Wiley Vaughan, Father of the Lawyer for a Day Program

“Wiley was a giant not only for his real estate expertise but for his commitment to access to justice. The Boston Bar Association’s Lawyer for a Day in the Housing Court Program would not exist but for Wiley Vaughan.”  – Robert B. Foster, Associate Justice Designate, Massachusetts Land Court

Earlier this week, BBA Week asked Andrew H. Cohn , a Partner at Wilmer Hale, to write about Wiley Vaughan’s contributions to one of the BBA’s signature initiatives, the Lawyer for a Day in the Housing Court Program, and this is what Andy gave us:

“Herbert W. (Wiley) Vaughan’s retirement in 1995 from Hale and Dorr (now WilmerHale) did not end his engagement with the law.  He continued to be involved with work for associations he believed in.  Many attorneys turned to him as a sounding board, to review a document, go over an appellate brief, anything where complex real estate law was involved.  The acuity and nuance of his mind, the subtlety of his distinctions, and the care with which he approached every problem and every document was a hallmark of his fine intelligence and his sound professionalism.  Wiley was principled, frank and forthright.  If you were so fortunate to be a friend or a working colleague, he was “all in”:  open engagement with your ideas, the sharing of gracious and thoughtful comments.  Discussion and argument with Wiley was always principled, rational and frank.  You always knew where you stood. 

That quality was also a secret to his leadership ability:  Wiley Vaughan possessed the rare capacity to say “no” cleanly and without equivocation.  So many people are afraid to disappoint, so they hedge the issue, they temporize; they don’t close off a path soon enough, so time and energy are wasted.  This skill of Wiley’s was in operation more than a decade ago when the Pro Bono Committee of the Real Estate Section of the Boston Bar Association was trying to create the Lawyer for a Day Program in the Housing Court.  The leadership of the Real Estate Section had seen negotiations with the Housing Court judges stall.  The Housing Court judges, for good and valid reasons, wanted the volunteer transactional attorneys to take pro se litigants on as clients in individual cases.  Real Estate Section leaders worried that insisting the volunteers had to carry the case back to their offices would portend an uncontrollable commitment of time and would scare off volunteers.  There was a good faith stalemate.  Wiley was approached and agreed to get involved.  He knew --- from managing Hale and Dorr and leading other organizations --- what worked and what did not.  After immersing himself in the issue he provided the Housing Court judges a clean “no”, coupled with an exchange:   The Lawyer for a Day Program would not only have a tenant’s advisory table at the Housing Court but also a landlord’s table (for landlords who qualified under income standards.)  The bargain was struck and it has endured.  More than 14,000 tenants and a smaller but non-trivial number of landlords have been helped by the program.  In recognition, the Boston Bar Foundation and the BBA have established the Herbert W. Vaughan Fund to assist the pro bono Lawyer for a Day program.

Character and principle were Wiley’s guideposts.  For Wiley, the collegiality of working on projects with others was among his greatest source of joy.  He was very proud of his work for the Lawyer for a Day Program and of his earlier service as head of the Real Estate Section of the BBA.  Wiley Vaughan was --- to use a phrase he spoke of when referring to others --- “a person of quality” who had a clarity of purpose, an integrity, and an openness to ideas that endeared him to his friends and his colleagues, and enriched every institution with which he was involved.  We shall miss him.”