Notice & Comment

The Example of Ingrid Schroffner: Any Exemplary Government Lawyer, Advocate for Diversity, and Mentor by Renée M. Landers

This series paying tribute to exemplary government workers is a fitting way for the Section and Notice & Comment to observe Public Service Recognition Week. Coverage of excessive use of force by police nationally, too often resulting in death, has shared the headlines in Massachusetts with police fraud in accounting for overtime. The attention these failures receive makes taking the time to remind the public of the countless public servants who are essential to effective government really important. Because they perform their responsibilities with integrity and dedication, the work of these impressive individuals often goes unnoticed. In addition, the recent examination of the role of systemic racism in the legal system and the larger society has caused us once again to consider and address the continued lack of racial and ethnic diversity in the ranks of the legal profession and the legal academy.

I am grateful for this opportunity to express appreciation for my friend Ingrid Schroffner’s distinguished contributions to the legal profession and public service. Ingrid’s career in government embodies a record of mentoring generations of law students, and reflects her commitment to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal profession and society.

I have known Ingrid since we both served as members of the Steering Committee of the Boston Bar Association’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Section for which I served as Co-Chair from 2010-2012 after having served as the first legal academic and woman of color as BBA President. For more than a decade, Ingrid was a leader in the General Counsel’s Office of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Human Services (EHS)—advancing from Assistant General Counsel to Associate General Counsel to Acting Deputy General Counsel. During that time, I engaged with Ingrid on a regular basis as she considered applications from Suffolk University Law students for internship positions with the EHS Internship Program. From these associations, I learned that Ingrid possesses the dynamic personal qualities, engaging communication skills, and deep experience in the legal profession and community service which are an example for other public servants and allow the public to have confidence in government.

Ingrid’s professional career reflects substantial experience in government for which she prepared by spending significant time in private practice. She was an effective advocate and manager for a litigation unit for MassHealth, the Massachusetts Medicaid program, in which she provided advice on the administration of the program and providing quality services to MassHealth members. In her role as Chair of the EHS Diversity Council, she provided extensive leadership on efforts to create a diverse staff and to promote agency policies aimed at meeting the needs and concerns of immigrants, religious minorities, veterans, and other vulnerable populations, and addressing disparities and implicit bias. This spirit of making a place at the table for everyone carries through her involvement in the Boston Bar Association mentioned earlier. In addition, she served as a member of the Board of Directors and President of the Asian American Lawyers Association of Massachusetts. That she rose to leadership positions in the organizations in which she has been involved is a testament to the authenticity of her commitment to issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and her ability to inspire the confidence of other lawyers.

Ingrid brought these prodigious skills and sensibilities to bear in her leadership of the EHS Legal Intern Program. First, with a colleague, she revived a dormant program in 2010 and applied rigor to working with law schools to promote the internships, the process of recruiting interns, and screening interns. Second, having selected interns, Ingrid insured that all received a comprehensive variety of work assignments, effective supervision, constructive evaluation, and supportive mentoring. During the summer she arranged for speakers for the Legal Intern Speaker Series. To institutionalize program principles, she created and updated a Legal Intern Protocol and Handbook for the program. She actively coordinated with the area law schools and their clinics to provide internship opportunities during the school year as well as the summer, for both students and new attorneys.

The internship program she managed was important for students enrolled in the Health and Biomedical Law Concentration for which I serve as the Faculty Director because it gave students exposure to the public sector considerations relevant in the field. The structure and rigor of the program made it easy for law professors like me to recommend the EHS Internship Program as an essential experience for students aspiring to practice in the field of health law. The internship provides valuable experience for students in a professional environment and imparts important lawyering skills and values. Every student who participated found Ingrid to be an attentive and exacting presence and valued the role the internship played in their individual development. Following the internships, Ingrid was a reliable and supportive source of recommendations for these students as they sought future internships or job opportunities. The structure and regularity of the program is unusual in the universe of internship opportunities available to the students.

As the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the focus on police misconduct, have focused the national attention on disparities, providing more information about Ingrid’s work as the Chair and Co-Chair of the EHS Diversity Council is especially relevant to understanding her impact on the profession. This work demonstrated the importance of focused attention on fostering inclusive and respectful work environments. In Ingrid’s words, such environments recognize “the progress that results from employees’ diversity . . . that reflects the population served.” Making available training opportunities and education and identifying best practices helped MassHealth programs serve the members better. Under Ingrid’s leadership, the EHS Diversity Council regularly created publications entitled “Prisms of Diversity” featuring various geographic areas with cultural history and cuisine. Beginning in 2015, the Council provided quarterly brown bag speaker events for EHS employees on “hot topics” relating to health care, including Immigrant Advancement, Muslim Access to Health Care, Unconscious Bias, Veterans’ Issues, the Opioid Crisis, Aging Population, Vulnerable Workers, and Health and Racial Health Disparities. Ingrid also has written regularly about diversity and cultural competency and is a sought-after speaker on these topics—as well as on the work of litigating estate recovery for the MassHealth program.

Ingrid is now continuing her career in public service as a Senior Associate Attorney in the Office of Management at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Massachusetts state government is so fortunate that she will continue to impart her experiences working in government programs serving low-income and vulnerable populations and with a large public academic medical center—as well as her service with bar and other organizations serving the legal and larger communities, to inculcate a culture of public service among future generations of law students and recent law graduates. She is an exemplary government lawyer and mentor. In The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours,” Marian Wright Edelman, the founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, wrote that you do not need “to be a big dog to make a difference . . . . You just need to be a flea for justice bent on building a more decent home life, neighborhood, work place, and America.” Ingrid has lived this exhortation through the example of her career in public service.

Renée M. Landers is Professor of Law at Suffolk University Law School and Faculty Director of the Health and Biomedical Law Concentration and Master of Science in Law: Life Sciences Program. This post is part of the ABA Administrative Law Section Series Celebrating Public Service; all the posts in the series are collected here

Print Friendly, PDF & Email