Q&A with Peter D. Van Oot of Downs Rachlin Martin PLLC

Specializing in environmental law




Photo by Jodie Andruskevich

What or who inspired you to become a lawyer?

 I was always attracted to the breadth of work one can do as a lawyer. Growing up on the banks of the Connecticut River, I have always been drawn to nature and environmental advocacy.

The most pressing issue facing the legal profession?

Time pressure. When I first started practicing law in the 1980s, we had the luxury of taking the necessary time to analyze the legal issue presented and provide more fully reasoned and measured counsel. Now the expectation is to provide the legal advice sought almost instantaneously. It isn’t uncommon to receive an e-mail requesting advice on a matter, followed up a few minutes later with a call asking when will the analysis be provided.  

Your favorite fictional lawyer and why?

Having grown up in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the lead character “Perry Mason” was  my first favorite fictional lawyer; although I greatly enjoyed many of the misguided lawyers in the “LA Law” series (in part because a fellow junior associate at my first law firm in Boston, David E. Kelly, was the supervising writer for the best years of the series, and based many of the most colorful characters  in LA Law on lawyers we knew in the 1980s). TV drama aside, I have always most admired lawyers who are true counselors for their clients, as well as skilled legal practitioners.

What do you like to do outside of the office?

One of the many things I enjoy doing is competitive rowing on the Connecticut River, which I recently returned to as a Master Oarsman with the Upper Valley Rowing Foundation. When I was growing up, the river was described as “America’s Most Beautiful Sewer.” Now thanks to the Clean Water Act and other critical environmental legislation that was enacted starting in the 1970s-1980s, the river has been greatly restored and is again a resource for all.

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