Counter ‘Perfect Storm’ of Setbacks

As September drew to a close, Connecticut Chief Judge Alvin W. Thompson decided to call for backup. Through a combination of bad news and promotions, Connecticut’s federal bench had quickly found itself facing a judge shortage. As a result, federal trial dockets in Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford were in danger of lagging behind the pace required by the federal speedy trial act, which limits the allowable delays in criminal trials.


Yale Prof Tracey Meares Has Authorities Re-Thinking Anti-Violence Solutions

Tracey Meares is a serious scholar. After earning an undergraduate engineering degree, she attended the University of Chicago School of Law, clerked for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, worked as an antitrust attorney at the U.S. Justice Department. Now she teaches at the Yale Law School, where she’s gained a nationwide reputation for her research on police approaches to urban violence.


Chris Meisenkothen Is at The Forefront of Asbestos-related Litigation

At just 38 years old, Chris Meisenkothen has become a go-to guy at a go-to firm for asbestos exposure litigation. Meisenkothen, of Early Lucarelli Sweeney and Meisenkothen in New Haven, manages the firm’s asbestos docket in Connecticut and oversees all of the firms’ asbestos cases nationwide.


Assistant AG Benjamin Zivyon Heads the Team That Handles DCF Cases

To get where he wanted to be in the legal profession, Benjamin Zivyon went to law school twice. The first time was at Hebrew University in Israel. He graduated in 1977 and became a prosecutor, a position in Israel that included participation in some hotly contested family law cases.


John Stafstrom Worked Overtime on the Jackson Labs’ Financing Package

For attorney John Stafstrom, being in the middle of the contract negotiations of large public-private partnerships is starting to become a habit.


Tim Fisher Expands Reach of Connecticut Bar Foundation, and Raises Its Profile

There were times in 2012 when it seemed like Timothy S. Fisher was involved in just about every issue of importance to the Connecticut judicial system. From chairing a committee on judges’ salaries to authoring an amicus brief that challenged the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, the McCarter & English partner had a busy year.


Ted Phillips Works Tirelessly to Boost Local Charities, Assist Store Owners

As long as his friends have known him, attorney Ted Phillips been a volunteer of spectacular scope. “He’s probably done as much pro bono work as he’s done regular work,” said Todd Postler, owner of the Wireless Zone stores in Norwich and Lisbon, and incoming chairman of the Greater Norwich Area Chamber of Commerce. “There’s probably no one I know who gives as much in the legal field.”