Last month the Massachusetts Bar Association's House of Delegates
(HOD) voted to establish a new Complex Commercial Litigation
Section -- the second new section added during the 2013-14
membership year, along with the Workers' Compensation Section. By
adding these specialty areas, both new sections fill existing
member needs and open opportunities to attract new members.
The Workers' Compensation Section has been very active since its
addition by the HOD last September. It is already holding monthly
meetings under the leadership of Workers' Compensation Section
Chair Deborah G. Kohl and Vice Chair Marianne Swenson.
The number of workers' compensation members at the MBA has
tripled since the section was added, according to Kohl. "It
encouraged a lot of people who weren't MBA members to become
members because they see the benefit from having the section," she
Although the Complex Commercial Litigation Section is only a
month old, its newly appointed chair, Paul E. White, has high
expectations for his group, which also addresses a specialty area
that members have been looking for.
"This section focuses exclusively on the litigation of business
disputes and business-related disputes, rather than the broad range
of business law issues," said White. Noting that the section plans
to hold activities in Worcester and Springfield, as well as Boston,
he added, "Commercial litigators will now have a specific home for
their practice areas, whether they are from large or small firms,
or in or outside of Boston."
A Workers' comp
Workers' Compensation had previously existed at the MBA as a
subcommittee under the Civil Litigation Section. Kohl credited MBA
President Douglas K. Sheff for recognizing the opportunity that
creating a Workers' Compensation Section would bring to attorneys
whose administrative practices makes this such a specialized
The benefits since the section was formed have been
"As individual attorneys, we'd say things and not be heard. Now
that we are organized we speak with the voice of the bar behind us,
and that's really important," said Kohl. "It's given us entry we've
never had before."For example, Kohl's section has been able to
establish a regular dialogue with a senior judge at the Department
of Industrial Accidents (DIA), which has already led to the
availability of walk-in lump sums - a welcome change that means
workers' compensation attorneys no longer have to wait five weeks
to get a settlement date.
There are five regional DIA offices, and the Workers'
Compensation Section has already held seminars for practitioners in
two of the regions: Boston and Lawrence. Another is planned for
Springfield this month with a speaker who is an expert on Medicare
The section has already created subcommittees covering
legislative issues and technology (e-filing), and they just created
another subcommittee to conduct seminars next year, which will be
open to all MBA members. Already in the works are an introductory
seminar on workers' compensation, and another on the interplay
between workers' comp benefits and other benefits.
The Workers' Compensation Section has been active on My Bar
Access, which Kohl said is the best place to visit for up to date
information on the section, as well as workers' compensation law.
"We're bringing people in and we've made a lot of progress this
year," said Kohl. "We have a structure in place that's working, and
people are doing a substantial amount of work."
'Com Com' plans
The MBA has always welcomed commercial litigators, many of whom
already participate in the Civil Litigation or Business Law
sections. But the Complex Commercial Litigation Section,
colloquially dubbed "Com Com," will provide a more specialized
section for attorneys whose practices involves litigation in
intellectual property, commercial contracts, business torts,
bankruptcy and other areas across the commercial litigation
White said the opportunity to have educational opportunities
that are specific to this substantive practice area will be a huge
plus to commercial litigators, like himself. He also said having a
section where there are many commercial litigators from different
levels of experience and judges will provide great opportunities to
network and enhance one's practice.
MBA members can join an unlimited amount of sections, and White
said members - especially those in the Business and Civil
Litigation sections - should see the Com Com Section as a
complement to other sections. "It's cross-pollination," he said.
"It enhances everybody's skills as a lawyer to recognize how
business disputes can arise and how they can best be handled."
The Com Com Section is in the process of ramping up for what
promises to be an active 2014-15. White said the section hopes to
publish a quarterly newsletter and will start offering CLE programs
in the fall in each of the substantive areas that the section
covers. The plan is to also hold a section-wide symposium, which
will become an annual event for Com Com members.
While several positions in the Com Com section council have been
filled, there are still openings available.