Forty-Two Years Ago

When I awoke last Friday morning, I realized that it was the 42nd anniversary of my first full day of work as a lawyer. I was not yet admitted to the bar, but as a fledgling judicial law clerk I did not need to be.

Remembering that anniversary flooded my mind with recollections of my first boss, the Honorable Robert W. Larrow, who was for 7 years an Associate Justice of the Vermont Supreme Court.

The Preview

The night before we began our clerkships, the Deputy Clerk of the Court, Anthony Otis, and his wife, Trudy, invited the five new law clerks to their home for dinner and a chance to get to know one another.

Otis was not shy about sharing his views. As we sat around in the living room after dinner, he turned to each of us and described, in a nutshell, what he thought our clerkships would be like. He told one of my colleagues — I won’t say which one — that he was in effect going to be a Justice because the real judge was disengaged from the work and would leave nearly everything to him.

He told me that Justice Larrow would use me in a traditional style, writing bench memoranda to summarize the law on a particular case and in editing his opinions, each of which he would draft himself with meticulous care. He warned me that Justice Larrow was notoriously irascible, and that I would have a tough year. He also explained that Justice Larrow was the intellectual leader of the court, and that his will typically ruled the day.

Otis’ characterizations of the judges were based in fact, but were not quite accurate, for which I am grateful.

Larrow the Politician

I had already done my research, and I knew that Larrow was a colorful figure. He was one of a handful of people who were responsible for making the Vermont Democratic Party a real political power. In 1952, at only 37 years old, he was the candidate in the Democratic Party’s first competitive race for Governor. He did not win, but after a vigorous campaign, he received 60,051 votes, some 40% of the vote cast and a record for a Vermont Democrat.

I was deeply interested in politics, and I told Justice Larrow that I had worked hard in Phil Hoff’s 1970 Senate campaign. Hoff and Larrow were friends and political allies. Larrow had helped Hoff get elected governor in 1962 by running for Attorney General on his ticket.

So, in addition to our work together, Larrow started telling me stories about the Vermont Democratic Party’s long years in the political wilderness. In those days, the Party was really run by a handful of men who gathered at State Senator Fred Fayette’s camp on Shelburne Bay to play poker on Thursday nights. There they would decide who would take a turn in the barrel as candidate for statewide office in the next election. And, more to the point, who would benefit from political patronage when Democrats controlled the presidency.

Brown Bag Lunches

Three members of the Court lunched together at restaurants nearly every day when the Court was hearing argument. But Larrow had an arthritic hip and used a crutch to get around.  So, he and Justice Franklin S. Billings, Jr, would brown bag it in chambers.

Larrow knew that I loved hearing his stories.  He invited me to have lunch almost every day with him and Justice Billings. For nearly two years, every day the Court was in session I got to listen and learn about Vermont law and politics.

Billings had a significant political history of his own. A Republican, his father was a Vermont governor.   In 1960, Billings had been a “Young Turk,” a member of a small bipartisan group of progressively minded junior legislators that included Hoff. Later, Billings was Speaker of the House in the historic session in which it reapportioned itself from a 240 member “one town, one vote” body to its current 150 members, apportioned based on population.

The Acid Wit

The most humorous story Larrow told, that I recall, involved two Vermont Governors, Hoff and Richard A. Snelling. After his election as Governor, Hoff appointed Larrow Chairman of the Vermont State Liquor Control Board. In 1964, Snelling ran for Governor against Hoff. Snelling failed in his first effort, and Hoff was re-elected.

Shortly after the election, Snelling approached Larrow as he crossed the street in Burlington. Snelling complained loudly about the fact that the Board had declined to renew the lease on a liquor store it rented from Snelling. Snelling said he couldn’t believe that Larrow would let politics influence such a decision. Larrow laughed and said: “Politics had nothing to do with it. The decision was entirely personal.”

I know the story is true because some years later, Governor Snelling told me the story almost exactly as Larrow had. To his credit, Snelling laughed at the punch line.

A Diligent Judge

I also learned why Larrow was the intellectual leader of the Court. It wasn’t just intelligence. More important was his diligence. When he came to Court for the first day of a term of argument, he would toss me a black leather-bound notebook and say, “Burn a copy of that for yourself, son.” It contained as many pages as there were cases to be heard during the term. Each case was summarized with about a half a page of typewritten notes that he had prepared based on his review of the briefs. The last line would describe what he thought was the appropriate result and where he expected to find two votes from his colleagues to get it.

His preparation armed him to use oral argument to pursue a majority of the Court. Some lawyers found his questioning at argument difficult. He was cross-examining to persuade his colleagues that his result was the right one. 

At the end of the term, he would invite me to copy his notebook again. By then he had added, in his bold hand, notes from the Court’s post-argument conference. He would record the result, (which nearly always matched his preliminary decision), the rationale, and identify which justice was assigned to write the opinion.

After the term, he divided the opinions that were assigned to him with me. I had to work like the devil to get a draft or two into his hands before he finished all of his. Typically, he’d write a couple of opinions over the first weekend. Then we would start drafting back and forth at one another. He had a rule: All of our opinions had to be finished, and in the hands of the other justices, with at least two weeks to go before the next term of argument began, so that we could focus on reading the new briefs.

In the following weeks and months, I would compare Larrow’s notes with the draft opinions we got from the other justices to make sure the results were consistent with the decisions of the conference.

Although he let me draft opinions, he would own every line before we circulated an opinion. In my second year as a clerk, I worked for Chief Justice Albert W. Barney, Jr., but when Larrow’s clerk left before the end of the year, I also edited Larrow’s opinions. He had hip replacement surgery, and was not at his best. Once, I “explained” to him that according to the Harvard Bluebook, the “Cf.” signal should not be used without an explanatory parenthetical. We argued the point for a few minutes, until he said, “All right, have it your way.” I was stunned, realized he was not up to full strength, and replied, “No Judge, we’ll do it your way.”


More than 40 years later, I look back at those two years with deep appreciation. I was excited. I was doing work that I loved. I was being steeped in Vermont jurisprudence. And I had the best mentor I could imagine.

Every week, late on Friday afternoon, Justice Larrow would head home looking forward to a couple of dry “martoonis” and time with his beloved wife, Mickie.  Because of his arthritic hip, I would always carry his briefcase out to the car. Every week he’d say the same thing: “Have a great weekend, don’t do anything I wouldn’t do, and call if you need bail.”



Photo of Rich Cassidy Rich Cassidy

Rich Cassidy is a Vermont personal injury and employment lawyer. He also works regularly as a mediator and arbitrator.

A founder of Rich Cassidy Law, he has more than 40 years of experience with the practice of law in Vermont. Over the years…

Rich Cassidy is a Vermont personal injury and employment lawyer. He also works regularly as a mediator and arbitrator.

A founder of Rich Cassidy Law, he has more than 40 years of experience with the practice of law in Vermont. Over the years, his practice has changed substantially. As a result, Rich has represented all sides in many kinds of disputes: plaintiffs and defendants, employers and employees, injured parties and insurance companies. He believes that the breadth of his experience benefits all of his clients.

He is proud to represent the Burlington Police Officers Association and United Nurses & Allied Professionals.

For many years, Rich’s personal injury practice has been limited to representing injured persons and his labor and employment practice has been focused on representing employees. He enjoys the challenge of representing individuals in a world that seems increasingly dominated by large corporations and powerful institutions.

He has significant experience with litigation and alternative dispute resolution involving higher education, public education, public safety, health care, municipalities and manufacturing. His clients have included college students, faculty, and administrators as well as individuals, businesses, governmental agencies, and not-for-profit entities. He represents both labor unions and individuals in collective bargaining relationships. Many of his individual clients in employment law cases begin work with him under Limited Scope Representation Agreements.

He has also advocated for individuals, businesses and governments in a broad range of civil litigation, including in construction cases, cases under the Uniform Commercial Code, and contract and business tort claims.

In addition to his work as a litigator and counselor, he has served as a mediator and arbitrator and is a member of the Panel of Early Neutral Evaluators for the United States District Court for the District of Vermont and the early neutral evaluation panels for the Vermont Environmental Court and Vermont Superior Courts.

Rich believes that legal process can serve the ends of justice and has been active in work to improve the law throughout his career. For details see our public service page.

When he’s not practicing law or in a committee meeting, Rich enjoys reading, walking his dog, Sophie, skiing, swimming, and rowing his Adirondack Guide Boat on Lake Champlain.



·         Albany Law School Union University, Albany, New York

    • J.D. – 1978

·         University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont

    • B.A. – 1975

·         Mount Saint Joseph Academy, Rutland, Vermont

    • College Preparatory Diploma – 1967 -1971

Bar Admissions:

·         Vermont, 1979

·         New York, 1979

·         U.S. District Court District of Vermont, 1979

·         U.S. District Court Northern District of New York

·         U.S. Court of Appeals 2nd Circuit, 1986

·         U.S. Supreme Court, 1990

Honors and Awards:

·         Jonathon B. Chase Award, ACLU of Vermont, Inc., 1990

·         Grassroots Award, American Bar Association, 2009

·         Equal Justice for All Award, American Bar Association, 2008

·         President’s Award, Vermont Bar Association, 2015

Professional Associations and Memberships:

·         Uniform Law Commission

    • President, 2015 – 2017
    • Executive Committee, Member
    • Scope & Program Committee, Chair, Member
    • Secretary
    • Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act, Drafting Committee Chair
    • Apportionment of Tort Responsibility Act, Member, Drafting Committee
    • Revised Uniform Arbitration Act, Member, Drafting Committee
    • The Model Punitive Damages Act, Member, Drafting Committee
    • Covenants Not to Compete Drafting Committee, Chair, 2020 to present
    • Developments in Privacy Law Committee, 2020 to present
    • Vermont Member, 1994 – Present

·         American Bar Association, 1978 – Present

    • Board of Governors, 2005 – 2008
    • American Bar Association, House of Delegates, 1999 – 2015

·         American Counsel Association, President, 2009 – 2010

    • Director

·         American Law Institute, Elected Member, 2015 – Present

·         Vermont Association for Justice, Member

·         Vermont Trial Lawyers Association, Member

·         Vermont Employment Lawyers Association, Founding Member, Past President, Treasurer

·         Vermont Bar Association, Member, 1978- Present


Past Employment:

·         Hon. Robert W. Larrow of the Vermont Supreme Court, Law Clerk, 1978 – 1979

·         Chief Justice Albert W. Barney, Jr., Vermont Supreme Court, Chief Law Clerk, 1979 – 1980

·         Law Office of David C. Drew, Associate Attorney, 1980 – 1982

·         Hoff, Wilson, Powell and Lang, P.C., 1982 – 1986

·         Hoff, Wilson, Powell and Lang, P.C., Shareholder, 1986 – 1989

·         Hoff Curtis, President and Shareholder, 1989 – 2016


Rich is a frequent writer and speaker on legal topics. He has lectured on trial practice, employment, arbitration, mediation, and construction law subjects before the American Bar Association, the National Employment Lawyers’ Association, the Vermont Bar Association, the Vermont Trial Lawyers Association, and the Vermont Employment Lawyers’ Association.

He has been selected for inclusion in Best Lawyers® and New England Super Lawyers® by his peers. (Listing in The Best Lawyers in America® or Super Lawyers® does not guarantee a desired result in a legal case or that listed lawyers are necessarily more skilled than lawyers who are not listed in such publications.) He was the 2013 “Best Lawyer of the Year” for Employment Law – Individuals and the 2015 “Best Mediator of the Year.”

His blog, On is widely read by legal professionals and is syndicated on Lex Blog.