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The law firm Mirick O’Connell has always had a business focus, known for specialty areas including commercial lending, business litigation, employment and real estate. That means it’s been an especially busy past year, with attorneys guiding clients through a range of tricky questions.
First it was guidance on layoffs and furloughs as the coronavirus pandemic began. Then it was how to allow employees to work remotely, or how to manage new regulations on how many people could be inside a business at a given time. Now, it can be a matter of whether businesses can or should require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The state’s new Paid Family and Medical Leave law went into effect with the start of the year, giving businesses something else to figure out.
“They’ve been incredibly busy giving advice around all these issues,” David Surprenant, managing partner, said of the firm’s business attorneys. “Weaving all that together creates a lot of confusion for a lot of employers.”
Mirick O’Connell has been adjusting to pandemic life itself, with many working remotely and those who’d normally be in courtrooms instead working on litigation cases by Zoom. Only in limited instances have jury trials moved forward. But the firm was used to remote work, with employees spread apart at either its largest office in downtown Worcester, another in Westborough, or a small outpost in Boston.
What’s changed more is attorneys’ relationships with clients, which used to be more face-to-face. Today, even some court trials are happening remotely, as are depositions and sale closings, with signatures recorded electronically.
While Mirick O’Connell’s 2020 was about as busy as the previous year in total, some practice areas were busier than others. Domestic law, which handles divorce proceedings, was slower than expected. Bankruptcy lawyers are expecting to be busier as the pandemic continues to upturn many businesses.
Mirick O’Connell once had a tagline that reflected its specialty: “In Business for Business Since 1916.” Clients find Mirick O’Connell to be just the right size, Suprenant said: Big enough to have attorneys in enough areas of practice but not so big that a client would have a hard time getting in touch with the person they need quickly enough.
Notable runners-up: Bowditch & Dewey, Fletcher Tilton PC
-- Grant Welker
BEST CREDIT UNION
DCU – Digital Federal Credit Union
Location: Marlborough, www.dcu.org
Top executive: President & CEO James Regan
For more than 40 years, DCU has maintained a “People helping people” mindset. In response to the financial challenges its members faced in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, DCU implemented special fee waivers, terms changes, and product offerings for those requiring assistance.
Notable runner-up: Central One Federal Credit Union
BEST MINORITY-OWNED BUSINESS
Resource Management, Inc.
Location: Fitchburg, www.rmi-solutions.com
Top executive: President Rachel Lopez
Employees: 3,160 nationwide
RMI has long prided itself on providing the best HR solutions to its clients, and 2020 gave the company an opportunity to engage on this effort in a much deeper way. From furloughs to layoffs to guidance on the federal Paycheck Protection Program loans, RMI prioritized helping clients through these challenging times.
Location: Whitinsville, www.unibank.com
Top executives: CEO Michael Welch, President Christopher Foley, and Executive Vice President Justine DeNorscia
UniBank emphasizes a personalized approach to banking and commitment to the community, all while offering the modern-day conveniences in the industry, from electronic banking to its proprietary online payment solution, UniPay by UniBank, with a full-service support team.
Notable runners-up: Cornerstone Bank, Avidia Bank
BEST ACCOUNTING FIRM
Bollus Lynch, LLP Certified Public Accounts and Consultants*
Location: Worcester, bolluslynch.com
Top executives: Partners Michael J. Bollus, CPA & Stephen A. Lynch, CPA
Bollus Lynch has developed a client-first approach, blending years of national firm experience into a local firm setting and offering expertise within specific industry groups. Even as the firm adapted to a remote-office setting in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, it still exceeded its clients expectations during a time that was desperately needed.
Notable runners-up: AAFCPAs, Stowe & Degon, Stolberg, Ebbeling & Blanchette, LLP, S&G Business Consultants & Certified Public Accountants
BEST WOMAN-OWNED BUSINESS
PENTA Communications, Inc.
Location: Westborough, www.pentamarketing.com
Top executive: Founder & CEO Deborah Penta
PENTA has been 100% woman-owned since its founding more than 30 years ago, and the company’s commitment to economic development, education and community service has led to its success. During the coronavirus pandemic, PENTA developed new strategies to help clients and offered seven-day-a-week access to clients.
Notable runners-up: Trusted Tees Custom Apparel, Sullivan Benefits, Koda Creative Group
BEST FORENSIC ACCOUNTANT
McLaren & Associates CPAs, PC*
Location: Shrewsbury, DMCLARENCPA.com
Top executive: Founder & Managing Partner David S. McLaren, CPA, CGMA, CRFAC, ABGOV, RFI, CRFAU
McLaren is a Certified B Corp, incorporating a mission of making a positive difference in all aspects of its operations. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this included staying up to date on all the changes with the CARES Act, helping small businesses navigate stressful times, and putting informative videos on social media.
BEST BUSINESS INSURANCE AGENCY
Sullivan Insurance Group*
Location: Worcester, www.sullivangroup.com
Top executive: President & CEO John T. Andreoli, MBA, CPCU, LIA
Sullivan operates under a values-based management model, sharing values of family, independence, respect, commitment to excellence, honesty, integrity, and service to community. During the coronavirus pandemic, the company closed its office and purchased equipment to work remotely, staying in touch with clients and insurance carriers.
Notable runners-up: Knight-Dik Insurance, The Hanover Insurance Group
BEST CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce*
Location: Worcester, WorcesterChamber.org
Top executive: President & CEO Timothy P. Murray
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Worcester chamber provided regular communication to its members about pandemic-related resources, including where to get personal protective equipment and how to apply for the federal $525-billion Paycheck Protection Program loans. This all goes hand-in-hand with its core services of offering education, networking, professional development, and advocacy on legislative issues.
Notable runners-up: Corridor 9/495 Chamber of Commerce, Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce