Biography

Jim practices at the intersection of law and politics. He helps clients in heavily regulated industries achieve their goals in legal disputes, before government agencies, in business deals, and in the halls of the Maine Legislature.

Jim combines legal, public policy, networking, and facilitation strategies, working with a broad perspective gained through years of experience as a regulatory lawyer, mediator, and elected official — including as Mayor of Portland.

Jim's unique background allows him to provide clients not only with insightful legal advice, but also with creative solutions involving public relations, facilitation, and outreach to key government, business, and community leaders. His experience in public service and leadership positions on multiple business and nonprofit boards gives him a deep understanding of government and a broad range of connections within Maine's business and political community.

Applying these skills across a wide range of industries such as banking and financial services, energy, telecommunications, municipal law, procurement, and general administrative law, Jim has helped craft or modify laws and regulations, represented clients in adjudicatory proceedings before government agencies and the courts, assisted clients in complex business transactions, facilitated stakeholder groups, and provided a wide range of legal and public policy advice.

His representative matters span multiple practice areas.

    Utilities and Energy

    • Telecommunications
      • Serves as co-chair of the firm's Telecommunications Group
      • Advises telecommunications providers on matters before the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC), the Maine Legislature, and other government agencies
      • Counseled on matters such as the provision of mobile telecommunications services, establishment of a CLEC, approval of a dark fiber provider, government procurement, service territory expansion, tower siting, universal service, eligible telecommunications carrier rules, tax policy, and the provision of broadband services
      • Participated in rulemakings, adjudications, and legislative proceedings related to public utility regulation, telecommunications policy, telemarketing, and radio services
    • Energy
      • Assists investor- and consumer-owned transmission and distribution utilities in transactions and regulatory proceedings ranging from rate setting to rate design, purchase power, and special rate agreements to mergers and acquisitions, rulemakings, and customer complaints to commission audits and investigations
      • Advises natural gas utilities, wood pellet heat providers, and energy aggregators on state regulatory and legislative matters
      • Participated in the drafting and adoption of nearly every major piece of energy legislation adopted in Maine since 1995, including the 1997 restructuring of Maine's electric industry
    • Water and Wastewater
      • Represents municipal and consumer-owned water systems in transactions, rulemakings, and litigated proceedings before the Maine PUC, including main extensions, mergers and acquisitions, local governance, regional cooperation, eminent domain, rate setting, rate design, right-of-way, customer complaints, and commission investigations
      • Provides regulatory and legislative services to a statewide association of water utilities
      • Helped to form Maine's first regional nonprofit organization for water utilities
      • Helped secure passage of a statewide bond issue for water and wastewater projects, for which he was recognized by the Maine Drinking Water Commission

    Government and Public Relations

    • Serves as Director of Maine Street Solutions, Verrill's government relations arm
    • Lobbies on a wide array of issues with specific experience related to energy, telecommunications, public water systems, taxation, transportation, municipal law, substance abuse disorder treatment, and general business and regulatory matters
    • Served as primary draftsperson of Maine's current law governing state, county, and municipal spending
    • Gained years of experience working with the Maine Legislature, including drafting and amending complex legislation and serving as counsel for several statewide ballot initiatives
    • Participates in numerous rulemaking and adjudicatory proceedings involving a wide range of state agencies, including the Maine PUC, the Maine Department of Education, the Bureau of Purchases, the Department of Transportation, Maine Revenue Services, and the Department of Health and Human Services

    Banking and Financial Services

    Visit Jim's blog on banking law here.

    • Chair of firm's Banking & Financial Services Group
    • Provides regulatory and transactional advice to banks and financial institutions with regard to state and federal banking and consumer credit laws
    • Assists financial institutions with obtaining new charters and approvals to do business
    • Develops new agreements and processes for deposit accounts, lending products, or electronic banking
    • Responds to crises ranging from security breaches and criminal activity to disputes over account access

    Regulatory and Administrative Law

    • Municipal Law
      • Served as an elected official in Maine's largest city for seven years
      • Advises local governments, special purpose districts, and private businesses on issues such as procurement, right to know laws, land use, licensure, ordinance changes, finance and spending, and election issues
      • Counsels on land use and development, transportation infrastructure, school construction and finance, and economic development
    • Procurement
      • Successfully represented numerous businesses seeking or maintaining government grants or contracts, including a $50 million statewide radio contract, a $25 million federal grant for a statewide middle-mile fiber network, a multimillion-dollar contract for educational data collection, and a substantial contract for local airport services
      • Advised businesses in contested procurement disputes before state and local government agencies
    • Transportation
      • Has extensive legal and political experience on state and local transportation issues including highway construction and location, grant funding, buses, trains, and airports
      • Served for nearly 15 years as the primary utility liaison to the MDOT/Utilities Task Force, actively participating in drafting regulations governing utility accommodation, highway opening, and right-of-way issues
      • Served on the board of the Greater Portland Transit District, as the Chair of the Portland Jetport Master Planning Committee, and as the first Chair of the Portland City Council's Transportation Committee, in addition to spearheading two regional bus transit summits
    • Substance Use Disorder Treatment
      • Helped obtain the licensure of Maine's first methadone treatment clinic in 1994, which included a successful Superior Court appeal to overturn an agency decision denying licensure
      • Advises several clinics with regard to permitting and operations in Maine including highly contested rulemakings, legal disputes, and legislation related to methadone treatment and Medicaid reimbursement
      • Provides public relations services to clinics

    Alternative Dispute Resolution

    • Certified mediator and listed on the rosters of the Court Alternative Dispute Resolution Service (CADRES), the Foreclosure Diversion Program, and the Maine Human Rights Commission
    • Participated in stakeholder group that developed evidentiary rules related to confidentiality in mediation sessions
    • Facilitated hundreds of public meetings and stakeholder groups as a public official, plus planned and hosted several policy summits, and spearheaded the formation of the Creative Portland Corporation, the Metro Regional Coalition, the Civic Center Joint Task Force, and the Greater Portland Economic Development Corporation
    • Former member of the Board of Governor's Maine Association of Mediators

    Jim is an avid runner, biker, skier, "golfer" (quotes intentionally added), and sometimes guitar player.

    Services/Industries

    Education

    • Columbia University School of Law  (J.D.)
    • Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs  (A.B., cum laude)
    • University of Southern Maine  (Certificate Program in Mediation)

    Public Service

    • Mayor, City of Portland (2005-2006), Portland City Council (2002-2008)
    • Portland Charter Commission, Vice Chair (2009-2010)
    • Portland Regional Chamber, Chair (2012-2014), Trustee (2008-present)
    • Portland Community Chamber of Commerce, Board President (2019-present)
    • Maine State Chamber of Commerce, Trustee (2009-present)
    • Maine Public Spending Research Group, Trustee (2005-2008)
    • See More Public Service

    Bar Admissions

    • Maine

    Court and Other Admissions

    • U.S. District Court for the District of Maine

    Memberships

    • Maine State Bar Association: Consumer and Financial Institutions Section, Chair (1999-2000), Member (1996-present)
    • Maine Association of Mediators, Board of Governors (2008-2010), Member (2007-present)
    • Federal Communications Bar Association, New England Chapter, Steering Committee Member
    • Maine State Bar Association, ADR Section, Member (2009-present)
    • Court Appointed Dispute Resolution Service, Roster of Mediators (2011-2014)

    Honors

    • Neal W. Allen Award for Leadership in the Public Sector (2009)
    • Ruth M. Shaper Memorial Award, Maine Public Health Association (2008)
    • PolitickerME.com Power List 2008
    • PolitickerME.com 2007 Lobbyists with Clout
    • Public Service for the Environment Award, Sierra Club, ME Chapter (2006)
    • Honor Roll, Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence (2006)
    • AV® rated by Martindale-Hubbell
    • Recognized in Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business under Energy & Natural Resources Law
    • Listed in The Best Lawyers in America© for Administrative/Regulatory Law, Government Relations Practice, Energy Regulatory Law in Portland, Maine
    • Selected by peers for inclusion in New England Super Lawyers© under Utilities, Banking and Government Relations

    To learn more about third-party ratings and rankings, and the selection processes used for inclusion, click here.

    Firm Highlights

    Matter

    Establishment of Non-Depository Trust for National Company

    Verrill served as special counsel to a national firm in the chartering and licensing of a Maine non-depository trust company as the client’s wholly-owned subsidiary. Non-depository trust companies are highly regulated, and the matter...

    Blog

    Recent Maine Legislation Bolsters Solar, Distributed Generation

    Blog

    The 7th Annual Maine Natural Gas Conference

    News

    WGAN Radio: Portland Chamber Dispute with Mayor Strimling

    On October 18, 2019, Chamber President and Verrill attorney Jim Cohen spoke to Ken Altshuler and Matt Gagnon of News Radio WGAN about recent e-mails from Ben Collings, as well as the dispute about...

    News

    WGAN and Jim Cohen's Mayoral Race Discussion

    Listen to government and public relations attorney Jim Cohen discuss the Mayoral Race on WGAN's radio show here .

    Matter

    Preserving Legal Right of Private Company to Acquire a Maine Company

    Some transactions go smoothly. But when they don’t, Verrill is ready. The proposed acquisition of a publicly traded company in Maine by large multinational corporation was just such a transaction. For months, the multinational...

    News

    Spencer Thibodeau's Support From Former Mayors

    Real estate attorney Spencer Thibodeau's campaign to become Portland's next mayor got support from 11 former mayors, discussed in a Portland Press Herald article, "Thibodeau Endorsed by 11 Former Mayors, Including 3 Who Supported...

    Blog

    Beneficial Electrification and Natural Gas Bans in New Buildings, Affordable Sustainability

    Event

    Maine Rural Water Association's 39th Annual Technical Conference and Tradeshow

    Employment and labor attorney Tawny Alvarez and Jim Cohen will be presenting at the Maine Rural Water Association's 39th Annual Technical two-day conference on December 10-20, 2019. The event will focus on offering educational...

    Matter

    Helping Non-Depository Trust Companies Do Business in Other States

    Verrill has helped to form more non-depository trust companies in Maine than any other law firm. We have also helped our trust clients when they look to expand their business into other states. In...