By Jane Whitehead
Soon after he started his first professional job at Harvard’s Institute of Politics, Sean Tierney JD ’14 was invited to a small private dinner with the late Ted Sorensen, President Kennedy’s longtime advisor.
Tierney, who was born and raised in Cambridge, Mass., recalls that the conversation ranged from the Cuban Missile Crisis to JFK’s favorite kind of jokes (dirty) and his preferred brand of beer (Heineken).
In his four years as director’s assistant and then forum coordinator at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum, Tierney learned not to be celebrity shy. Managing up to three events a week, he encountered Mikhail Gorbachev, F.W. de Klerk, Nancy Pelosi, Condoleezza Rice, Michael Bloomberg and Alec Baldwin, to name a few.
“Many of the people I admired, even people I wouldn’t agree with politically, spoke about the importance of legal education and how it changed them,” said Tierney.
During the summer after his second year at Suffolk Law, Tierney received a Rappaport Fellowship to be an intern in the Policy and Government Division of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office.
Tierney’s major project was to investigate the viability of a foreclosure mediation law in Massachusetts. Sitting at the table with bankers, housing advocates and legislators, Tierney saw at once that “compromise would be difficult.” He ultimately compiled a report outlining his research into mediation programs in more than 20 jurisdictions.
“You couldn’t come at it with a liberal or conservative agenda and say, ‘this is the way it ought to be,’” he said. “You really had to take into consideration, how are the bankers going to react? How are the housing advocates going to react?”
He also saw that copying policies wholesale from other states would not work. Instead, he recommended adapting components from successful programs and tailoring them “to the scale of the problem and legal framework in Massachusetts.”
Tierney, now in his third year at Suffolk Law, will continue at the Attorney General’s Office this fall for two days a week to work on foreclosure issues as well as research updating the state’s 1968 wiretap law.
As for his next career move: “It’s an exciting time to be flexible—you could end up anywhere.”