Mary Ferriter knows, perhaps better than most, that there’s much more to family law than meets the eye. “You really need to be able to maneuver through a minefield of financial, psychological, and familial information to truly represent the client,” says Ferriter, who works in the storied Boston firm of Esdaile, Barrett, Jacobs & Mone with the acclaimed matrimonial lawyer, Norman I. Jacobs. Especially when it comes to the kinds of clients the firm attracts—high-net-worth individuals with complex business interests, inherited wealth, and intricately held assets. From elaborate business valuations to understanding the tax implications of support and asset divisions to unraveling complex real estate holdings and trusts, family lawyers—ones like Ferriter, anyway—really sit at the intersection of many different types of law.
Ferriter has been helping clients navigate the often treacherous terrain of ending their marriages and transitioning the family structure since she entered private practice in 2001, but her career in family law began in 1988. She brings something of a unique perspective to the table with a career that began in the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court, working under three different Chief Justices. Ferriter knows the workings of the courts, and the court personnel. “It’s certainly been a great advantage for me over the course of my career,” says Ferriter.
Great advantage, indeed. But don’t let Ferriter’s modesty fool you. This is an attorney who is quite literally a force to be reckoned with—and someone who is routinely tapped to weigh in on matters of policy and legislation. “How we restructure families in divorces is constantly changing, because it’s an area of the law that’s always evolving with guidance from the social sciences,” says Ferriter. “So staying abreast of the law and being on the cutting edge of what’s going on have always been a big part of how I approach my practice.” But she doesn’t just talk the talk, either. Ferriter, for one, served as the president (2006-2007) of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) (an association of family law judges, lawyers, mediators, guardians ad litem, researchers, and others) whose current membership is approaching 5,000 members internationally. She is on the current Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Chapter of AFCC, and has just assumed the role of president.
Given the breadth of Ferriter’s remarkable career, it’s no wonder she has been tapped for a leadership position within AFCC. She also represents the organization as a member of the Uniform Law Commission’s Joint Editorial Board for Family Law and has participated in the drafting committees for several pieces of legislation sponsored by the Uniform Law Commission. “I thought that maybe I wanted to go into special education law, but I eventually found my way to child welfare cases.” That work—advocating for children—is how she ended up in family court. “It became apparent over my 13 years in the Probate and Family Court that family law was where my skillset was best suited,” she says. “It’s what I enjoy doing the most, and where I feel I can be the most productive for my clients,” says Ferriter, who has been with Esdaile, Barrett, Jacobs & Mone since 2006. She has recently passed the exam provided by the American Academy of Certified Financial Litigators and has earned her CFL designation.
“You really need to be able to maneuver through a minefield of financial, psychological, and familial information to truly represent the client.”
For Ferriter—a sought-after author and lecturer on family law who also has her master of science degree in public affairs—doing the best for her clients means understanding first and foremost that no matter how complex the financial issues that surround a client’s divorce may be, these are still people who are going through an emotionally devastating event. “My clients come to me and they are typically grief stricken or in a state of anger,” she says. “Knowing how to respond to their needs in a caring and appropriate way—yet not letting that emotion sidetrack what is going to be ultimately what’s best for them from a legal standpoint—is at the heart of what I do.” And it’s a delicate dance, Ferriter says. “There are nuances in the law to consider, as well as recognizing that once my work as the attorney is done, my client will still have interactions with his or her former spouse,” she notes.
By reaching a settlement (which happens in most of her cases) the client is able to control the litigation and is not leaving matters to chance with a judge who is not familiar with what is important to the client and the family. “It really boils down to the application of complex legal principles, where there is not a scientific or robotic-like outcome, in an attempt to resolve a case in a manner which is agreeable to both parties or, barring settlement, in a trial of the matter before a tribunal or court.”