Meet the Managing Partner:
Interview with Edward G. Zacharias, Managing Partner of McDermott, Will & Emery’s Boston Office

BBA Sponsor Firm McDermott Will & Emery is celebrating 40 years in Boston. We caught up with Office Managing Partner, Ed Zacharias , to learn more about his background and career path, where the firm is headed, and his insights into changes facing the legal profession.

Ed Zacharias's head shot

What inspired you to become a lawyer?

I come from a family of clinicians—my mother was a nurse and my father a physician—so I grew up around healthcare and always found it interesting. Ultimately, I decided not to take the clinician path, but still wanted to pursue a health-related profession. The practice of health law combines the aspects of our healthcare system that interest me most. I went to law school at Boston University because of its excellent health law curriculum and joined McDermott because of its tier 1 healthcare practice.

Can you share your greatest accomplishment or proudest moment in your career to date?

I don’t have a single “proudest moment” or “greatest accomplishment.” I am deeply appreciative of the entire journey and where the practice of law at McDermott has taken me personally and professionally. I have had so many wonderful experiences involving high-profile, cutting edge and interesting matters, but also appreciate the day-to-day interactions with my McDermott colleagues and clients and the friendships I’ve built. I feel incredibly fortunate.

Tell us a bit more about your practice. How did you support your clients in the tech and healthcare industries respond to the impacts of the pandemic?

My practice involves counseling Health IT, digital health, technology, life sciences, health care providers and other health sector entities on a range of issues related to data collaborations, data use strategies, privacy and cybersecurity. The pandemic created a once-in-a-lifetime, collectively disruptive event for the healthcare ecosystem. It upended traditional care delivery, reimbursement and compliance paradigms. We had to help our clients keep pace with and respond to the constant stream of pandemic response activity, related compliance issues and commercial considerations.

Did you ever consider a different career?

Growing up, I always thought I would be a physician because I was exposed to that world through my parents and found it fascinating. But after deciding against medical school, I pursued a few different careers before finding my way to the practice of law. I worked as a sales representative (for some pretty boring consumer products), was an IT support specialist for an Air Force contractor, and also managed the largest AmeriCorp program in California.

How do you like to spend your time outside of work?

When I am not working, you can usually find me spending time with my wife (also a lawyer) and three daughters (ages 11, 8 and 5) at the beach, on the sidelines of a soccer pitch, or skiing, depending on the season. I also really enjoy live music, and it was great to get back to a few shows at outdoor venues this summer.

What makes McDermott, Will & Emery stand out?

Our Firm has enjoyed an incredible amount of success over the past few years. We recruit, hire and retain the best lawyers, are committed to our people and collectively focus on three goals—being indispensable to our clients, cultivating high performance, and building a culture where you can bring your authentic self to work. We believe that excellence and happiness go hand in hand and that high performance lives at the intersection of great talent, high standards and solid business fundamentals. With these beliefs at our core, we have experienced double-digit growth for the past three consecutive years.

Tell us more about the industries and practice areas McDermott is focused on here Boston. Are there sectors the firm is looking to grow its presence in?

We have talent across several practices here in the Boston office, including Healthcare, Intellectual Property, Litigation, Global Privacy and Cybersecurity, Regulatory, Tax and Transactions. Notably, McDermott is the only firm to have an elite 2021 Chambers ranking for its healthcare practice, again earning Band 1 in USA - Nationwide Healthcare. Much of our work is in the healthcare, life sciences, technology and financial spaces, four booming industries across Boston. Our white-collar defense practice is exceptional, and is ranked by Chambers as Band 1 in Massachusetts.

What are some top opportunities you see on the horizon for the firm? Challenges?

Our manta here is #AlwaysBetter, and although we have been incredibly successful, we recognize there is always room for growth. In Boston, we have an opportunity to expand and grow by building on our Firm-wide strengths. As an office, Firm and industry as a whole, we need to stay focused on DE&I initiatives, especially in our recruiting, engagement and promotion processes. We are proud to be a Mansfield rule 4.0 certified firm, and we plan to continue and continuously strengthen our commitment to diversity efforts, within the Firm and beyond. For example, last year we launched McDermott Rise ―an initiative that originated from a Boston associate’s idea for how we could help combat racial inequality. The program offers a set of free legal services to 20 entrepreneurs of color each year to help knock down unfair barriers to success while launching, scaling and growing their businesses. I want to look back in two, three, five and 10 years and see that the legal industry has continued investing in these efforts and made meaningful progress from where things stand today.

What makes Boston a great place to practice law?

Boston is a city with an entrepreneurial culture and an innovative outlook. The leading local and regional industries pose complex and novel issues for our clients, which makes practicing law in Boston especially interesting.

How do you think the legal profession has changed in the wake of the pandemic? Are these changes here to stay?

While the pandemic posed significant challenges, it also created opportunities. Most obvious, pivoting to a remote work environment changed the way we interact with each other, whether that’s colleagues, clients, regulators or the courts. In many ways, I believe it made us more tolerant and understanding of the challenges that go along with juggling a demanding profession and personal obligations. Those more personal interactions help forge strong relationships. I certainly hope that’s here to stay.

What advice do you have for new lawyers navigating the legal profession today?

Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know.” In today’s practice, things move faster than ever before and there is frequently pressure to provide immediate, definitive answers. More often than not, you’re being asked for advice because an issue is complicated, and complicated issues require thoughtful analysis. A thoughtful response is usually better in the long term than a quick answer.

McDermott recently joined the BBA as a Sponsor Firm. What are your thoughts on the Boston Bar Association’s role in Boston’s legal and business community today?

We are thrilled to be a BBA Sponsor Firm. The BBA serves an important mission to advance the highest standards of excellence for the legal profession here in Boston. This means fostering diversity, encouraging mentorship for more junior lawyers, and continued education at all levels. McDermott recognizes the importance of these features and knows that the legal and business community are better served because of it. On a personal level, one the most memorable experiences I had as a young lawyer was being a member of the BBA’s Public Interest Leadership Program. I still keep in touch with my former PILP members!