Steering the MBA Ahead

Issue Sept/Oct 2009 By Valerie A. Yarashus

Massachusetts Bar Association officers recently completed a two-and-one-half-day planning retreat, which was led by a wonderfully skilled facilitator. We benefited greatly from many insightful responses to a survey we conducted of some of our broader leadership last month, and we have formulated action plans which will move the MBA forward visibly and dramatically this year. As we enter the year before our Centennial Celebration, I share a common vision with my fellow officers, who are all extremely dedicated, talented and generous with their time and energy. I hope that you feel welcome to contact any of us throughout the year with your input and suggestions.

Before talking about the future, please allow me to take a moment to reflect on the many efforts of our outgoing president, Edward W. McIntyre. Ed is one of the most decent, kindhearted and gracious people I have ever known. He enlisted a collaborative, nonhierarchical leadership style, operating out of mutual respect and looking for partnerships whenever possible. He is that rare person who listens more than he speaks, and is always looking for ways to engage others in dialogue. His love of books is legendary, and it was through that common ground that we decided to establish MBA Monthly Leadership Roundtables, a book group of sorts for current or potential MBA leaders. Consistent with Ed's philosophy of collaborative leadership, he and I co-chaired the group as equal partners.

There is no denying that it was a year full of challenges, yet I believe when we look back, we will see that it was a pivotal year with many important events that were necessary to move us ahead. Under Ed's leadership, we set up an Education Committee, a Membership Committee and a Technology Task Force. We purchased a system with the capacity for producing the best quality of online educational programs available in the commonwealth, which we are in the process of installing (more to come on that soon). Ed led the way in mobilizing support to restore court and legal services funding in our state budget, working in close partnership with the Boston Bar Association. It is clear that without these efforts, we would be faced with far deeper cuts and loss of services in the commonwealth's budget than those we are dealing with now.

Ed is passionate about assisting veterans and their families, and so the MBA Veterans Initiative was launched to help men and women who served in the armed services obtain legal services and benefits. Ed moved bravely ahead with technology and enabled the Mass. Bar to have a presence on Twitter as an additional way of communicating with our members and beyond. As a result, our Summer Social on the waterfront in Boston enjoyed triple the attendance compared with what we have seen in the past.

It is in the MBA section councils and task forces that the day-to-day work of the organization is accomplished. I am delighted to share with you that requests for appointments to these section councils and task forces increased significantly this year. To give one example - in just one of our 18 section councils, we had 74 requests for 15 appointments. This is a sign of a healthy organization, and it is fabulous to see such a response and commitment to the future success of the MBA.

Looking over the years of Ed's service to the Mass. Bar, it is clear that he has devoted literally thousands and thousands of hours to this organization, which he holds so close to his heart. We are better as a profession because of Ed's generosity and vision. I am deeply grateful to him for the paths that he has opened through all of his hard work and belief in collaborative leadership.

Looking ahead to the future, we are delighted to announce that retired Supreme Judicial Court Justice John M. Greaney has agreed to chair the MBA's Centennial Commission, which will be planning a year of celebrations and reflections during the 2010-11 association year, when President-elect Denise Squillante will serve as president. Douglas K. Sheff, vice president, has concluded his leadership of an outstanding multi-year Strategic Planning Task Force and will now move over to chair the Membership Committee, which will be instrumental in implementing many of the task force's suggestions. Richard P. Campbell, also a vice president, will be leading a Task Force on Peremptory Challenges (see related article), with some of the most highly respected lawyers and judges throughout the state. This task force is a follow-up to the front page story in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly a few months ago in which prominent voices from the bench were urging the bar to make its views known in light of recent court decisions. Treasurer Robert L. Holloway Jr. is setting up various groups within the MBA Budget and Finance Committee to look at new ways to continue our fiscal responsibility to provide members with the most high-quality services at the most reasonable price possible. Jeffrey N. Catalano, secretary, will be leading a special task force on volunteer recognition in order to raise the profile of our many wonderful members who contribute their time and energy to this organization, the legal profession and the larger community.

Thank you for the privilege of serving as your president this year.