From product liability to paperbacks:

Alumnus Peter Resnik founds Boston's Book Club for the Homeless

Peter Resnik, alumnus and senior counsel at McDermott Will & Emery, never imagined that his daily walk to work through the Boston Common would inspire a national trend. Most mornings, Resnik would pass homeless veteran, Robert Day on his walk through the park. Cordial greetings grew into conversations, until the two began discussing a shared passion: literature.

For Resnik, books offered respite from complex litigation and high-profile product liability cases. For Day, books were an escape from the isolation of homelessness.

It's easy to let the pro bono slip, but it becomes a very important part of your career, especially when you look back on what you've done.

Book discussions soon became a daily connection for the two men, and Resnik began sharing his latest reads with Day. I asked him what he had done with the first book I'd given him, recalls Resnik. He pointed to another homeless man in the park and said, 'I gave it to that man.' He soon learned that his book had been changing hands throughout the homeless community. It was at this point that one of the nation's first book clubs for the homeless was born.

The two men began weekly book discussions, along with a growing group of readers from the homeless community. "The idea for the book club was to try and bring people out of isolation and give them a positive accomplishment," says Resnik.

For the past three years, the club has continued to meet every Tuesday morning in Boston's Church on the Hill to discuss works like The Kite Runner, Water for Elephants, and Ralph Waldo Emerson essays.

Day and Resnik's group, today known as "The Oasis Book Club," has received national attention from The Boston Globe, Boston University's NPR affiliate, WBUR, People magazine, CBS News, and Bostonia magazine. Over the past three years, the idea has been replicated across the country: Seattle, Wash., Fort Wayne, Ind., Smyrna, Fla., New York City, and even London and Barcelona, according to Bostonia.

As the head of McDermott Will & Emery's firm-wide pharmaceutical and biotech products liability practice, Resnik has clearly maintained a strong career focus, though he believes in casting a wider net. You get through a period in your career where you're so focused on developing your practice, developing your career, it's easy to let the pro bono slip, says Resnik. But it becomes a very important part of your career, especially when you look back on what you've done.

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