Celebrating a century of service

Issue September 2010 By Denise Squillante

"The heritage of the past is the seed that brings forth the harvest of the future."
-Unknown, inscribed on the National Archives building in Washington D.C.

I stand on the strong shoulders of the past leaders of the Massachusetts Bar Association who have blazed the remarkable trail before me to continue the association's timeless mission.

The beauty and strength of the organization was and is not only in the depth and diversity of our membership, but in the caliber and courage of our many inspirational leaders.

What a tremendous difference a century makes.

Following the tenure set by MBA's inaugural president Richard Olney signature quote, "the most eminent lawyer may often fail to make himself felt," the association embarked to improve the professionalism of the bar. The shift then began from a profession widely recognized for its corporate focus to what founding member Louis D. Brandeis exemplified as the "people's lawyer."

Such a shift eased the way for Alfred Hemenway, "an unknown boy without any influence or even business acquaintance" from a farm in Hopkinton to make an impressive mark in the Massachusetts bar and serve as the second president of the MBA.

The association set its early sights on improving the standard of bar admission, a necessity given the local effects following the American bar's rapid growth from 60,000 lawyers in 1880 to 114,000 at the turn of the 20th century.

Embracing the diversity of the bar from its onset, the MBA openly welcomed legal professionals from all genders, races, ethnicities, religions and geographic residences.

In 1913, the MBA proudly set a precedent by welcoming Mary A. Mahan of West Roxbury as its first woman member; and by doing so, was one of the first associations in America to welcome women members.

Since then, we've had seven women aptly lead this fine association, with Alice Richmond serving as its first in 1986. My succession to president as the eighth female president marks the first time that the MBA's office of the president has been filled by two consecutive women.

I look forward to carrying on the tradition of the association's longstanding motto-"Fiat Jusititia." Fellow leaders hailing from all four corners of the state and specializing in the full spectrum of practice areas have kept true to this motto first chosen in 1911 by Hollis Bailey, the outspoken secretary of the MBA's Grievance Committee.

I commend the likes of MBA President John W. Cummings (1918-19) for embracing the early concepts of legal aid and welcoming Reginald Heber Smith, author of Justice and the Poor and a national champion for a legal aid movement as a featured speaker at the 1919 annual meeting. Smith explained that respect for legal institutions would increase "if we can get into the fact that the bar really champions and directs the legal aid work for poor persons in this country."

President Samuel P. Sears (1950-53) began an important celebratory and awareness building tradition with instituting the "Good Citizenship Program," that ultimately led to "Massachusetts Heritage Month," a noted precursor to the American Bar Association's Law Day program.

I also applaud President Livingston Hall for his whirlwind term (1963-64) that resulted in the establishment of a client services fund, the creation the MBA's philanthropic partner the Massachusetts Bar Foundation and the formation of the MBA's Young Lawyers Section, now a division of its own in the MBA.

And, I extend much gratitude to the collective efforts of a succession of leadership in the 1960's and 70's that led to a necessary evolution of statewide continuing legal education.

Likewise, the consistent efforts of Presidents Charles J. Kickham Jr. (1974-75), Charles Y. Wadsworth (1975-76) and Paul R. Sugarman (1976-77) on judicial reform and those of William Bernstein's (1983-84) to improve court facilities proved undoubtedly that the MBA continued to be an important influence in the Massachusetts.

I marvel at President Paul Tamburello's (1966-68) vision to expand the MBA's sole focus on our profession to a broader look at the law's effect on society as a whole. Tamburello's findings related to Bridgewater State Hospital led to the 1974 passage of the Massachusetts Health Code and earned him the American Bar Association's "Award of Merit."

Tamburello's innovation laid the groundwork for President Wayne Budd (1978-79), as MBA's youngest president and its first African American leader, to continue to very visibly strengthen the MBA's new policy of civic leadership a decade later.

In 2010, we have a wealth of lessons and inspiration to draw from the last ten decades. I look forward to revisiting such inspiration in upcoming issues of Lawyers Journal throughout this association year.