A career in politics was at the top of Chip Mason’s mind when he graduated from the University of Vermont in 1991. A Burlington native, he headed to Washington, D.C. to work for Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords. After a few years on the hill, he left D.C. for law school, fully intending to return upon graduation.
However, appreciation for code-specific law school coursework, several internships, and exceptional mentoring during a clerkship with the Maine Supreme Court convinced him to build a career in transactional law.
The town where he’d been born and raised—and where his family still lived—was an obvious choice. Mason started his legal career in Burlington at another full-service law firm, but he joined Gravel & Shea, where his wife had preceded him as a litigator, in 2003. He looked forward to the opportunity to directly engage with Vermont clients and make a difference in the lives of small companies.
Mason refers to himself as a generalist, providing the role of outside general counsel to businesses throughout Vermont that are looking to grow. His expertise relates to financing, from purchasing equipment or a new building to selling a company. He counsels clients of all sizes on business decisions, such as whether to raise funds in the private market, helping companies understand the costs and the benefits of various options.
In a busy, tech-driven world, making time to dig into your client’s issues can be challenging, but Mason is committed to in-person interactions.
“As a lawyer, it’s easy to say, ‘Yep, this is an asset purchase, and here’s the template we’ve developed from doing 500 deals.,’” Mason says. “Of course, it’s a great template, but it’s somewhat meaningless if you haven’t talked with the client so that you understand what their specific issues are.”
That commitment to connecting with clients has made Mason a favorite in the Burlington community. In 2016, The Best Lawyers in America named him Lawyer of the Year for Corporate Law in Burlington, a designation that comes from nominations and interviews with other leading lawyers. Mason downplays the accolade. “Burlington is a small town. There are a lot of lawyers here but only a handful that do what I do—high-end M&A VC equity financing. Any of them would do a very good job,” Mason says.
Ultimately, he says, choosing an attorney comes down to a question of personality. Client and lawyer work very closely during projects like these, and Mason strives not only to be responsive and provide good work product but also to make his clients feel comfortable during a process that may be entirely new to them.
After building an established career as a corporate attorney, Mason reignited the political interests from his pre-law school years by running for Burlington City Council. “At the time I first ran, I felt like there needed to be some new leadership to help the City move through issues surrounding Burlington Telecom,” Mason says.
As the only attorney on the Burlington City Council, Mason regularly draws on his legal experience. During discussions over issues like new contracts or constitutional litigation, he knows the right questions to ask, guiding other councilors through the process.
In both his work as an attorney and his position as City Councilor, Mason focuses on positive change. In his two decades as an attorney, he’s been lucky to work with really good lawyers who mentored him early in his career and helped him define the kind of lawyer—and person—he wants to be.