When I became president of the Massachusetts Bar Association
last September, I promised myself that I would do everything I
could to leave the MBA better than I found it. I knew that was
going to be a tough task, given the MBA's long list of illustrious
predecessors. Almost a year later, however, I truly believe we are
better. Just look at the ways we've grown as an association.
We've expanded our influence through efforts like our "12 for
12" program. Through this unique initiative, we united lawyers and
the general public, with one voice, and drew greater attention to
the need for proper funding for our courts and civil legal aid. We
also used our voice in the legislature to support workers and their
families in Massachusetts. The MBA's efforts this year helped push
through a new Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights and a law that
increases the burial benefit under the workers' compensation
statute. Right now, an MBA-backed voir dire bill is also moving
through the Legislature.
Our advocacy also expanded the MBA's name beyond the
commonwealth's borders. We received national recognition for our
Workplace Safety Task Force, which earned an award from a renowned
national workers' advocacy group. The task force was hailed as a
model, which is currently being replicated in many states around
the country. Having spearheaded the Workers' Right to Know Law, the
task force is now helping to enforce its measures, which guarantee
safety and fair wages to 100,000 workers each year.
More recently, the MBA's enhanced influence was felt when the
One Fund announced its protocol for a second distribution of
charitable funds. Thanks, in part, to our public support for
individuals suffering from invisible injuries, like traumatic brain
injury, marathon survivors with these devastating injuries are now
more clearly eligible to receive the meaningful awards they need.
Our efforts on behalf of marathon victims helped to inspire our new
Traumatic Brain Injury Task Force, which will address issues
regarding the thousands in Massachusetts who suffer a TBI each
During this past year we've also expanded some of our most
important relationships, especially those with judges, with whom we
now meet regularly. From formal bench-bar symposiums to guest
speakers at our House of Delegates to more informal brown bag
lunches, the MBA has strengthened ties between lawyers and judges
like never before. I am personally excited to see this now regular
interaction continue under new Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice
Ralph D. Gants, who has partnered with us on so many important
issues. We are also working to set up more events with our
wonderful clerks, who keep our courts running smoothly.
I've spoken at length about improving the public perception of
lawyers, and we made great strides in this area, including more
active outreach and interaction with the media. We spread the word
about the positive contributions of lawyers on TV, radio and print
through coverage of our work with marathon victims; our Blue Ribbon
Commission's report on the woeful salaries paid to ADAs, public
defenders and bar advocates; and many other important stories. The
press now frequently calls upon MBA officers and other leaders for
legal expertise, and the MBA is now recognized as the place to go
for legal commentary.
In addition to these accomplishments, we've grown as an
organization this year. Our membership is expanding, and we're
especially excited at the influx of new attorneys, many of whom
joined after taking our Practicing with Professionalism Course - a
great new addition to our educational offerings. Adding to our
successful community programs like Dial-A-Lawyer and Tiered
Community Mentoring, we also found new ways to represent the
underrepresented. MBA volunteers helped feed 600 families at a
Thanksgiving food drive, and we provided financial support to an
innovative program started by lawyers to house the homeless at the
Pine Street Inn.
Of course, I've also grown during my time as president in ways I
could not have imagined. I am the son of a trial attorney who
practiced since the '50s. My father and mentor, Irving "Chick"
Sheff, taught me that the legal community can be like an extended
family. After this year, I truly feel closer to this family than
ever before. I am so grateful for my fellow officers, the MBA staff
and the volunteers I've come to know so well during this time. Any
success we've had is due to the partnership and friendship we've
As I sign off one final time, I can say with confidence that the
MBA is poised for even greater success next year under the
leadership of my good friend, and your next MBA president, Marsha
V. Kazarosian. You won't find a better lawyer or a better leader -
and she is about to inherit an incredible family.
Presidents come and go. But the MBA's excellence and integrity
is forever. The beauty of the MBA is we don't "start over" after
each president. In fact, we never stop. Through our committees,
programs and committed leaders, the MBA has the pieces in place to
ensure continuity and flourish for years to come. And I'll be there
to continue working with the officers and staff on a number of
projects in order to support the MBA.
I am proud to have led such an incredible organization this
year, and I am grateful for all of your trust and support. I'll say
farewell, for now, but not goodbye.