Inspiring speakers, compelling programs mark 'Leading Through Law' at AC04

Issue Februray 2004

Hundreds of attorneys and judges were reminded last week as they gathered for the MBA's Annual Conference 2004 of the important principles that first called them to the practice of law.

Under the theme "Leading through Law," lawyers and judges from across the state attended a variety of informative programs and listened to several compelling speakers deliver poignant messages on issues ranging from the protection of civil liberties to corporate ethics to envisioning the future of the practice of law.

Annual Conference 2004 kicked off Jan.22 at the Sheraton Boston Hotel with more programs than ever before, including several new events during the conference's first day.

This included programs presented by the MBA's Law Practice Management and New Lawyers section councils entitled "Proper Care of Your Practice" and "Managing Your Career." The half-hour talks and roundtable discussions focused on a variety of topics to assist lawyers with day-to-day issues involving law practice on issues ranging from networking to tips for coping with stress. Later in the afternoon, mentors talked to attorneys about career planning and a variety of practice areas including labor and employment, family law and probate law.

The leadership of the Massachusetts Bar Association and Massachusetts Bar Foundation also held key meetings during the first day of the conference. The MBA's House of Delegates heard a report on the trial court from Chief Justice for Administration and Management Robert Mulligan and voted on a number of key issues. This included a vote to file suit over anniversary fees.

At its annual meeting, the Massachusetts Bar Foundation listened to a keynote address by former Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Scott Harshbarger, who spoke about ethics and corporate governance. New officers also were elected at the annual meeting and it was announced that MBA Executive Director Abigail Shaine would also serve as MBF executive director.

The first day of the conference concluded in style with an Opening Reception in which several attorneys where honored for celebrating 50 years as members of the bar. Following that, attorneys dined at some of Boston's finest downtown restaurants through a new Dine-Around program.

In addition to the expanded programming, attorneys also had an opportunity to see the latest in legal technology on both the first and second day of the conference through Tech Talk, a series of programs sharing some of the latest in legal technology. Technology and other great benefits also were on display in the Exhibit Hall, where more exhibitors than ever were on hand to showcase potential services for attorneys.

On Jan. 23, MBA President Richard C. Van Nostrand spoke about a number of challenges facing the commonwealth and several issues that have arisen within the past year, including the funding of legal services for the poor and a call to renew the death penalty.

"These are certainly heady times," said Van Nostrand. "More than ever before our colleagues are turning to the organized bar to help us not only manage our practice and careers but remind ourselves about our role and responsibilities as lawyers."

The day continued with a compelling discussion on the future of law practice led by noted futurist and attorney Charles F. Robinson. Attorneys also were given updates on legislative issues, ethics and case law including in the areas of real estate, family law, employment law, juvenile law, tax law, appellate practice and procedure, probate law, commercial law, criminal law, elder law, corporate governance and personal injury and insurance.

During the annual Access to Justice Awards Luncheon, sponsored by the MBA and MBF, Professor David Cole of Georgetown University Law Center delivered an engaging speech regarding civil liberties in the wake of Sept. 11, specifically addressing the shortcomings raised by the government's treatment of foreign nationals. Cole wrote the book "Enemy Aliens" and is a volunteer staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights. Several attorneys also were recognized for their outstanding contributions to the profession.

The celebrating began in the early evening during the Gala Reception and Gala Dinner. Attendees mixed and mingled and later listened to poignant remarks given by Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund. State Rep. Eugene O'Flaherty also was honored as Legislator of the Year. The fun of the evening continued with an After Party, with music provided by local singing legend Didi Stewart.

Annual Conference 2004 concluded Jan. 24 with several timely discussions and Bench/Bar Forums on wrongful convictions, eyewitness identification in criminal cases, jury selection in civil trials and the adversary system in "problem-solving courts."

The conference closed with a Closing Luncheon in which attendees were able to see a Mock Trial Program demonstration and listen to timely remarks given by Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall.