We're better than this

Issue November 2010 By MBA President Denise Squillante

I was recently reminded of a time when I intervened during an argument between opposing counsel several years ago. My message to my two colleagues at the time was, "We're better than this." Before and since then, it has been heartwarming to learn of countless acts of altruism displayed by our many colleagues across the commonwealth. Their collective efforts illustrate the true spirit of our fine profession.

Each and every day, thousands of lawyers throughout the commonwealth work to assist individuals in some of their most difficult times. These lawyers could be defending an individual who has been charged with a crime, assisting a family grieving the death of a loved one, helping an individual through the difficult process of a divorce, representing a child in a custodial conflict, trying to find justice for an injured individual, or engaging in other countless situations that require legal assistance. For the people who need the help, the day-in, day-out duties that Massachusetts lawyers perform make a difference in their lives.

Many lawyers are doing significant pro bono work and community service, and devoting their time to serve on non-profit boards throughout the state. In addition, with the Trial Court staffing crisis and budget problems, lawyers continue to assist in courthouses across the commonwealth. They participate in volunteer conciliation programs, Lawyer for the Day or other public service programs that are needed to help the court in its daily functioning. Many lawyers are also working to assist individuals in the foreclosure crisis, veterans who call the MBA's Dial-A-Lawyer service, or intervene in other crises that become prevalent in times of economic turmoil.

One challenge for these hardworking lawyers is to find work-life balance. This is particularly challenging in an underfunded court system, as the lawyers who are integral to the functioning of the court on the other side of the bench step up to the plate to assist and to advocate for the courts. Throughout the commonwealth, there are many programs and initiatives in which lawyers are reaching out to assist the courts during the deep staff reductions, at a time when they are managing their practices and their own staff in difficult times.

Individuals in the four corners of the Bay State who have made a difference will be recognized this year as part of the MBA's 100th anniversary commemorations. Our celebrations will honor the MBA's century of service to the public, to the legal profession and to the rule of law. This rich tradition of service has been and will continue to be sustained by the members of our fine profession.

The MBA announces the MBA Centennial Award, which will be given by the president or another officer throughout the centennial celebration to a person of extraordinary achievement (who may be a lawyer, law professor, judge, court administrator, legislator or other person with significant involvement with the legal system and/or the rights and responsibilities of individuals, corporations, partnerships, trusts and other civic bodies) who materially advanced the rule of law, enhanced the integrity of lawyers, judges or the legal profession, engaged or is engaging in important legal scholarship, or protected the democratic principles upon which our country was founded.

At this time, there have been two recipients of the MBA Centennial Award. Bristol Bar Association President Nancy Stanton, who has given 20 years of volunteer bar association service, was the first. In addition to her bar work, she has assisted in the development of an approved conciliation program in the Second District Court, one of the many important pro bono programs through which lawyers assist the court in helping to move cases along (See story, page 16).

The second recipient was Robert Marchand, who is very active with the Massachusetts Bar Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the MBA. He was recognized with this award for his decades of work with Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers.
Throughout the commonwealth, there are many other lawyers who are deserving of this award. I will be reaching out with the MBA throughout the state to identify those individuals who represent the best in our profession, working deep in the trenches in the four corners of the commonwealth. As we celebrate their service, we celebrate our profession and the reason that we all took this life path, to help the public.