Sunday December 16, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Jack Martin never envisioned this scenario unfolding when he founded his own law firm in 1958.

First his son John Jr. joined the firm in 1986 following careers in accounting and banking. He was followed by his John’s younger brother, William, who returned to the Berkshires in 1991 following a stint at a Boston law firm.

But the family connection didn’t stop there.

John Jr.’s sons, Thomas and Michael, were admitted to the Massachusetts bar in July, and Thomas decided to enter the family business by joining the firm, now known as Martin, Oliveira & Hamel, as an associate. Michael, who lives in Quincy, is currently clerking for state Land Court Chief Justice Karyn F. Scheier in Boston, but said he plans to eventually join the firm.

Like father, like son, like grandsons. Martin, Oliveira & Hamel is now the oldest three-generation law firm in Berkshire County. Jack Martin, who will be 80 in August, claims the firm is the only one of its kind in Berkshire County history, and says he has done the research to prove it.

"I can go back 100 years," Jack said. "There’s been two but there’s never been three."

Thomas Martin, who at 27 is two years older than Michael, joined the firm in August. A recent graduate of the Roger Williams School of Law in Rhode Island, the University of Rhode Island graduate had spent the last two years as a law clerk with a firm in Newton before deciding to return home.


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He majored in business administration at URI, but Thomas said visits to the firm as a boy gave him the "curiosity" to see if he could make law a career.

"I had to make a decision between the law or business," Thomas said. "I decided to clerk to experience the law. I enjoyed it and decided that this is what I wanted to do."

Thomas, whose principal areas of practice are civil and commercial litigation, said he didn’t feel any pressure to join with the rest of his family.

"It was always do what you want to do," Thomas said. "I looked up to my grandfather and father growing up, and I wanted to be like them."

Both brothers graduated from St. Joseph Central High School, and they were inducted into the state bar on the same day, an occasion that was attended by the entire Martin clan. Michael, who graduated summa cum laude from the University of Massachusetts Law School after serving as executive articles editor of the UMass Law Review, said the brothers spent all summer studying together.

"It was the fulfillment of something that happened beginning in May," Michael said. "My grandfather handed me my professional license. It was a real good moment."

Michael majored in finance at Roger Williams. But he didn’t go through what his brother did before deciding on a career.

"I enjoyed finance when I was in school," he said. "But law was in the family. It was always something that was there growing up, and something that I felt comfortable pursuing as a career."

"I never felt any pressure to be a lawyer," he said. "I was trying something that was there and it became pretty natural.

"The school part was [natural]," he added. "The real life is a learning process."

Michael isn’t sure when he will join the family firm. Unlike his older brother, Michael is still single, and his father said he enjoys following Boston’s professional sports teams.

"Boston’s a fun place to live," he said. "There’s a lot to do down this way. It’s a good place to gain some experience. But I’m lucky I have something back home that I can come back to."

To reach Tony Dobrowolski:
TDobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com
(413) 496-6224