Titans of Transition

10. Don Frederico - Class Action Litigator and Mediator, Former Boston Bar Association President

November 17, 2020 Joe Miller
10. Don Frederico - Class Action Litigator and Mediator, Former Boston Bar Association President
Titans of Transition
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Titans of Transition
10. Don Frederico - Class Action Litigator and Mediator, Former Boston Bar Association President
Nov 17, 2020
Joe Miller

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Episode #10 Summary
 Joe is joined by Don, his long time friend and high school classmate. Don and Joe share a love for music and guitar dating back to those high school days. They went separate ways after graduation and pursued very different careers. They re-connected at a high school reunion several years ago and picked right up where they left off. In this episode Don unpacks his career and life transitions. He is a highly successful Boston litigator with a specialty in Class Action defense. He also counts pro-bono and non-profit leadership as some of his greatest successes including work with the Boston Bar Association and Chair of the Board of Trustees for The College of Wooster. Whether you are a lawyer, interested in law as a career or anyone seeking to understand and learn how to successfully navigate career and life transitions you will gain great insight from this episode!

About Don Frederico
"I serve as Co-Chair of Pierce Atwood's nationally ranked class action defense practice. For more than twenty years, my class action practice has covered a wide variety of industries and substantive areas of law. I work closely with clients at every stage of a class action lawsuit, and have appeared on their behalf in federal and state courts across the country. I also am available as a class action mediator, bringing to bear my experience in mediating and settling class action lawsuits to help both sides arrive at settlements that will gain court approval."

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Resources and References
A Paper Chase: 
A Civil Action:
The College of Wooster:
Cornell Law

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Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

Episode #10 Summary
 Joe is joined by Don, his long time friend and high school classmate. Don and Joe share a love for music and guitar dating back to those high school days. They went separate ways after graduation and pursued very different careers. They re-connected at a high school reunion several years ago and picked right up where they left off. In this episode Don unpacks his career and life transitions. He is a highly successful Boston litigator with a specialty in Class Action defense. He also counts pro-bono and non-profit leadership as some of his greatest successes including work with the Boston Bar Association and Chair of the Board of Trustees for The College of Wooster. Whether you are a lawyer, interested in law as a career or anyone seeking to understand and learn how to successfully navigate career and life transitions you will gain great insight from this episode!

About Don Frederico
"I serve as Co-Chair of Pierce Atwood's nationally ranked class action defense practice. For more than twenty years, my class action practice has covered a wide variety of industries and substantive areas of law. I work closely with clients at every stage of a class action lawsuit, and have appeared on their behalf in federal and state courts across the country. I also am available as a class action mediator, bringing to bear my experience in mediating and settling class action lawsuits to help both sides arrive at settlements that will gain court approval."

Watch Video Version

Resources and References
A Paper Chase: 
A Civil Action:
The College of Wooster:
Cornell Law

Support the Show.

Titans of Transition Podcast Episode 10 - Don Frederico
Transcript disclaimer: This transcript was based primarily on an automated process from the audio recording.  Errors maybe present. 

Joe Miller: [00:00:00] Welcome to episode number 10 with Don Frederico class action, litigator and mediator, former Boston Bar Association President. In this episode, Don unpacks, his career and life transitions is a highly successful Boston litigator with a specialty in Class Action defense. He also accounts pro-bono and non-profit leadership as some of his greatest successes, including work with the Boston bar association and chair of the board of trustees for the college of Wooster.

Lora Miller: [00:00:45] 

Welcome to Titans of transition, featuring real life stories, anecdotes and inspiration about pivotal career moments from leaders who have been there. Join host Joe Miller, former scientist and senior technology leader turned executive coach. As he unpacks transitional moments to help inspire change.

Joe Miller: [00:01:23] Hey, Don. Welcome to our Titans of transition podcast. Joe. It's great to be here. And it's great to see you. Of course. Yeah. So full disclosure, Don and I are friends going a number of years back in the past, we were both in the same high school together; played little guitar together at that time. And a few other things we might touch on.

but we lost track of each other after high schools, or we went different directions. but I was glad, Oh gosh, it's probably about seven or eight years ago now, Don. I think when we first, when I first came back from one of the high school reunions and was able to reconnect with you.

Don Frederico: [00:02:01] I think that's about right.

Yeah. And then you came down to where I live. That's right. Oh yeah. We connected there as well. 

Joe Miller: [00:02:11] Yeah, that was great. as couples and it was really good to reconnect at that time. and our careers went very different directions. And so, one of the things in this podcast that, I hope serves everyone is I'm really looking to bring out.

Transitions as the name implies, but I know that a lot of people are having a lot of change thrust on them right now with the COVID situation and job losses, potentially making quick pivots to work from home, maybe even starting your own side hustle at home, those sorts of things. but over the course of our careers, we, lots of times we think that just going to go in a straight line and they don't often go that way.

It's more of a meandering journey. Of discovery and, I've had a number of people reach out to me as part of my coaching practice and ask me, for help, try and discover what their next move should be. So that's why I started the podcast. And so, although our backgrounds and our professions are much different.

there’re common themes that are coming out through these episodes and Don, so I'm sure that people will. connect with you, even though they may not, might not all be attorneys not being in the law profession. There’re way too many jokes. There's way too many lawyers jokes out there. So, Don, why don't you take us back to, maybe some influences or some other things that were going on in high school as you started thinking forward in where your career might take you?

Don Frederico: [00:03:38] Yeah. I've thought about this a bit, Joe, and there was. There were a couple moments in high school that I thought were pivotal for me, and I thought might be worth talking about. and the first had to do with somebody, you know, and I know Ruth bear. so, for the people who don't know Ruth bear, we had, we had a great theater program in high school and you, and I were both part of it.

Ruth bear was our, drama director and drama coach. And, we also had Bill White, who was an incredible music director and they both were so good at connecting with us young high school students. and I remember, we, the musicals were the highlight every year of the program. I always was intrigued by that.

I liked musicals. They were very popular in high school. The kids who were in them, had a great time and, we're also popular in a certain crowd. And there was just a lot of attraction to being part of these excellent productions that the high school did. I was probably a little more in a shell, I had never acted before and probably was a little bit on the shy side.

Although I also did perform with guitar and singing, and I also did have parts in our choral production. So I wasn't, unused to being on stage, but. It took me a little bit to actually get up the nerve to try out for one of the productions. So, I just remember, I have this vivid memory of being in the auditorium when Ruth bear was talking to the students and trying to encourage people to take the risk and try out for a production.

and I remember one line she said, and it stuck with me my whole life. And it actually propelled me, pushed me forward to make, take some risks at different times in my life. She said, if you don't extend yourself, you haven't lived well. And that line, I just never forgot it. and so, I had been.

Involved, in theater only because I did stage crew. We did carousel, I think our junior year. And, I still didn't have the nerve to try out then. but I did have friends who were on stage crew and as you'll recall, Joe week, we actually had a carousel date. We did. and we moved it with ropes and pulleys, and we had some, pretty great.

Guys who led the stage crew. I didn't have those skills, but it didn't matter. I could pull a rope. so, I did stage crew backstage for carousel, but then after that session where Ruth said that line, I decided, okay, I'm going to try out. and so, I think the first time I did, I got up. A walk-on very quick walk-off role in, the production we did as Archibald MacLeish is JB.

And then, we had tryouts for George M musical about George M Cohan. and, for the audition, I got up the nerve to try out for the audition. I brought up my guitar, I sang a song on guitar and I ended up getting the second male lead role in the play, which. Was really somewhat transformative for me.

It really pulled me out of whatever shell I was in and gave me a lot of confidence, that I don't think I had before I did that production. 

Joe Miller: [00:07:29] I'm just going to interject real quick right now, because I think this, statement that Ruth made to you was really huge because, it's really true. I think if we lay back and always.

Play it safe. Don't take any risk. We really do dampen what our possibilities are and the other side, once you get on the other side of it and you get through it, even if it's not perfect, it makes such a huge internal deposit into our confidence because we can look back and say, I did something I never thought I'd ever do.

And I'm okay. I made it and maybe even it was really good and your case, it was really good. I think there's a tendency. 

Don Frederico: [00:08:15] And if you don't do it. You might go the rest of your life. Not willing to take risks. 

Joe Miller: [00:08:19] Regret. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So sorry to interrupt but go ahead. no, that was good. Yeah. 

Don Frederico: [00:08:25] So then I, I did that production.

I got a good role in the following production, which was 12th night by Shakespeare. but yeah, Ruth bear was influential, and that line just kept coming back to me every time I had a significant decision to make all through my adult life, whether to extend myself, whether to volunteer for something, for example, or as you say, just take a risk.

Yeah. So, the other thing that happened in high school that made a real difference in my life. and, I think everybody has these little stories. This just happens to be mine, but it was the decision about where to go to college. I was first-generation college. I had an older sister who went to college.

She went to a big state university in New York. But there weren't many people in my family who had gone to college. My parents didn't go to college and I really didn't know much about college. I knew. What interested me and what didn't interest me. I knew that I did not want to study science, for example, it just wasn't something that particularly, yeah.

And, I was good at math, but I didn't want to study math in college. I knew that I liked literature. I knew that I liked, the arts, I like theater. I like poetry. I like history to some extent, although probably not as much in high school. So, I went to a college fair. And you might've been there.

I don't even remember where it was or who was there, but it was our high school. Brought buses of people I think, or maybe we drove to a college fair and there were tables of different colleges. I didn't, I knew I wanted the liberal arts. I also. Like you, Joe, and I don't mean to put you on the spot, there was a strong religious component to my upbringing, and I was interested in finding a college that had a strong religion department.

So that was important to me. And I was at this college fair, not really knowing exactly which schools I should be looking at. And a friend came up to me and said, Don, you should go look at the college of Wooster. And this is the liberal arts college in Wooster, Ohio, which was affiliated with the Presbyterian church at the time and had a very strong religion department, but also an excellent liberal arts program.

And it was about the right size, about 2000 students. Actually, it was a little smaller than, so I went to the table. And I liked what I saw. I ended up visiting the college. I only applied to two colleges when I was in high school, which is today it's unheard of, can students apply to 12 or 18 colleges, but back then we didn't do that.

And I got into both of them and had, struggled a little bit with the decision, but I chose to go to the college of Wooster. And it was because of this little. Brief, 30 second, 20 second conversation I had with a friend who steered me in that direction. And it really affected my life in a lot of ways.

Not only was it a great place to go to college, a great education, but my son ended up going there and it was also a good experience for him. And I also ended up on the board of trustees and I'm now in my fourth year as chair of the board of trustees. But the whole point of this is all of that happened because a friend happens to plant a bug in my ear that carried me in that direction.

Joe Miller: [00:12:20] Yeah. And it's interesting because I have almost exactly the same kind of story you met. Anne might not even know, but someone in high school, I was trying to figure out where to go. And he said, I got accepted here, at this particular school. And I ended up applying and going there.

So, it. years later I thought was that smart because you wonder, it's almost like when you think about meeting your spouse or other decisions like that, or you think should I have looked a little bit harder when my lights have taken a completely different direction or not? I don't know if you roll through these questions in your mind, they're not, but they have gone through mine.

Don Frederico: [00:13:00] it's the road that taken. We can be very happy with the decisions we made, not knowing whether we might've been just as happy with the decisions we chose not to make. 

Joe Miller: [00:13:10] So we don't have to live all those parallel universes. Do we. 

Don Frederico: [00:13:14] That's right. 

Joe Miller: [00:13:16] So you went to, now the pronunciation, I get it confused with the school.

Not far from where you live. 

Don Frederico: [00:13:22] Wooster. 

Joe Miller: [00:13:23] Okay. So, what happened? So, drop us in there. Let's hear. 


Don Frederico: [00:13:28] Well again, of course, like everybody else there were more to be made. so, I went there, wanting to maybe major in religion. Maybe major in English literature. I hadn't really started thinking about law very much yet.

and the reason I was thinking about religion was there was a part of me that thought, I want to go to seminary and become a Protestant minister. Now I grew up Catholic it's kind of interest. So that was interesting. Yeah. So, it was different, and. I'm sure if my parents were here, they would say they weren't too happy when they heard me talking about that.

that was what I thought I might've wanted to do. And by the end of sophomore year, you had to declare a major and I did some soul searching and I basically said, I didn't grow up in the Protestant church. I'm not sure. I'm really cut out to be a minister anyway. And I chose to minor in religion and to major in English.

So, then the question became, what do you do with an English degree? I loved studying literature. I'm sure. I learned a lot about writing, at Worcester, both in the English department. And in other courses I took. But I also was starting to develop a little more interest in the law as a possible profession.

Joe Miller: [00:14:55] How did that come about? 

Don Frederico: [00:14:57] So it was always in the back of my mind. I still remember when I was, if you really want to go back. When I was in fifth grade, we did a mock presidential election. I think we were in fifth grade. around the 1964 election 

Joe Miller: [00:15:13] that sounds about right. 

Don Frederico: [00:15:13] Hate to you there, Joe. so, our teacher in my class, had us do a mock election and I ended up giving a campaign speech for somebody in my class who was running for president. And, our parents are, the mothers came. I don't think the fathers were very many fathers were there, but I remember one of my friend's mothers coming up to me and saying, you should be a lawyer after she heard, is this another one of those things where someone said something to you and planted it's a new plant.

but that was, I don't think I took it very seriously at the time. but then, it’s an odd story of how I got more interested in law. And it was a lot of different influences. I was interested in politics. I was interested in American history. I was interested in doing something that helped people.

that was my motivation when I thought I wanted to be a minister. and I knew that lawyers could help people. so, I studied. in one class I read about the Sacco and Vanzetti trial in outside of Boston. I think it was in the 1930s. and that was an interesting story about a trial. I think even before high school, I read about the Chicago seven trial and I'm excited that its now going to be a movie.

And by the time people see this, it will already have come out. I had read a book about the Scottsboro boys and the civil rights issues arising from that case. and, and then there was this guy that came to our campus named William Stringfellow, who was a lawyer theologian. And he had, come as a theologian in residence for six weeks.

He was connected to the Berrigan brothers. So, they were very much a part of the anti-war movement. I think one of them, I think it was Phillip, but it might've been Daniel. I don't really remember was a fugitive from justice. And I think Stringfellow was a friend of his, for his, what he did with draft records during the Vietnam war.

And, but Stringfellow had these really interesting ideas about. About faith and the Bible and how it all connected to politics and law. He had practiced in Harlem after graduating from Harvard law school to provide services to poor people who couldn't afford lawyers. But then I don't know what he did after that.

He wrote books and, hung out with Berrigans. But I met with him, at one point when he was on campus and he gave me some advice that was helpful. I think. and then the other thing that I laugh and it's strange to think that this motivated me to go to law school, but I saw the movie, the Paper Chase.

Joe Miller: [00:18:05] Oh boy. 

Don Frederico: [00:18:06] That's which came out, I think when we were in college. 

Joe Miller: [00:18:08] Yes, absolutely. That was a huge movie. Yeah. Especially with the professor, that professor, what was his name? I can't remember. 

Don Frederico: [00:18:17] Oh, the names were great. The professor was Kingsfield and the protagonist, the first-year law student was Heart.

There was nothing subtle about the names. And 

Joe Miller: [00:18:30] I still remember, 

Don Frederico: [00:18:30] and he was the contracts professor. And for people who don't know the story, it's about the progression of this first-year law student at Harvard law school. And his contracts professor, who's the antagonist, just this very prim, proper brilliant well-known guy who teaches with the Socratic method, in contracts, law, which is by the way, a great way to teach.

and it paints this really grim view of how awful law school is. and of course, Heart goes on to and overcome all the pressure to that. What you have to do is really get the great grade and the great grade will give you a great career. And he becomes the hero because he transcends all of that by the end of the movie.

but it's grim and it made me want, I go to law school. So, go figure, 

Joe Miller: [00:19:22] I just want to point it out. I'm hearing. Through your story, deep curiosity, propelling you into your discovery process. it's just something I wanted to point out is, and then maybe that's a lesson is pay attention and don't be afraid to commit your time energies into exploring.

Don Frederico: [00:19:48] Yeah, I've always, I thought, it's funny that you say that because I've always thought that curiosity is a key to success in life. And I see people who aren't curious, and I think they're not really going to do anything very spectacular with their lives. And I've always been a very curious person.

I not sure I've done anything spectacular, but I think I've all right. 

so, what I mean, this. individual coming on campus, seeing the Paper Chase, these things were coming together in your thing. Okay. You got something else? Go ahead. 

yeah, so the more pragmatic side of this. Oh, I was torn. I go on and get a PhD in literature, and or I go to law school.

I either become an English professor or I become a lawyer. So, I sent away for an application to the graduate program in English, at the university of Wisconsin, Madison, my professors, I was at a Midwestern school. They, some of them had gone there and had a great program and they recommended it and the application came back and there was a little piece of paper stapled onto it, which said, we’re advising all of our applicants that our graduates are having trouble finding jobs.

Like I said, I guess I'm going to, it was that easy. Wow. Yeah. so, I don’t know, I don't know that there's any lesson to be learned there except you go where the opportunities are, right? Yeah. how did you get, what was the next step in the process in terms of going to law school, then? How did you even know how to approach that? 

I did well on the LSAT, I was so unserious about it, that I didn't begin to prepare for the LSAT until the night before it was given. but I still did. Okay. And I ended up applying to five law schools at the end of the day. I got into three of them. And I ended up deciding to go to Cornell, which was as you know, it's upstate New York.

We grew up in Rochester. It was an hour and a half from home Ivy league school, beautiful setting and Ithaca New York now. and I, it just felt like the right fit and I'm still actually involved in the, alumni program at Cornell today. so that's all, it was, I tell people. But I wasn't sure I was going to law school until the day I came to campus, but I don't know.

I'm not sure if that's entirely true, but that's what I like to say. 

Okay. Does that mean because you always thought, I can always just take a step back at any time if it turns out to be what I was fearing? It was more like, or what. 

Well, there's another thing. I really wish I had taken a year or two off.

I wasn't ready. I had more growing up to do. I had begun to question some of my beliefs and my values. I really had been in a pretty sheltered setting. All my life. so, I would have benefited from a year or two to mature a little more before I went to law school, but I didn't, I just wanted to go straight through, get it behind me and move on with my life.

And that's what I did. 

Joe Miller: [00:23:02] So when you stepped into it, was it like The Paper Chase? Was it? 

Don Frederico: [00:23:07] I had a contracts professor who taught the same way. Kingsfield taught. 

Joe Miller: [00:23:11] What was his name? John Houseman? Was that what was that the actor? 

Don Frederico: [00:23:15] John Houseman was the actor; yeah. 

Joe Miller: [00:23:16] That's brilliant. 

Don Frederico: [00:23:17] And I remember Lindsay Wagner was in the movie, but I don't re I don't know the name of the other actor, but anyway, Yeah.

So, I had a guy named Bob Summers who was a great contract professor. And he was like Kingsfield you didn't get any warm feeling, nothing. No, it was really all business and it was all Socratic method. And the way the Socratic method works is, and I think a lot of professors still do this, but probably not as many as I used to, the professor will pick on one student.

On one day of class and grill that student for the whole 50 minutes or whatever the length of the period is about the issues that come up in the cases that you read you learned by studying cases. And so, if you're not prepared and you get called on, you're totally humiliated. So, there was a ton of pressure to just constantly.

Prepare for class and Summers. I wasn't really intending to talk about Bob summers, but he was great at it. He was one of the best and, and, but he was stern. And so, you began the year not liking him, hating him to some degree, at least some of us, and. At the end of the year, we gave him a standing ovation.

We loved them so much. We learned so much from the way he taught us, and we recognized, 

Joe Miller: [00:24:46] I think that's, it's true of people who influence us over our lives that push us. To become better than we would have become otherwise, or situation, whether it's a coach, in a sport or a friend or a parent, or, a professor, you rebel in the beginning because you don't want to be pushed.

I think it's human nature, but at the end you can look back and say, wow, we really come a long way. I think I can remember, totally different field. But I can remember it. I went to another, small, faith-based college as well. And I can remember after the first year or so, I was in classes and physics and chemistry that only had a handful of people in them and physics in particular, only three.

And we would hold classes in the student union. And let me tell you, there's no place to hide when you get up to the board to work a problem. So, I, when I got out of school and I was an analytical chemist and started working in the lab, I had people who graduated from top name schools who did well academically on their tests and whatnot.

And they were smart. People don't get me wrong, but the practical applications were missing. I think, and they would come to me. They probably never heard of the school I went to, so it being on the spot and being pushed, whether it's by it, someone outside, maybe it's, this is an outside influence, kind of question or whether it's just yourself bringing that forward, I think is an extremely valuable lesson.

Don Frederico: [00:26:26] So when I went to law school, I had not studied pre-law to the extent there was such a thing as prelaw. I didn't know many lawyers. I didn't know any lawyers. there were no lawyers in [00:26:40] my family. I didn't really know what I was getting into, except what I could glean from the Paper Chase or from books I read or, The news.

and I guess other students who maybe were ahead of me and went to law school a year ahead of me, but so I got there, and I didn't have a ton of confidence. I, there were students in my class who, when they were called on, when it was their day, they seem to do really well. Or they would raise their hands and ask, either ask really good questions.

But what I thought were really good questions or answer the professor’s questions. And I wouldn't always understand what they were talking about. I just assumed these are the smart guys and what, by the way, it was mostly guys back then. I think only about a quarter or a third of our class were women.

It's changed a lot, thankfully since then, but so I didn't have a whole lot of confidence. I worked hard. I tried to keep up with all the reading. I didn't want to be embarrassed in class if I was called on and I expected, I'll get through the first semester and maybe I'll be somewhere in the middle of my class or maybe a little better than that.

I got good grades the first semester and they weren't great. they weren't. But I'm sure I wasn't in the top five people in my class or something, but, but they were good, respectable, decent grades better than I expected. And I started to learn maybe at that point, maybe it was later that the people who were the most vocal weren't necessarily the best students.

and there were other people like me who maybe were a little quieter who ended up surprising people. So, I had, I came out of first semester. With a little more confidence, than I had gone into it. And then I went to second semester and it was more of the same. So, one thing that people need to understand about law school, at least my law school at the time I went, but I think it's probably still very much true.

There's a lot of grade pressure. You're taught very quickly that. Your success in your profession is going to depend a lot on your grades and especially your first-year grades. 

Joe Miller: [00:28:58] Is that that landing a job or just keeping up, or? I’m just curious. 

Don Frederico: [00:29:03] landing a job. And, and what kind of job you get, and you can buy into that or not.

I, I wasn't mature enough to have a lot of perspective. So, I bought right into it. I'm sure there are people who don't have great grades who do really well in their careers. so, I don't put as much weight on that today as I used to. Although when I hire people, I still look for the grades.

Yeah. But so, there's a lot of pressure to get the grades. And here's the other thing, your grade in any course you take was. A hundred percent, your final exam. Wow. Very different than other. Yeah. You don't have papers. You don't have homework. You don't have midterms. You don't have quizzes. It's all one big, it's like winning a case or something.

Yeah. It's a ton of pressure. and I, again, I don't know how much it's changed, but. I think a lot of it is still like that. So, spring semester I have one. What I thought was a good thing happened. I had heard of a professor who was pretty well known in his field and well connected who was looking for us a research assistant to help him during the summer.

So, I interviewed with him and he hired me. And I thought this is great because my alternative was, I was going to go back to Rochester and work in the same factory. I'd worked the night shift in the summer before, and I hated that I really didn't want to do that. And I wanted to move ahead towards a career goal, which this research assistant job would be good for.

Plus, it would have had me in Ithaca in the summer, and there's no more beautiful place to be in the summer than effect in New York. So, I was really excited, told my parents, told my friends just so psyched. And, then we got into final exams and two days before the contract’s exam, he called me and said he was giving the job to someone else.

It was a classmate of mine who was on financial aid and he said, it’s less money out of my budget to hire somebody on financial aid than to hire you. Cause I wasn't on financial aid. I was fortunate enough. My father put me through law school. And so, I was devastated, and again, maybe if I had grown up a little more before I went to law school or might not have had quite the same impact, but he just pulled the rug out from under me and I was distraught.

Now I had to go back to the factory and that was not how I wanted to spend myself. So, I couldn't focus. I was supposed to be, you're getting ready for this important contracts exam. And I would open the case book and I would see the words on the page, but nothing would sink in. And I just couldn't focus the whole time I was preparing.

And then I went into the exam. And I still couldn't focus. I think part of that maybe says something about a weakness in me, but I've never had that experience before or after. it was just this one time and it was horrible. So, I came out of that exam knowing I had done poorly, very poorly. and I also knew that I had three days to prepare for my next exam, which was constitutional law.

Now contracts was a two credit course that semester in constitutional law was four credits. So, it was worth twice as much as that contracts exam was in terms of your overall GPA. And I probably spent the rest of the day after that exam, just licking my wounds, but. As soon as the next day came, I got up early.

I had breakfast. I sat at my desk with my casebook in front of me and my notes in front of me. And I didn't move for 12 hours or no, probably 18 hours, study from about seven in the morning till midnight or 1:00 AM. And I did that three days in a row. Cause I was determined to have a better experience with con law.

And I went into the con log exam and got the best grade I'd ever gotten on anything in my life. and, and so that was, that turned out to be really, I think, really important for what happened to the rest of my life. 

Joe Miller: [00:33:38] so yeah, no, yeah, it's just it's I think those are, that's a deep experience, even though how many decades that's been. And even though you immediately, within days you flipped it into a positive learning story, success story, it was a deep cut. 

Don Frederico: [00:33:57] it was the failure, and I passed the test and contracts. So, it wasn't technically a failure, but it was, that was the lowest grade I'd ever gotten.

Common-law was the highest grade I'd ever gotten. And it was feeling that I had failed. In that first experience that propelled me to Excel when the second. 

Joe Miller: [00:34:23] So that's a big lesson, I think. Yeah. Yeah. And I'm sure a lot of us, who are listening in and have had similar lessons, but never wasted those kinds of situations because it would be easy for you to say all the heck with it.

I'm done, I'm just, and then sail your way out. It would be an open door for. A left turn, another road traveled if you really let it get to you. Although it did stun you for a while, 

a couple of days, anyway. 

You’re like woah, What, how, you know it, there was that period of time, because you were putting so much into going back home and not going back home and staying in Ithaca, staying at Cornell and, having that position there.

And I think emotionally you had a lot wrapped around it. And so, when that outcome was taken out of your control, because of the situation that was there's good reasons for those decisions. You can't argue with that, but to you, it was like, there's nothing I can do here. This is right. So that happened.

And then that distracted you. And then we regress. 

Don Frederico: [00:35:33] you and I have talked about this before, there's this one writer that I told you about who, talks about the importance of suffering. Yes. Now this wasn't really suffering. It might've been suffering for two days. not a big deal, 

Joe Miller: [00:35:46] still counts, 

Don Frederico: [00:35:47] but that's so much of our growth in life.

And our development in life depends on having suffered suffering actually. Can be a necessary thing to growth. And this little incident I had this failure I had on this one exam really was key to me, turning things around in law school. and where that led is important. So, one other story I'd like to tell you is, so the other thing about law school is.

That every law school has publishes scholarly journals about law. They are run by students with a faculty advisor and the students do the editing. They do, they write some small articles for it, but the articles come from law professors all over the country and it's a lot of work. But it's very prestigious to be selected, to be on one of these journals.

Every law school has what they call the law review, which is the top journal, the most prestigious of the journals, but there are also other very good journals that are not law review. and there are different ways students are selected to be on a journal. and the way it worked at Cornell, when I was, there was some students.

Got onto a journal strictly because their grades were that good that they would be selected on grades and students who didn't make it on grades would be able to enter a writing competition. And then students would be that their writing would be judged by students a year ahead of them who were already on the journal.

And then they would either be invited to join or not. So, I remember distinctly. This one day when I was back in Rochester, it was a Saturday, my friend, Bob, who you also know. And, his friend, Dave, who was a year or two behind us in high school, but they were close friends. and Dave, by the way, was planning to go to law school and did go to a very good school and had a very successful career, but they came over to my house and there were.

The mail was on the counter. And so, there was this one letter on top that was from the Cornell international law journal. Now Cornell had a, the Cornell law review, but they also had the international law journal, which was slightly less prestigious. But it was still an excellent journal. And the students who were on the editorial board of the law journal international law journal also were very good students.

and the ones I know had great careers, the law review was just a little bit more prestigious. So, I saw the international law journal letter and I opened it up. And Bob and Dave were right there, and I said, Oh, this is great. I made, I LJ. This is wonderful. It's not as much work because they only publish two times a year as opposed to six times a year.

but I'm really honored that my grades were good enough to get me on and I don't have to go into a writing competition, and this'll be a great experience. And then I noticed another letter and I think it just said Cornell law school on it. And I opened it up and I was invited to law review based on my grades.

And I was shocked. I thought that contracts score was going to keep me off, but that con law scores probably put me over the hump. Wow. So again, it was, and then, I can tell these stories, but the end of the day, having made law review made a lot of difference in the direction and trajectory of my career.

Again, because I buy into that whole grades are important. Law review is important. Getting the big job at the big firm is important, which is, I don't necessarily feel the same way about that today because there are a lot of lawyers who do a lot of great things, were not on law review and, and some of the things they do are more important to society than what I was doing at big law firms.

But that's a whole other story

Joe Miller: [00:40:07] But from the paradigm 

of the, that you were in the middle of at that time and the way success was defined. 

Don Frederico: [00:40:15] Exactly. 

Joe Miller: [00:40:16] That was absolutely true. 

Don Frederico: [00:40:17] Yeah. Yeah. It really is. Absolutely. But how you define success. 

Joe Miller: [00:40:20] Yeah. as you have some level of success through your life and you look back, you begin to think, what do I really feel the most positive about?

Is it those, you know, I, my first, Titans interview with was with this guy, Bob Tipton, and he has this little story where he started working at home? After he, he formed his own business, he had his home office, he was setting his home office up. And Bob shout out to you, buddy. because I think this ties in really kind of tie it here.

I didn't think I was going to talk about this. His wife is studying. She was an artist, and she was setting up her studio and he got his is put up all of his accolades, all his awards, all those recognitions, plaques, all those things. You know, you put them up on one wall and he went upstairs and to his wife Debbie's studio and she had some art, but she had all these photographs of the family and children.

And that was one moment for him where he went downstairs and took everything off the wall that he had on the wall, because to this point that you're bringing forth, you know, and that is at that time, that's what success looks like. But as we get further down the road, I know you want to talk about this a little bit, so I'm surfacing it up.

Other things are as, or more important. So anyway, let's, let's segue, unless you have something else to say about that and talk about stepping into, you know, going further and lending your first job along the same paradigm. I'm sure. But, and how you got into the specific type of practice. Yes, sir.

Area of law that you ended up going into. 

Don Frederico: [00:42:06] Well, I always knew if I went into law that I'd want to be a litigator. I mean, the rest of it didn't interest me. I just, and the image you always have of lawyers on television and everything else is lawyers who go to court and try cases. So that was always what I saw I would do.

There was this cultural sense that you wanted to be when you're at a school at Cornell, that the natural thing you're gravitate towards, if you're able, is the big law firm and then. In Cornell. It was also the big New York law firm, New York city. There were a lot of, you know, I don't know the numbers, but I would guess half of the students in my class were probably from New York city or maybe not quite that many, but, and New York was where the big wall street law firms were.

So those were viewed as the best jobs to get. By a lot of us, you know, some of us were smart enough to know that there were better types of things to be doing with the vodka. so, I, yeah, I just fell into that hole current. and actually, now I was on law review. It opened a lot of doors. I mean, firms were really looking for people on law review and again, the other journal also, those people were in pretty high demand.

so, I ended up getting a job with a New York law firm. I still remember going down to New York to interview with this wall street firm. And I mean, they were literally we're at one wall street and, I, I had the interviews and then they took me to this wonderful lunch. And then we went back to the office and they offered me the job.

For the next summer, this would be the summer after second year. And I, what I did with that was I went to the world trade center and for the first time in my life, I went to the top of the world trade center and looked over Manhattan. And I just thought I'm on top of the world. This is great. It was kind of cool.

Yeah. but so then. I guess the next summer I was in New York working at that firm. And the other thing you learn in law school is that it's nice. If you can, to get a clerkship with a judge for the year or two after you graduate, some clerkships are one year, some are two years, and those are very competitive as well.

And the most in demand ones were, with federal judges. I decided I wanted to be in New York or Washington DC. And so, I w you weren't supposed to apply before a certain day. So, I waited and then I sent out my resume to all the judges in the Southern district of New York, all the judges on the second circuit court of appeals and all the district court and appellate.

Federal appellate judges in Washington, DC. And I got nothing out of that. I mean, Oh, what I got where I got some letters back saying we, like two days later saying we've already hired our clerks, which I thought, well, how did that happen? Because we were told to apply until two days ago. So that was another kind of minor.

Failure in life, I guess you could call or lack of opportunity.

Joe Miller: [00:45:40] Disappointment. 

Don Frederico: [00:45:41] Yeah, disappointment. That's the word. You know? so in the middle of the summer in June, I reached out to one of my law professors and I said, well, what do I do now? I, you know, I wanted to be in these courts and I'm not going to get that job.

And he said, well, there's a judge in Boston named Joe Tauro. Who is a Cornell alum and he's a fairly young federal district judge. And every judge has two clerks and in Boston it was one-year clerkships. So, he always hires one Cornell clerk. So, I sent a letter to him. I sent him my resume. I got a call from his secretary.

You said the judge would like to meet you. And I went the summer ended. I went back to Rochester and then I had the interview with the judge in Boston. So, I flew out to Boston for the interview. It was the first time I ever seen Boston, Massachusetts. I had this misimpression of it as well. If you didn't go to Harvard law, don't bother practicing on, which was totally wrong.

but so, I had no interest in it, but I applied to judge Toro. I met with him in his chambers. it was the last day he was doing interviews the last day he was interviewing for clerkships. he told me at the end of the interview, he knew I was not going immediately back to Rochester. I was meeting a friend for lunch before I flew back.

He said, well, before you go to the airport, call me and let me know. he said, I want you to know how hard this job is. I expect my clerks to work nights, weekends. it's going to be very challenging and I don't want to hire somebody. Who's not willing to make that challenge. So, he said, co, think about it and then call me and tell me if you want me to still consider you for the job.

So, I said, okay. I knew I wanted the job. I had nothing to think about. Sure. I'll work nights and weekends for you, judge. so, I had lunch with a friend and then from Quincy Market in Boston and I found a payphone and I called back and talked to the judge. I said, yeah, I'm still very much interested in the clerkship.

And he offered it to me on the phone. So, I went back to Rochester and saw my family and just told them how thrilled I was that now I had this wonderful clerkship. And that's what brought me to Boston after I graduated law school and I've been here for more than 40 years now. I met my life here. We had our kids here.

My whole career has been in Boston and it was all because the judge, I got this clerkship with a judge. It was because I didn't give up after getting all those rejections. 

Joe Miller: [00:48:29] Yeah. I mean, he's, it's not like you, he would have just because of the relationship with the school, he was just going to go with that.

I mean, 

Don Frederico: [00:48:38] no, because he interviewed other people from Cornell too, you know. 

Joe Miller: [00:48:42] So, so, that was. Going into junior year. Is that right? Am I tracking? I'm sorry, law school. Sorry. 

Don Frederico: [00:48:54] The interview with the judge with between second and third year, and the clerkship was, after I graduated and I had a summer to play with, so I actually worked at a big Chicago law firm, the following summer, which was also a great experience.

And then, During the clerkship I had to decide, I could go back to the New York firm. I could go back to the Chicago firm. I could, interview with Boston law firms. I saw one law firm try a big case in front of the judge. And ultimately, I interviewed with them, decided to stay in Boston. They made me an offer and I decided I liked Boston.

I love Boston and I decided to stay. And that's where I spent the first eight years of my practice. 

Joe Miller: [00:49:34] Wow. Wow. That's huge. If you think back to that transition from, you know, you had your paradigm was setting you towards New York and you were going in that direction, then you ended up in Boston.

That's a shift, right? And then 

Don Frederico: [00:49:58] you're either a Yankees fan or a Red Socks. 

Joe Miller: [00:50:01] There's that 

Don Frederico: [00:50:02] a lot of Yankees fans at Cornell school. 

Joe Miller: [00:50:05] Yeah. There's definitely that. as you look back on that, what would you say were the primary reasons that you ended up in Boston? I know that the clerkship came about.

I know that you had to have the grades and get, you know, getting in the law review, being part of that, was important. But how do you think that transition really came about? Was it just based upon your academic success? Was there anything else going on there? I'm digging a little deep here, Don.

I'm just wondering

Don Frederico: [00:50:38] the decision to go to Boston and not New York.

Joe Miller: [00:50:40] Yeah. Because you could have said, I just don't want to go to Boston. 

Don Frederico: [00:50:45] Yeah. Yeah. And actually, I was even thinking of going back to Rochester, Joe. I had opportunities there as well. you know, I spent the summer in New York, so they paid me well as a summer associate, but it's not like I was wealthy or anything.

And it was, I just thought if, well, the main issue, it wasn't that. Not having a lot of money in New York is a bad experience because it's not for a lot of people, but it was really the nature of the job in the New York law firms at the time. you spent the first three years just, or more just doing really uninteresting work and all around the clock.

it was really a really long hours. 

Joe Miller: [00:51:32] It's kind of the stereotype, isn't it? Yeah. 

Don Frederico: [00:51:34] Yeah. And the opportunities for advancement in any big law firm were limited. And you know, it was just kind of that mentality. Now, when I went to the law firm, I went to in Boston, that was also one of the best law firms in Boston.

And they were kind of known at the time for working their young lawyers really hard. And I guess I was willing to do it because it wasn't. For you still, it wasn't as difficult maybe as the New York law firms, but also you were getting better experience. 

You were getting into court a lot more 

Joe Miller: [00:52:09] Were you getting more broad exposure?

Don Frederico: [00:52:12] Yeah. Yeah. And the law firm I went to, I mean, some of the best trial lawyers in Boston were there and I just learned so much, it was such a great experience. I also just thought the city was a lot more manageable. New York was a little overwhelming. I mean, I didn't have a car. I could never get out of the city. so, Boston was just much easier to manage.

Joe Miller: [00:52:33] So, so we've really traversed a lot. We talked a lot about law, right? So, no. And I mean, I obviously 

Don Frederico: [00:52:40] That's my life

Joe Miller: [00:52:41] That's your life. That's where you've spent your it again. And just to circle back to the beginning of this. This might resonate more for folks in this profession, but I'm asking listeners to think about some of the things that you're hearing about these transitions that are going to take us back to what, Ruth Bair said to us said to you, right?

Because I had this thought when you're talking about Boston, that maybe there was a little bit more of a risk there. Of going there in some sense, because it wasn't on the paradigm. Everybody was going down to New [00:53:20] York. Right. And so, for someone who is lays back and doesn't dip your toe over the end of the surfboard, so to speak, and oddly, you know, you might view yourself as someone that makes that really hard, but you've met a couple of shifts that had been a little bit on the edge, and they paid off.

Don Frederico: [00:53:40] Yeah, I think so. 

Joe Miller: [00:53:41] Yeah. so anyway, just a thought, so what type of law did you settle into, into, or did you shift around a lot or have you stayed in the same? of course, no, the answer, 

Don Frederico: [00:53:51] well, I've always done litigation. and a lot of it has been big cases. I've always been interested in the big case.

although some of my more fun experiences have been with smaller cases that went to trial. So, I went to, an excellent firm in Boston and I got in my second year put on a huge case. Well, it was, I mean, I'll name it, because people might be familiar with it if you've ever. Read the book or seen the movie, A Civil Action.

I was on one of the defense teams, in that case and it was hard. it was just a ton of work. fascinating. It was, you know, there were, I had some emotional reactions at first about getting involved on the defense side of that case. but, but I 

Joe Miller: [00:54:41] was this. what area again? Are we talking about?

Litigation? What area? Yeah, 

Don Frederico: [00:54:46] so this was toxic tort litigation. Okay. This was a case tragic case where it was brought by families who had people, mostly children who had contracted leukemia and they blamed it on contamination in a couple of municipal Wells. And they blame the contamination on a couple of companies, and we represented one of the companies.

so, when I was first asked to work on the case, I thought I don't want to work on that case. I knew I really didn't have much of a choice. So, I did. And as I got more into it, I began to think, wait a minute, what our client didn't cause those leukemias. So, I feel better about working on the case.

And it's a long story I won't go into, but. But I got to work with a lawyer named Jerry Facher who was played by Robert Duvall in the movie. 

Joe Miller: [00:55:38] What was the movie? The name of the movie. 

Don Frederico: [00:55:41] A Civil Action.

Joe Miller: [00:55:42] Okay. Well, 

I'll put links to them. 

Don Frederico: [00:55:46] I don't know if I, yeah, I'm in the book, but I, you know, it was like, they, if you looked at.

2000 hours or 4,000 or 5,000 hours. I worked on the case. The author found the five minutes where I was at my worst. Oh, well, but just a very minor character in it. 

Joe Miller: [00:56:03] Okay. 

Don Frederico: [00:56:04] So, so then, you know, it was a firm where I was doing well. I had made junior partner; I was expected to make senior partner. I was getting very close to that happening and I wasn't happy. I was, I just wasn't happy. And I knew that there were some things about that from even though they were wonderful lawyers, outstanding lawyers, culturally, it wasn't the best fit for me. And I just wasn't that happy there. And there were, you know, There's a lot to that. Obviously, I won't go into, but at the same time I was, we had just started our family.

We had our first child, and I wasn't home very much because it was a, from where they, you had a lot of work and they expected you to work very long hours every evening. You were there late. And I wasn't seeing my kid. And so, I started thinking about maybe. Taking a risk and leaving this great place where I seem to have a good future but doing it so that I could have a more balanced life.

and then it didn't seem like that much of a risk because I was, I had an opportunity to go work at the Boston office of a big Chicago law firm. That was every bit as good as the one I was leaving. It's just that it was. The Boston office. It was a small office since it wasn't the main office, which was a risk, but, but I agonized over it for a long time.

I made pros and cons lists and ultimately, I decided to take the jump and I, so I did, and I was at that law firm for about 17 years. And then 

when I was there, because I had worked on that toxic tort environmental case, I really started doing a lot of environmental litigation. In one of those cases, it was a case against the entire oil industry.

And we represented one big oil company and it was a class action. And I didn't know much about class actions, but. I, we would have meetings of all the lawyers across the country who were representing all the oil companies. And I was impressed at how much these guys knew about class actions and how interesting that whole field was.

And I decided, I think I want to focus my practice on doing class action defense work and that's what I've been doing for more than 20 years. 

Joe Miller: [00:58:37] So when you made that pivot or started focusing, how many years into your profession were you roughly?

Don Frederico: [00:58:46] At that point, I was about 17 or 18 years in that's quite a good, yeah.

I was doing general commercial litigation before that and environmental litigation, but yeah. Yeah. So, it was recognizing. And then I had an opportunity that I just seized upon. I had a partner in our Boston office. Who was representing a group of pharmaceutical companies in the diet drug litigation Phen Phen people might remember that.

And there were a large number of class actions in that case, it was in a federal court in Philadelphia, and we were one of the lead national firms for this one group of pharmaceutical companies. And there were class certification hearings coming up. And somebody had to argue these very important motions.

And my partner said, do you want to do it? He knew I wanted to develop an expertise in class actions. And I said, Oh yeah. So, I ended up being lead national class certification council for this group of pharmaceutical companies, which really helped me develop both experience and branding in my area.

and kind of got me started down that road and then here's where we can take a turn. 

Joe Miller: [01:00:09] Yeah. I'm wondering when this other thing might've come about. So, this is just a professional track, right? So, yeah. 

Don Frederico: [01:00:15] Yeah. So, I started, so that's really been my professional focus for all these years. but the turn is that I also remember, I wanted to go into the ministry to help people, right.

I always had this public interest side to me. And so, I was interested in the bar associations, the Boston bar association in particular, I had co-chaired one of the committees with underneath a section and that was a great experience, but it occurred to me that. The BBA didn't have a class actions committee and other bar associations did.

So, I had a friend who was headed the litigation section of the BBA that year. He had been in my first law firm. That's how I knew him. And I called him up and I said, Jack, the BBA needs a class actions committee. And he said, well, that's an interesting idea. Let me take it back to the steering committee and get back to you.

And he called me back a couple of weeks later and said, Don we agree. We want to have a class actions committee, and we want you to chair it. And I said, great. Now do you hear Ruth Bair's voice there. 

Joe Miller: [01:01:27] Oh 


Don Frederico: [01:01:27] "If you don't extend yourself, you haven't lived". So, I extended myself. And what that led to was I chaired the class action committee brand new committee.

Then I moved up a step and chaired the litigation section. I was asked then to be on the editorial board of the BBAs journal, the Boston bar journal, I was asked to be the editor in chief of the journal. I was asked to be chair of the nominating committee of the BBA. I was asked to be treasurer of the GBA.

And then finally I was asked to become vice-president, which meant you go from vice-president to president elect to president. I'm pretty much an automatic track to be president of the Boston bar association. It was all because I made that little phone call to Jack Regan. I said his last name, it's my friend Jack.

And, and suggested that they needed a class action committee. And again, I'm sure Ruth Bair was talking to me when I made that phone call. 

Joe Miller: [01:02:35] And that opened up a lot of other relationships and opportunities to meet some really notable leaders in the country. 

Don Frederico: [01:02:43] it, you know, you meet with a lot of the judges is, you go to Washington once a year and you meet with your congressional, con group in Washington.

So, I, you know, I had a meeting with Senator Kerry. I had a meeting with our congressmen. I don't think I got to meet Senator Kennedy, unfortunately, but. but I've seen him speak in other settings and, yeah. and you get to contribute to all this good work that your organization does. That's the most important thing.

you meet lawyers all over the city of Boston, in all different fields, not just the big law firms, but the real heroes who are representing poor people facing evictions or. immigrants who are having visa problems or veterans coming back from the middle East Wars and, who need legal advice that the military isn't going to pay for?

I got, I wasn't doing that work, but I got to know the lawyers who were, and I got to support the work they were doing. And that's the exciting thing for me. In any volunteer opportunity is the people you meet and the way it extends a network, that's not necessarily going to help you professionally or financially, but it helps you personally, just to know that there are all these good people out there volunteering their time for important causes.

And so that's the, that's what makes my life rich. 

Joe Miller: [01:04:11] Yeah. Well, I can hear your passion coming through and I'm sensing. Two different threads coming together. Now finally, 20 years in whatever it was when you first were in the bar association, when you are seeing the work that they're doing on the pro bono side, when you're doing pro bono kind of work, And it's a demanding profession.

As you said yourself, he made some decisions, leave one firm to go to another. So, you could see your child and your wife. I mean, it's a huge impact on your family life. You know, you think, you know, it's a challenging profession, you can't keep that pace up and great. Everything's on track professionally things going very well, but there's still something missing.

And this is something that comes forth in my conversations. Is there something missing? So, people, when they approach me, they go, I think I need to make a shift. I go, what's going on in there? there's something, some abrasion, there's some unmet something in you now, as you've just gone through, I hear the passion.

I see the connection. Yeah. Yeah. 

Don Frederico: [01:05:20] I mean there's more to life, right? It's not, it shouldn't all be about just putting your head down and doing your work and making a living there. You should be giving back, especially if you're fortunate, like I've been, you should be giving back. and I just think that enriches your life in ways that can't be measured by dollars and cents.

And so, I've done that, you know, I, the thing I'm proudest about in my career was really in addition to the Bar Association was a big pro bono case. I did, from the late nineties to the mid two thousands, I put in a lot of time on a big pro bono case for a low-income group in Boston that had their homes flooded with raw sewage.

When there was a 100-year storm that caused the sewer system to overflow and they were in a very low-lying neighborhood, with where that could happen. And we brought suit against the sewer agencies that we felt were responsible and we ended up after years of effort getting them a good settlement.

I'm more proud of that than just about anything I've done, in my professional life. And then, you know, The, the other piece of it is you can give back through your professional activities, but you could also give back in other ways. And the other place that has really enriched me has been my board work at The College of Wooster.

Yeah. where I'm supporting, an institution of higher education. And I place a lot of value on education, but I'm also working with some. Amazing people both within the college faculty and administration, but also on the board. And it's a labor of love, you know, and that's what makes it all worthwhile for me is being able to do things like that.

Joe Miller: [01:07:13] That's great. That's great, Don, this has been really good. Now I think it might be good just to pivot now a little bit in the conversation and talk about maybe some themes or some lessons learned and. You know, those are the kinds of things you might want to thinking back over the conversation.

And your reflection are things that you would say to yourself as you were starting out with the benefit of hindsight or someone else who's starting out, things to keep in mind to inform of maybe a smoother path. 

Don Frederico: [01:07:48] Well, I wouldn't want to smooth the path too much, right. Because I think having those rough spots can actually help you as long as you're willing to learn from them.

But, you know, I guess as I thought about this, my own personal story, it did a few themes. Did kind of emerge. One is, phrase, no man is an Island. Or maybe I should say, no person is an Island. I didn't get any success in life without the help of other people. And I didn't get to the places where I did find joy and satisfied action without help of other people.

I needed people to help me, people who were ahead of me, who pulled me up, people who were maybe behind me and pushed me forward. people who were alongside me and join me in whatever work I was doing. So, I had the benefit of. Great teachers in college and law school, great teachers in my law firms who trained me and just, a lot of good people around me.

So that is one lesson is you don't do, you don't succeed on your own. You succeed because you're part of a team of people and because you've had help from them, other people, I guess corollary of that is being open to outside influences, you know, being open to the person who says, go look at that table at the college fair, being open to the person who says, if you don't extend yourself, you haven't lived, being open to the law school professors as applied to this judge for a clerkship, you know, you need help making decisions.

I got a lot of advice along the way. Not all of it was good. I probably followed the bad advice as much as I followed the good advice. But you need that. You can't do it on your own. not giving up resilience, the importance of being resilient. I mean that again, I don't know where my life would have gone if I hadn't bounced back from that bad experience with that one exam.

Probably it would have gone fine. Maybe it would have been better. I don't know, but I know looking back, I'm glad that I was able to respond to adversity, in the way that I did. And I think it's not you just can't give up, I hear Peter Gabriel seeing the sun, right. Don't give up.

But you can't give up when you face adversity. If you want to move forward, it's really important how you respond to it and you can overcome adversity. You can overcome failure or disappointment. if you are willing to make the effort to do that, knowing yourself, I mean, I left my first law firm, knowing that or at least believing, knowing that I wasn't happy there at the time and believing that I probably never would be even if I had stayed. and that was just personal to me. I know a lot of people who stayed at that law firm who have been very happy and have done very well. And again, it's a wonderful place in many ways, but for me, I knew that.

It wasn't going to be the right place for me. Long-term and I made, I was willing to take the risk to get out. 

Joe Miller: [01:11:05] Yeah. It just, wasn't a good cultural fit, all of that. And I think that's an important element. Yeah. 

Don Frederico: [01:11:13] Yeah. And then giving back, you know, it's, again, the most rewarding experiences of my life have been.

Doing that big pro bono case. volunteering my time at the Boston bar association, volunteering my time with the college of Wooster, that people look at me and sometimes they think I'm crazy. Why would you want to be chair of the board of a college? You know, that's so much time and you're not, what are you getting back from that?

Well, I get a lot from that. And, even if I wasn't the chair just being a member of the board, I got a lot out of that and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. So that's it.

Joe Miller: [01:11:49] You know its kind of the view of the end in mind, right? It's the Stephen Covey thing. What's your legacy going to be? And in my experience, legacy isn't in positions or titles, it's not in the kind of car you drive, it's it lives in people, lives in communities and things that you have done to help others.


Don Frederico: [01:12:08] Well, and that's an important lesson for people our age too, I think. And maybe people a little younger than us is, a lot of my focus when I was President of the Boston Bar Association was trying to figure out how to help new lawyers who were coming out of law school at the height of the great recession when law firms weren't hiring at all and were actually laying off a lot of people.

And, and then trying to help younger lawyers in my firms to develop. it's reaching down, you know, I w I benefited from people who reached down to me and now it's my turn to reach down and try to help the people who were still earlier in their careers than I am. 

Joe Miller: [01:12:49] Kind of the old we've been talking about movies.

That's kind of the pay it forward concept really pretty powerful. It is. It really is. Yeah. Don, this has been great. It's been so good. I mean, I've. You know, we've talked, you know, over the years a little bit, but I've never gone this deep with you. And it's been, very rewarding for me to hear more about your story.

I know there's tons more in our preliminary conversation. We're trying to think about how much would we bring in, but I think this is going to really serve folks. Well, Yeah. So, everyone, I will leave references that I think would be helpful in the show notes for you to make it a little easier for you to find books, movies, whatever it might be.

and we'll provide some of these key points that, Don sharing from his journey in life and his transitions and these really important lessons. I'll pull those out for you in the show notes. So, thanks again, Don, for being on Titans of Transition. 

Don Frederico: [01:13:47] Thank you, Joe. My pleasure. 

Joe Miller: [01:13:49] Hey, thanks for joining me today on Titans of transition.

I hope you enjoyed the episode. Please check the show notes for additional information also, please like, and subscribe to this channel.


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