Martha Coakley is a busy woman. In addition to her duties as the attorney general of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Coakley has thrown her hat into the ring as a candidate for governor. But she found time in her schedule to address an enthusiastic crowd of female attorneys at the Women, Influence & Power in Law conference in Washington, D.C.
Lori Kalani, partner at Dickstein Shapiro, interviewed Coakley, who cited Perry Mason as an early inspiration to her law career. She went on to explain that many people did not fully understand what the Attorney General’s office actually does, and how it interfaces with attorneys of all stripes.
Coakley stated that her obligation was to make sure that the playing field was level to everyone, and she emphasized the importance of listening to businesses, so she knows what is happening in the state. She said that priorities range from environmental to criminal to civil matters, and stated that an open dialogue with the AG’s office is essential.
The Massachusetts AG office has a business development initiative, and Coakley discussed this in some detail. She related stories of speaking with people who expressed frustration about regulation on the state and federal level and explained how the business development unit listens to the people and looks for ways to help them.
The topic of data security came up, and the conversation shifted to how state AGs work together. Coakley stated that the National Association of Attorneys General has been a productive, nonpartisan organization that fostered cooperation among AGs. The group joins issues sooner, gets them front and center and allows states to work together.
The AG wants to balance the needs of the people and the businesses. Her goal is not to drive companies out of the state, but she also says that her office concentrates on looking out for workers first and then taking care of businesses next.
Another responsibility of a state Attorney General is working with federal regulators. Of course, Coakley joked that she is not working with any agencies today, as the federal government is in shut down. But she cited action her state has taken against the federal government over issues like fishing and same-sex marriage. On the other hand, she stated that her office works closely with some federal organizations, citing the example of working with the FDA to create regulations for e-cigarettes.
The session then moved to the Q&A portion, as attendees asked questions about topics that were on their minds. These topics included the financial crisis, unique challenges that women face in the legal field, and more.
Overall, the AG was engaging and informative, kicking off the final day of the conference on a high note.