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May 1, 2024

Joan Fortin will step down as CEO of Portland law firm Bernstein Shur

Joan Fortin FIle Photo / Tim Greenway Joan Fortin will step down as CEO of Bernstein Shur at the start of January, the law firm announced Wednesday.

Four years after taking the helm of Maine's largest law firm, Bernstein Shur, Joan Fortin plans to step down in January from the CEO role for a career break, the firm announced Wednesday.

Fortin, who has been associated with Bernstein Shur over three decades, was honored as a Mainebiz Woman to Watch in 2018, when she was director of attorney recruiting.

In an interview at that time, she spoke of the need to have conversations with employees about flexible work options.

“We try very hard to create an environment where people don't feel like they have to pick between family and career,” she said.

In early 2020, Fortin succeeded Patrick Scully as CEO of Bernstein Shur, becoming the first woman in that role. She will remain in her current role until her term expires on Dec. 31. The firm is starting a nationwide search for her successor.

The search will be conducted by Calibrate, a company that specializes in executive search services for major law firms. The search is expected to be completed later this year, according to Wednesday's announcement.

'Mentor, friend, exceptional leader'

Fortin began with Bernstein Shur as a summer associate in 1994 and has held various leadership positions, including practice group leader, member of the board of directors, director of attorney recruiting and retention and founding member of the firm’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Committee.

"Joan is a mentor, friend and exceptional leader,” said Kate Knox, a member of the firm’s board of directors. “She is one of the primary architects of our firm’s growth and success.” 

Fortin and her husband, Chet Randall, deputy director of the nonprofit Pine Tree Legal Assistance, have decided to take a hiatus from their careers, according to Wednesday’s announcement.

“Chet is the hero of our family,” Fortin said. “Our children and I could not be prouder of the life-changing work that he has performed selflessly on behalf of his clients for almost 30 years.”

Randall was instrumental in the development of Pine Tree’s response to the foreclosure crisis and the creation of Maine Attorneys Saving Homes, a group of Pine Tree staff and volunteer lawyers who came together starting in 2008 in order to provide legal assistance for low-income homeowners facing foreclosure.

Randall also championed the growth of the Portland-based organization's statewide practice protecting the rights of low-income consumers.

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May 2, 2024

See what happens when you pay good people a fair wage? Just kidding. Good for her and sad for the people who benefitted from her talents. Wonder what's next after stepping down? Politics? Travel? Family? Sailing? .........

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