It’s one of life’s greatest mysteries. Why do children always seem to do the things their parents tell them not to do? Michael Callahan remembers his father, an attorney, telling him and his four siblings never to become lawyers. All but one did. In fact, three of them are married to lawyers, including Callahan, whose wife went to law school after they married.
Callahan grew up outside of Boston and was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in December 1985. He spent two years as a law clerk and chief law clerk to the Justices of the Superior Court and then practiced at two Boston firms. He’s worked for the same organization since 1997 and is now Eversource Energy’s assistant general counsel heading up its Litigation and Dispute Resolution group.
So, why did the elder Callahan attempt to steer his children to other career paths? They aren’t sure. “My dad knew that being a lawyer comes with financial and personal challenges,” Callahan says. “Maybe he thought there were easier paths or careers that would bring more balance.”
It’s a challenge Callahan has had to navigate in his own life and career. After graduating from Suffolk University Law School, he spent two years clerking and then began practicing litigation at two respected Boston-area firms. Before long, the young attorney found himself with a heavy caseload and a house full of four children under the age of nine. Callahan remembers leaving for work before his kids were awake and returning home when they were already in bed. He says the entire family burden was falling upon his wife, and he knew something had to change.
But Callahan faced a dilemma—he loved litigation and knew there weren’t many opportunities to do the work in-house, where his hours and professional demands would be less burdensome on his young family. When he saw a job listing for a litigation attorney at a small utility in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he pounced. Callahan got the job at what was then known as COM/Energy.
For his first years on the job, Callahan operated as the company’s only in-house litigator. That changed in 2000, when COM/Energy merged with then Boston Edison Company to become NSTAR. At the time, senior management agreed it made sense to keep more litigation in house.
In 2010, the makings of a terrific marriage of two law departments and the opportunity to create the current extremely talented and productive internal litigation team came to fruition when Northeast Utilities announced its intentions to combine with NSTAR (to become Eversource) and increase its electric and gas services footprint in the region. As the deal, which closed in 2012, wound through approvals, Callahan worked to demonstrate that keeping litigation in-house would be more cost effective and provide better results than doing everything with outside firms.
Today, Eversource is a Fortune 500 company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Its 9,200 employees provide electric, water, and gas service to 4.4 million customers across Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire.
Callahan’s team is located across two states. Attorneys Janet Helmke, Honor Heath, and Amy Van Dyke, as well as paralegal Jessica Colliton, are in Connecticut. Attorneys Marissa Goldberg and Jonathon Cardosi, as well as paralegal Jennifer Govostes, are with him in Massachusetts.
As the company has grown, Callahan credits his legal department leadership and senior management with having confidence in his team, which has been instrumental in the success of the internal litigation team at Eversource.
“There aren’t many in-house litigation groups in the corporate setting that do what we do, and it’s been especially rewarding to work with this group and the entire legal department,” he reflects. “I truly enjoy the work I do and the people I work with.”
Now, Callahan and his colleagues handle more than 80 percent of Eversource’s litigation matters in-house. Those matters include cases related to general liability claims, property damage, wrongful death, bankruptcy, transactional disputes, employment issues, real estate battles, and customer disputes. When specialized cases require outside expertise, the internal team remains highly engaged and works directly with outside counsel. He confides that as in-house counsel, you are in a unique position to develop strong relationships with key stakeholders which is critical when providing guidance.
Callahan strongly believes that the litigation team has a unique lens into the company that few others have as a result of being exposed to a variety of claims, disputes and litigation. Strong support from leaders and healthy corporate culture are two of the main things that have kept him at Eversource for a quarter century. Executives view legal as a true business partner and rely on lawyers to help spot potential risk and intervene early before they become large problems.
Those working in Eversource’s litigation group are exposed to a wide variety of claims from all parts of the business. That means each person has a unique view into the company. “We each get to work with senior leaders and internal partners, and it’s rewarding to be in a position to help identify and mitigate risk and drive strategy forward,” Callahan says. In his role as assistant general counsel, he works to influence larger decisions while giving his talented and dedicated team the freedom and autonomy to take ownership of the matters they’re working on.
Over the years, Callahan has found many other ways to serve the legal profession and give back to his community. He was previously on the board of directors for the New England Legal Foundation and board of editors of the Massachusetts Law Review. He is active with DRI as vice chair of the corporate counsel committee and is a mentor in the DRI Diverse Rainmaker Mentoring Program. In 2006, he was appointed by the Supreme Judicial Court to a ten-year term as a member of the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners. During the term, Callahan and others worked diligently to ensure each candidate had the appropriate character and fitness to be admitted to the Massachusetts Bar.
Hearing each person’s story only deepened his own commitment to fairness, ethics, and integrity. The experience also shaped some of the input Callahan now gives to junior lawyers. “I encourage everyone to just be who they are,” he says. “Visualize not only what you want to do but how you plan to get there. Stay focused, but always make sure to be a good person and do the right thing. Your license to practice is a privilege.”
Callahan says his choice to come in-house was the right one. Work can still be demanding and stressful. He routinely gets calls during nights and weekends—but he’s achieved balance and has been present for big and small moments with his family. Callahan was home to help with homework, share family meals, coach sports teams, and put his kids to bed.
He even gave them career advice. “I steered them away from the law as a career but support whatever decisions they make,” Callahan says. However, one of his children has already not followed his advice and is an in-house attorney at an investment management firm in Boston. His other three children enjoy terrific careers, but he understands it’s never too late to go back to school. “So, you never know,” he adds.
“Michael has a keen legal mind and fantastic strategic vision. He is an incredible asset to Eversource. It is a true pleasure to work with him to craft and execute the company’s litigation strategy.”
–Joshua A. Lewin, Partner, Litigation
“Michael is a trusted partner with whom we have worked closely with on a number of matters over the last decade. Michael’s insight and experience help us navigate our cases to a successful conclusion.”
–Richard L. Street, Partner
“Michael is among the very best inside counsel I’ve worked with in my forty-plus years of practice—extremely knowledgeable in all aspects of litigation, always prepared, great strategic judgment, and an exceptional team leader.”
–Paul Ondrasik, Partner