A poignant beginning to MBA’s second century

Issue January 2011 By Denise Squillante

"The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving."

As we celebrate the Massachusetts Bar Association's centennial anniversary, we recognize the association's sustained influence in the legal community and society as a whole. We need to make certain that we pull from the lessons of our past as we work to construct its promising future.

Poised as a new organization welcoming an unprecedented breadth of practitioners' viewpoints, MBA inaugural President Richard Olney and others set the direction for the new association by established its initial charge:

"To cultivate the science of jurisprudence, to promote reform in the law, to facilitate the administration of justice, to further uniformity of legislation through the Union, to uphold the honor of the profession of the law, and to encourage cordial intercourse among the members of the Massachusetts bar …"

The MBA got off to a running start by leveraging its voice in improving the educational requirements for bar admission. Shortly thereafter, it adopted a code of professional ethics to guide the actions of future generations of lawyers.

The association was one of the driving forces for the legal aid movement in the 1920s. And, through its Massachusetts Judicial Council, the MBA embraced a decades-long mission of participating in activities related to the intricacies of the administration of justice. In addition to refining the state's legal educational offerings, the association became entrenched in public service in the 1950s, recognizing our profession's obligation to selflessly serve, with a major impact, the greater good.

Over the years, the MBA has influenced court reform, advocated for the establishment of a client services fund, thwarted the unauthorized practice of law and consistently fought to preserve an independent judiciary and legal services funding.

It is apparent that throughout the MBA history, at no time did its leaders or membership rest on their laurels. In contrast, the MBA has been and should continue to be at the ready to address the many issues worthy of our efforts as they continue to reveal themselves at a steady pace.

So, we carry on and begin writing the next century of MBA history the only way we know how - with consideration to the best interest of the profession and the clients we serve.

I hope you'll join me and your fellow members of the bar in commemorating the first century of the MBA and celebrating what lies ahead on May 18 and 19 as we present our Centennial Conference and Ball in Boston. As much as we have to be proud of in our heritage, we have even more to be inspired by in our future.

As I've told some of you reading this, before my presidency began, I was struck by the clarity of an unattributed quote inscribed on the National Archives building in Washington, D.C. It reads, "The heritage of the past is the seed that brings forth the future."

With that sentiment in mind, I thank those of you who have been instrumental in the MBA's heritage so far and look forward to working with those who will be integral in its future.