Campbell winds down a productive presidential term

Issue August 2012 By Tricia M. Oliver

Massachusetts Bar Association President Richard P. Campbell oversaw a productive association year with regard to his established priorities. Since last September, Campbell assembled a task force to analyze the Massachusetts law economy; launched a high profile awareness campaign for adequate court funding and inserted the Massachusetts bar into discussions surrounding the state's Gateway Cities.

Working alongside his fellow officers and the MBA's extended leadership team, Campbell also oversaw a busy legislative agenda for the association and celebrated influential, major events while moving forward other association priorities.

Analyzing a lopsided law economy

After tapping chairs Eric Parker and Radha Natarajan as its chairs, the Task Force on Law, the Economy and Underemployment quickly got busy to examine the merits of law school given the increasingly high unemployment rate for graduates. Throughout the association year, the group explored, identified and analyzed root causes of and potential solutions to the underemployment of recent law school graduates compounded by a weakened economy and bleak prospects.

The task force chairs presented a report to the MBA's governing body -- the House of Delegates -- at its final May meeting. Delegates voted to accept the report entitled, "Beginning the Conversation."

"Many new law students emerge from law schools unequipped to thrive in the current law economy. In their report, the task force analyzes the problems, provides likely reasons behind this phenomenon, and offers suggestions on what may turn the tide around," Campbell said. "The task force has done a great service for the bar and for society by shining a light on an endemic problem that leaves so many young law school graduates in desperate circumstances."

Funding message takes to the highways

Through a billboard campaign launched in mid-January, the association aimed to grab the average citizen's attention to reinforce that court funding does impact him or her. The MBA's message was showcased on billboards in Greater Boston, along I-93 in Dorchester and Medford; in Worcester along I-290; and in Fall River along Rt. 24.

"We've never done this before," Campbell said at the onset of the high-profile awareness campaign.

The billboard message directed passersby to the MBA Web site, Included on the MBA's site were informational materials on court funding as well as resources citizens and members of the legal community to reference when reaching out to their respective legislators on this important issue.

As part of the informational on-line package, public service announcement-style videos were featured. The videos highlight the negative impact of inadequate court funding through the perspective of judicial leadership, attorneys, academic leaders and court staff.

In addition to the billboards and YouTube videos, the MBA shared word of this new campaign through comprehensive outreach to membership and the larger legal community, as well as other key community and opinion leaders.

An important piece of that outreach was directed to legislators during the collaborative March 10 Court Advocacy Day held at the Statehouse. The MBA and Boston Bar Association spearheaded the well-attended event that featured speakers from judicial and bar leadership, including Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland. Following the program, event attendees were encouraged to meet with their local legislators to reiterate the importance of adequately funding the Massachusetts judicial branch.

In early in July, the state budget for fiscal year 2013 was signed into law by Gov. Deval Patrick. The Trial Court received $561 million worth of funding for FY13.

An eye on Gateway communities

Campbell was integral in reaching out to key leaders most knowledgeable about and connected to the research and initiatives underway surrounding the state's Gateway Cities--those mid-sized cities whose residents are experiencing significantly higher rates of unemployment and a stalemate in social, economic and civic innovation. Some examples are Brockton, Fall River, Lawrence, New Bedford, Springfield and Worcester.

Following his selection of attorneys Margaret Xifaras and Francis Ford to lead this MBA initiative, Campbell first reached out to MassINC, a lead researcher on these communities. Following such outreach, Xifaras and Ford organized two informational forums.

The goal of the forums, as described by Campbell, was to "identify ways in which attorneys can lend their expertise with issues affecting Gateway City communities across Massachusetts."

On Jan. 26, the MBA hosted its first forum at the University of Massachusetts School of Law in Dartmouth. The panel featured Sen. Benjamin Downing (D-Pittsfield) and Rep. Antonio Cabral (D-New Bedford), co-chairs of the Gateway Cities Caucus, and other civic, legislative and educational leaders who have long worked on the issues with the highest impact on Gateway communities. The success of the January forum was followed by a second forum in Worcester that took place on April 30. The panel for the Worcester forum featured Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray, Secretary of Education S. Paul Reville and other respected leaders on this topic from Central Massachusetts.

A stage for sharing MBA's message

Alongside his three presidential initiatives, Campbell and his fellow MBA leaders worked to share the MBA's agenda at key major events throughout the year. In addition, various special guest speakers and honorees added a celebratory tone to the events and their resulting exposure.

The first major event of the association year was the October Bench Bar Symposium. Chief Justice Ireland delivered his first address to the bar at that time. As part of the symposium's high turnout, Speaker DeLeo was in attendance, as were the majority of SJC associate justices and many Trial Court chiefs.

January's Annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid, hosted by the Equal Justice Coalition, provided Campbell the opportunity to stress the importance of legal aid funding. Hundreds of legal professionals and supporters attended the lobbying event and met with their local legislators to deliver the message personally.

In May, Excellence in the Law, co-hosted with Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, afforded the MBA to recognize the judicial excellence of U.S. District Court Chief Judge Mark Wolf, as well as the law-related journalistic excellence of Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen.

Also in May, came the MBA's final major event of the association year -- the MBA Annual Dinner. The MBA's signature event featured keynote speaker Victoria Reggie Kennedy, as well as the 2012 Access to Justice Awardees and the presentation of the Legislator of the Year Award to DeLeo.

Up next

As the association year comes to a close, Campbell is set to hand over the leadership of the MBA to President-elect Robert L. Holloway Jr. As Campbell explained to the delegates at the final HOD meeting in May, Holloway is a "true consensus builder and team player."

Holloway begins his term on Sept. 1.

As for Campbell, his post-presidential plans include getting "back to earning a living." His renewed focus on his practice will include his continued work as Caterpillar's national trial counsel on major litigation, as well as devoting much attention to two newly retained class action cases.

Aside from his practice, he will continue to serve as a member of the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees. "Advancing our public university is a labor of love," said Campbell.