For us, tis the season year-round

Issue December 2013 By Douglas K. Sheff

Is it me, or do "the holidays" seem to start earlier each year? Of course, what I'm really talking about is holiday marketing, where department stores begin decking their halls for holiday shopping soon after Labor Day. Marketing aside, however, it's hard to deny that there is a little something extra in the air from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day, regardless of one's background or religion.

This time of year for me has always been marked by giving, and maybe that's because I grew up as the son of an attorney. (The photo on page 2 is of my dad and me at one of our firm's holiday parties.) As I've said before, attorneys by their nature are really givers and caretakers. Here at the Massachusetts Bar Association, we've fully embraced that label.

Just last month, on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, the MBA partnered with Christmas in the City on its annual Turkey Drive, where nearly 40 MBA officers, members and staff handed out Thanksgiving food baskets (see page 15). Our contributions of both time and money helped feed more than 600 families in need - approximately 2,000 people - in the Boston area.

This month we also partnered with Cradles to Crayons to collect warm winter clothing for children as part of its Gear Up for Winter program. While neither of these programs had anything to do with the law, they were a natural fit for us as a bar association since we, as lawyers, routinely help our clients and others both in and outside of the courtroom. And it's not just limited to the holiday season. The MBA "gives back" countless times, year-round.

The MBA gives back through our legislative advocacy. This year our efforts helped usher in the first judicial pay raise since 2006, while increasing the judiciary's budget for fiscal year 2014. We also helped improve rehabilitation options for young adult offenders through the passage of MBA-backed legislation increasing the age of juvenile jurisdiction. The MBA's Workplace Safety Task Force has been the gift that keeps on giving. Last year we increased workplace safety for more than 100,000 temp workers with the passage of the "Right to Know" law. And this year we're working on increasing death benefits under workers' compensation, which has recently begun moving in the legislative process.

The MBA also gives back through our community programs. Our Dial-A-Lawyer, Tiered Community Mentoring Program, Mock Trial and other outward-focused initiatives are regular examples of ways we're helping to improve the lives of others. Of course, none of these programs happen without our members who volunteer and help bring them to life.  The MBA is the preeminent voice of the legal profession in Massachusetts, and it's our members who give us that voice. I want to especially thank our sustaining members, whose extra financial commitment to the MBA makes many of our programs possible.

Rest assured, the MBA will continue to give back long after the holiday season is over. In fact, I recently announced my "12 for 12" program where we will get 12,000 lawyers to ask 12 of their clients to send letters of support to legislators for increased funding for the courts and legal aid. I don't believe there will be anything more powerful than elected representatives hearing directly from their constituents about the importance of properly supporting our judicial branch.

In 2014, our philanthropic partner, the Massachusetts Bar Foundation, will celebrate its 50th anniversary. Many of you have been key supporters through the years. And I will be asking everyone to consider giving the MBF "$50 for 50," in honor of this milestone. You just have to read this month's feature story on the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute's Homelessness Project - an MBF grantee - to see the type of critically important work the MBF assists each year.

We have a lot to be proud of in 2013, and even greater things to come in 2014. Happy holidays, and happy new year, to you and your families!