Sheff opens 2013-14 year with vow to reclaim trust in attorneys

Issue October 2013 By Nora Tooher

In an evening that combined heartfelt admiration with good-natured teasing, more than 100 friends, family members and colleagues gathered on Sept. 12 at the Liberty Hotel in Boston to laud Douglas K. Sheff as president of the Massachusetts Bar Association.

During the event, which marked the opening of the 2013-2014 association year, Sheff announced an ambitious, three-point initiative aimed at restoring attorneys' reputations as community caretakers and champions of justice.

Despite their many selfless acts, attorneys and judges are often viewed as exclusionary and elitist, Sheff said.

Sheff's plan to reclaim the public's trust in MBA members calls for:

  • Helping working families through the Massachusetts Workplace Safety Task Force he chairs. Other measures include supporting small business, curbing predatory lending and backing efforts to control tuition and taxes.
  • A consumer advocacy initiative that includes setting up a clearinghouse to address inadequate and negligent services and products.
  • A "Justice for All" program to publicize MBA charitable work, from the Massachusetts Bar Foundation and Lawyer Referral Service, to recent efforts such as helping the One Fund and victims of traumatic brain injuries.

"We represent the under-represented; that's what makes us different," Sheff said. "That's what makes us truly great."

MBA President-elect Marsha Kazarosian and Donald Grady, Sheff's partner at Sheff Law in Boston, kicked off the evening with glowing introductory remarks about Sheff, their close friend. They also shared several amusing stories that illustrated Sheff's penchants for multitasking and always going the extra mile to help others.

"Sometimes, Doug can drive you a little crazy," Kazarosian said jokingly. "If Doug has an idea he wants to vet or a problem he wants to solve, there's nowhere you can hide."

On a serious note, Grady described Sheff as a "driven lawyer and successful leader."

Sheff is the first president of the MBA, Grady noted, who is also a past president of the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys, as well as a governor of the American Association of Justice (AAJ) and trustee of the AAJ's National College of Advocacy.

He attributed Sheff's success as a lawyer and leader to his family's support.

In the audience, Sheff's mother, Maxine, said her son demonstrated a lawyer's argumentativeness from an early age. "He always debated everything," she said. "We used to call him 'the bulldog.'"

Sheff's sister, Jody Sheff, praised her brother's passion for justice and the law. "I think that the MBA is extremely fortunate to have someone as talented, as caring and as knowledgeable about the law and respectful of justice," she commented.

Sheff in turn thanked his fellow lawyers - whom he called his extended family - and his actual family, particularly his father, the late Irving "Chick" Sheff, founder of the personal injury law firm that bears the family name, for inspiring him to become a lawyer.

"This is for you, dad," he said.