Sherry Young stands out among NH attorneys
Sherry Young stands out among NH attorneys
Co-founder of Rath Young and Pignatelli will receive BIA’s Lifetime Achievement Award
CONCORD — Attorney Sherilyn Burnett “Sherry” Young of Rath Young and Pignatelli has stood out for decades as one of the best lawyers in New Hampshire.
Young is annually featured among “The Best Lawyers in America” and Thomson Reuters’ Super Lawyers. She received NH Business Review’s “Outstanding Women in Business Award” in 2019 and was named one of the Granite State’s 200 Most Influential Leaders by NH Business Review in 2020. She will soon add the Business & Industry Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award to her many accolades.
Young, a founder, shareholder and past president of Rath, Young and Pignatelli, will receive the honor at BIA’s 110th Annual Dinner and Awards Celebration, presented by Eversource, Oct. 25 at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Manchester. Former NH Housing executive director and CEO Dean Christon, and state Sen. Lou D’Allesandro will also receive Lifetime Achievement Awards, sponsored by Whelen Engineering Company. Friends of Aine will receive the New Hampshire Advantage Award, sponsored by Bank of America, an award Young helped create while serving on BIA’s Board of Directors. For a list of past winners, visit https://bit.ly/BIAhonorees.
Young focuses on environmental law and environmental litigation and has achieved numerous successful settlements for industrial, commercial and municipal clients in a variety of cases. She recalls one of her most interesting and early cases that involved the Church of England suing the now-defunct computer manufacturer Data General.
The church sued after a site it owned in Silicon Valley was contaminated by chlorinated wastes generated by the manufacturing of computer chips. Data General was one of five different defendants that included other chip manufacturers and gas stations. “Practices were very sloppy,” a leader of the Santa Clara County Manufacturers Group told the Christian Science Monitor in a 1984 story.
“It was a real ‘who done it,’ and very interesting to develop the contributions of the responsible parties,” Young said. “Each party had a number of experts, and the case was finally settled.”
Young earned her Bachelor of Arts from Cornell University in 1975 and Juris Doctorate from the
University of New Hampshire School of Law in 1982. She started her career as a lawyer with Orr & Reno in New Hampshire where she worked closely with Tom Rath before they, and Michael Pignatelli, founded their own firm in 1987.
Her work grew more complex as environmental practice in the 1980s focused on Superfund sites as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency worked with state agencies to mitigate contaminated sites.
“There were a lot in New England and across country,” Young said. “There was not a lot of case law when we first started. Some of the cases were huge, with 250 parties, and we had to sort out solving the allocation of responsibilities. All the cases were settled. I can’t image what litigation would look like with 250 parties.”
Young said with most of the Superfund cases now closed her work now largely focuses on drinking water and wastewater. And her work has again gotten more complex with PFAS contamination, something she said is “so pernicious, so prevalent.”
“I see it being a significant issue that could be as big as Superfund was in the 80s and 90s,” Young said, adding if the EPA opts to list some PFAS chemicals as hazardous waste it has repercussions across industries and municipalities. “It’s going to be very, very complex. It’s going to be one of the biggest environmental challenges we’re going to have to confront and we’re at the very beginning of the frontier on this.”
Young is also a standout for her work as a leader within the legal profession, especially as a female in what was long a male-dominated profession.
In 2000, she was the first woman elected to chair the State Capital Group, an international association of independent law firms around the globe. Young received the 2007 Marilla M. Ricker Achievement Award for women lawyers who achieved professional excellence or paved the way for other women lawyers. She also received the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce Athena Award in 2001, honoring her business excellence and work to assist women in reaching their full leadership potential.
“Back when I started in the early 80s, for example, my dress was very conservative, navy blue and dark suits, white shirt, kind of a masculine cut,” Young said. “Often, I was the only woman in the room full of male attorneys and clients. I once showed up for a deposition and the receptionist assumed I was the stenographer.”
While she says more women graduate from law school now then men, there are still more men in senior leadership roles in law firms, though she adds the tide is turning.
“I take my responsibility as a mentor of young women attorneys very seriously, young men as well, but I particularly work with women to help them become the next leaders in our practice,” she said.
Young’s work includes advising several nonprofits. She serves on the boards of directors of Walden Mutual Bank and the University of New Hampshire Foundation, the Dean’s Advisory Board of the UNH Franklin Pierce School of Law, and as chair of New Hampshire Public Radio’s Board of Trustees. She is past-chair of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation and New Hampshire Supreme Court Society.
Rick Fabrizio is director of communications and public policy for the BIA.
Media Contact : Rick Fabrizio, email@example.com