Michelle N. O'Brien

Michelle O'Brien handles environmental and land use permitting and related litigation for various types of developments including residential homes, commercial buildings, waterfront properties, wind turbines, and solid waste facilities. She defends companies in environmental enforcement matters at the federal, state, and local levels. She represents private parties in cost recovery and property damage claims involving releases of oil and hazardous materials, and assists clients with real estate transactions involving contaminated properties.

An accomplished litigator, Michelle obtained one of Massachusetts' highest trial verdicts in 2005. She has also appeared before the Massachusetts Appeals Court several times, and in 2014 obtained a victory before the Supreme Judicial Court.

Before joining Pierce Atwood, Michelle practiced 15 years at the boutique environmental law firm Mackie Shea O’Brien, PC. Prior to that she was a Massachusetts Assistant Attorney General in the Environmental Protection Division, where she brought cost recovery and enforcement actions under M.G.L. Chapter 21E, and the Trial Division, where she represented state agencies and employees in state and federal courts. She was a law clerk to the Justices of the Massachusetts Superior Court and a legislative aide to the Chair of the Massachusetts Legislature's Committee on Natural Resources and Agriculture.

Chambers USA, publishers of America’s Leading Lawyers for Business, quoted one impressed commentator as saying, "She has lots of professional judgment, is well connected, and handles landmark environmental cases - she's an excellent professional."

Honors & Distinctions
  • Recognized by Super Lawyers as one of the Top 50 Women Attorneys in Massachusetts (2019)
  • Named to Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly "Top Women of Law" List (2015)
  • Included in the Bar Register of Preeminent Women Lawyers (2011-present)
  • Recognized by Chambers USA for Environmental Law (2007-present)
  • Listed in The Best Lawyers in America® for environmental law and environmental litigation (2006–present)
  • Recognized as a "Massachusetts Super Lawyer" in environmental law (2006–present)
  • LSP Association Member Award for contributions to the practice (2007) 
  • Lesley University Alumni Achievement Award (2004)
Professional Activities
  • Leadership team, EBC Site Remediation & Redevelopment Committee
  • Selected by the Boston Bar Association executive director to serve as BBA's representative on the Supreme Judicial Court's Lawyer Mentoring Program Working Group (2019)
  • Member, NAIOP Massachusetts (2018-present)
  • Member, Board of Directors, Environmental Business Council of New England (2016-present)
  • Appointed to MassDEP’s Waste Site Cleanup Advisory Committee (2008-present)
  • Elected to Boston Bar Association Council (2009-2012)
  • Co-chair, BBA Environmental Sustainability Task Force (2011-2012)
  • Co-chair, BBA Environmental Law Section (2006-2008)
  • Associate member, LSP Association (2002-present)
  • Member, CREW Boston (formerly known as New England Women in Real Estate) (2011-2018)
  • Founding member, Massachusetts Chapter of the Society for Women Environmental Professionals
Civic Activities
  • Member, Lesley University Board of Trustees
  • Two-term president, Lesley University Alumni Association
  • Chair, Lesley University Presidential Search Committee (2018-2019)
  • Co-chair, Lesley University Centennial Steering Committee (2009-2010)
  • Former Planning Board Vice-Chair

Practice Areas