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Jack McConnell: RI's Billion-Dollar Man

The State of Rhode Island won another round this week in its fight with the lead paint industry -- with a potential tab of more than $3 billion -- and lawyer Jack McConnell deserves a chunk of the credit. Brian C. Jones offers a detailed profile of McConnell in this week's Phoenix.

As the head of the Providence office of Motley Rice, the lawyer-activist has been in the forefront of huge legal fights against cigarettes, asbestos, and lead paint. As the treasurer of the Rhode Island Democratic Party, he's also a player, locally and nationally, in Democratic politics. To his critics, he epitomizes what is wrong with "trial lawyers." But as McConnell tells Jones, he's merely pursuing the ideals passed along by his parents.  

Jack McConnell grew up in modest circumstances. He and his five brothers squeezed into two bedrooms, three boys in each, in a small Warwick house. And while they were young, Jack and his brother, Bob, shared the same bed.
 
Their father, John J. McConnell, a revered and iconic Brown University administrator for 30 years, set out a non-materialistic catechism for the family.
 
“What my dad brought to us was that things weren’t important,” McConnell recalls. “So if you’d ever say: God, I love my baseball glove, he’d say: You can’t love things; you can only love people.
 
This may explain why McConnell seems almost uncomfortable with his enormous success as a lawyer in some of the nation’s most seminal legal battles — as if the millions he’s earned are an accident.

Jones also has a sidebar looking at the strategy, successful thus far, in the state's lead paint fight. 

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