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A Tribute To Retired Partner Hugh Isola

We are sorry to announce that our retired partner, Hugh Isola, passed away peacefully at home on November 3rd, 2020. 

Our partner, Ralph Swanson, wrote a fitting tribute to Hugh that we would like to share with you...


"When I first met Hugh Isola, I was a brand new associate at what was then called Berliner, Cohen & Biagini.  Hugh was a real estate lawyer and I was a litigator, so we didn’t work together on projects that much.  However, I immediately came to admire him for his lawyerly skills, his ability to work with clients and particularly his uncanny aptitude for getting along with other lawyers.  Everyone, including those on the other side of his many transactions liked Hugh, and I never heard even a rumor of his being “difficult” to work with.  This exceptional trait spilled over into his relationships formed in our office and among his countless friends, many of whom became my friends as well.  Hugh was truly above reproach, both professionally and personally.  I often considered him the “conscience” of the firm, once I became one of his partners and observed how he participated in partnership discussions and especially how he handled many difficult issues that arose when he was the firm’s managing partner in the early 1990s.  If you were a young lawyer (or even an old one!), I can think of no one better to emulate than Hugh Isola. He was as intellectually sharp as they come and a terrific “to the point” writer, something else that I admired in him.  He could say as much in ten words as others would take one hundred to express.  And for a lawyer that is a rare talent!

After Hugh retired from the partnership we were all graced by his decision to stay on in the “of counsel” capacity.  He did so for nearly twenty years.  He and I would have lunch frequently over the ensuing years and this is where our social friendship grew.  It did as well in our many golf games together.  Hugh always liked to describe his game as “inconsistent.”  That way, as he put it, he would never have to admit to being just “bad.”  (Actually, he was not bad at all, but we both knew what the other was talking about when we described our day on the course as “inconsistent.”)

Hugh had a wry sense of humor.  He could interject in the middle of a conversation—particularly one that was beginning to bore him—a phrase or comment that would double you up in laughter, without the appearance that he was trying to be funny.  He was well-read and well-traveled.  Whenever he and Mary Lou would return from one of their frequent trips to Europe (which usually included, naturally, Italy), I couldn’t wait to have lunch to hear of his experiences.

Hugh had opinions, but he was never opinionated.  He enjoyed a good argument, but he was not argumentative.  He was always interested in your point of view, even if it varied from his own, and then he would respond, pithily, to your argument and gently explain why you were wrong.  But you were never humiliated—that just wasn’t Hugh.

Hugh loved his family and, of course the love of his life, Mary Lou.  He delighted in his grandchildren and would always keep me up to date on what they were doing, what college the older ones would be or were attending, the latest new job offer.  He was equally interested in talking to me about my family and was genuinely interested in their welfare.  Of course, there was nothing about Hugh Isola that wasn’t genuine, which is why I enjoyed his company so much.

Hugh was a mentor to so many of our attorneys at Berliner Cohen, both past and present.  He served as my mentor in different ways, and I learned much from him, not only how to practice law at the highest level, but how to live an honorable life to the fullest.  I can think of no greater tribute to a human being than that.  He will be missed." - Ralph Swanson