MBA Centennial

Issue May 2011

MBA presidents tackle social issues in 1970s

In the early 1970s, the Massachusetts Bar Association was growing in a number of ways, including the number of members, the number and type of professional staff, and the scope of its mission.

Starting in the late 1960s, the MBA had begun taking a role in a number of societal issues, including the exposure of brutal conditions that the criminally insane were living in at Bridgewater State Hospital by President Paul A. Tamburello (1966-68).

As Robert J. Brink wrote in Fiat Justitia, A History of the Massachusetts Bar.Association 1910-1985, "The profession itself had matured enough that the MBA could successfully begin shifting its focus from a narrow interest in the internal problems of the legal community to a concern with the law's efforts on society as a whole."

The MBA did not fail to assert itself on a number of legal debates, including proposals for lawyer recertification, defending the tort system against legislative efforts, merit selection of judges and court reform.

During the term of Frederick G. Fisher Jr. (1973-74), two important programs were launched: the Fee Arbitration Board and the Lawyer Referral Service. Those factored into the American Bar Association awarding the MBA its third Award of Merit in seven years.

It was also a time of evolution in the MBA's leadership. Although the MBA had always welcomed women and minority lawyers, 1976 saw the first woman run for the office of president, Colette Manoil.

She failed in her challenge of the nominated candidate, Raymond J. Kenney Jr., but, as Brink noted in Fiat Justitia, "Manoil may have lost the presidency in 1976, but, fighting in the MBA's mainstream arena, she won an important round in the continuing struggle of women to gain equal status with men in the legal profession."

It would be another decade before the MBA saw its first woman president, but the end of the decade did see another significant first when Wayne A. Budd became the association's first black president. Not only that, he was also its youngest president, and the first black bar association president in the country.

Timeline 1970s

1970: Richard K. Donahue is elected president of the MBA. He would be the last president to serve a multiple-year term, as the association's bylaws were amended at the 1973 annual meeting to create a "president-elect" position, allowing the leadership a greater focus on advancing the association's long-term goals.

August 1972:
At the conclusion of his term, Donahue reports a 55 percent increase in membership over 18 months, bringing the association's membership to more than 7,300 attorneys.

1972: Berge C. Tashjian is elected president of the MBA.

1972: Newly hired Executive Director Carl Modecki modernizes and expands the management of the association, including the installation of computers in the headquarters in Center Plaza.

Frederick G. Fisher is elected president of the MBA.

September 1973:
James W. Dolan is hired as the association's first full-time legislative counsel, completing the association's transformation into an organizational vehicle that could drive forward the policies of the MBA.

September 1973:
After discussions and negotiations ranging over four decades, the unification debate comes to an end when the Supreme Judicial Court rules that the MBA and the Boston Bar Association could, and should, proceed with a partial unification. The court drafts a set of rules to register all attorneys, to investigate uniformly and, if warranted, to prosecute ethical complaints against attorneys. It also establishes a client security fund and requires all attorneys to pay an annual fee to help support these efforts. The issue of full unification was postponed for several years, by which point the partial unification was in effect and no further consideration was necessary.

Charles J. Kickham is elected president of the MBA.

April 1974:
Two months after it was proposed, the Lawyer Referral Service has 550 members and is generating $850 in revenue for the MBA.

1974: After nearly doubling its membership in five years, to 9,100 of the state's 14,000 attorneys, the MBA receives the American Bar Association's Award of Merit for the third time in seven years in recognition of the programs developed by the many members and committees.

Charles Y. Wadsworth is elected president of the MBA
1976: Paul R. Sugarman is elected president of the MBA.

1977: Raymond J. Kenney Jr. is elected president of the MBA, a result of the first contested election for president in the association's 65-year history. His challenger, Colette Manoil, was the first woman to seek the office.

1977: The MBA undergoes the first major change to its organizational structure since 1911. Rather than attempting to coordinate the work of more than 50 committees (and their subcommittees), the association is divided into sections according to practice area, with a chairman responsible for each section's work. Adopted provisionally for one year, the organizational change was so effective it was permanently adopted by the 11,000 members the following year with virtually no debate.

1978: Roy A. Hammer is elected president of the MBA.

June 1978:
Sweeping judicial reform is approved by the Legislature in the last day of its session, completely reorganizing and restructuring the state's courts into a unified system, resulting in a number of ongoing compromises and improvements.

1979: Wayne A. Budd is elected president of the MBA. He is the youngest president elected in the association's history, and the first black president of any state bar association in the nation.

MBA Did you know?

"Robert Grant's Bench and Bar of Massachusetts: 1889-1929 reports that in 1880 there were only four women lawyers in Massachusetts from a total of 1,984." By 1920, this had barely improved, to 47 women lawyers from a state total of 4,897. Through equality efforts over the 20th century by the MBA, the Women's Bar Association and other groups, the female lawyer population in 2005 represented approximately one-third of the 38,143 active lawyers in Massachusetts.

In addition to its member-specific education, the MBA has tried to educate the public about the law as well. In the early 1990s, a radio segment entitled "It's Your Law" gave two-minute snippets of advice to listeners of 24 radio stations statewide. It covered topics such as sexual harassment in the workplace, workers' compensation, bankruptcy and AIDS discrimination. During the war in the Persian Gulf, special shows on the rights of reservists and the military were produced, earning the MBA program an award from the U.S. military.

As the MBA's scope widened to include issues such as judicial administration and social problems, its ability to help both the public and the profession expanded as well. In 1965, MBA President Livingston Hall initiated the creation of the Massachusetts Bar Foundation. In 1971, MBF President Joseph Schneider announced the beginning of scholarships to students at local law schools and his intention to expand the MBF to provide benefits to as many law students and local residents as possible.