2019-20 Massachusetts Bar Association President John J. Morrissey.
Massachusetts Bar Association President John J. Morrissey has two primary goals this year: addressing issues of attorney wellness identified in the July report of the Supreme Judicial Court Steering Committee on Lawyer Well-Being and developing a framework for data-driven decision-making at the MBA. Attorney-wellness initiatives will focus on the areas of inclusion, fellowship and civility.
Morrissey will enlist the support of the full membership base to increase diversity at the MBA and within leadership. Specifically, he will call on each member to help recruit their colleagues for membership in the MBA. As the premier statewide bar association, Morrissey said, the MBA should reflect the diverse community and profession that it serves. It should be a model of inclusion and representative leadership. “If we want a diverse organization that truly reflects our profession and our community, all the members must take direct responsibility for membership. A large and diverse membership is good for the MBA, good for the profession and good for the community. It is my role as president to set the agenda and my responsibility to make sure our programs and my powers of appointment serve the goal of inclusion.”
A founding partner at Morrissey, Wilson & Zafiropoulos LLP in Braintree, Morrissey has maintained active membership in the MBA for more than 25 years. While he initially joined the organization to advance his skills as a trial attorney and build a professional network, Morrissey found himself drawn to the sense of community and fellowship offered by membership and bar association service (pictured, above, at the 2019 MBA Volunteer Recognition Dinner). Over the years he has met attorneys with diverse backgrounds and practices from across the state, and his colleagues at the MBA have become some of his closest and most valued friends. It is this fellowship at the MBA that Morrissey believes offers opportunities to address many of the wellness issues raised in the SJC report. The MBA provides an effective platform for professional development, but the value of the fellowship created by active involvement in the organization is often overlooked. “We live in an age of ever-improving technology that has leveled the playing field by allowing solo practitioners and small-firm lawyers to compete with large firms. It has allowed all attorneys to become ever more efficient, but it has also resulted in increasing isolation and loneliness in society in general, and within the legal profession in particular. Active involvement in the MBA allows members to engage socially with their colleagues and develop friendships. These social bonds and friendships are critically important for attorney wellness.”
As a veteran trial lawyer, Morrissey can speak personally to the issue of incivility in legal profession, which the SJC committee described as detrimental to individual well-being and the overall health of the profession. Morrissey said he was fortunate to have mentors who taught him the importance of civility soon after his 1992 graduation from Boston University School of Law. But after 27 years of trial practice, he has become well acquainted with the caustic effect of incivility on the profession.
Morrissey will reengage the Civility and Professionalism Committee to focus its efforts on civility as an attorney-wellness initiative. Morrissey said this initiative marks a continuation of the MBA’s longstanding commitment to fostering a culture of mutual respect within the legal community that dates back to its formation almost 110 years ago (pictured, above, at an MBA reception in September 2019). “I think the MBA is the perfect vehicle to address many of the challenges created by a lack of civility,” Morrissey said. “We have the ability to bring together the various stakeholders to discuss the issue of incivility and identify specific recommendations to address it.”
Competitive and Compassionate
Morrissey knew from a young age that he wanted to be an attorney, and he was naturally drawn to trial work because of his competitive nature. He represents individuals and families in personal injury and workers’ compensation claims arising from serious injuries and death, as well as individuals and businesses in commercial disputes.
He co-founded Morrissey, Wilson & Zafiropoulos LLP in 2010, and while his trial practice has expanded since that time to include commercial litigation, his focus and preference will always be to represent real people who have been injured and need help. “Generally, when I first meet my client, they have been involved in a serious accident or lost a loved one and they are suffering, they feel lost. They look to me to bring some sense of normalcy and financial security back to their life.”
He feels particularly drawn to serve people injured on the job, most of whom come from modest backgrounds without the resources to pay the bills while they recover from their injuries. “It’s great to be able to sit down with your client and say, ‘I’ll make sure you get your lost wages and your medical bills get paid. You just focus on getting better,’” Morrissey said.
'Thoughtful and Approachable Leader'
During his term as president, Morrissey will continue to co-chair the MBA Trial Academy (pictured, right, at the 2019 MBA Trial Academy) and serve on the Executive Management Board, Leadership Academy Steering Committee and Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Scholarship Committee. Outside of the MBA, Morrissey is the current chair of the Board of Bar Overseers.
“John is a thoughtful and approachable leader whose broad institutional knowledge of the MBA will serve him exceptionally well as president,” said MBA Chief Legal Counsel and Chief Operating Officer Martin W. Healy. “His agenda will tackle some of the foremost issues in our profession today, as identified by the wellness committee of the Supreme Judicial Court, while also strengthening our member experience and our partnership with the courts.”