Leading the perennial race for fairness

Issue May 2014

The Massachusetts Bar Association's (MBA) Annual Dinner is our traditional celebration of our recent accomplishments. As we gather together on May 15, we should never forget that this year has been just one lap on the MBA's perennial race to better serve the interests of attorneys and protect the 
underrepresented.

For too long, our race has been run without the benefit of supporters. Many of lawyers' good works have gone unnoticed. That is why one of my goals at the start of my presidency was to improve the image of lawyers by promoting all the positive work that we do in and outside of the legal community. I have no doubt that this year we have added spectators in droves along our race course due to our initiatives and very public community-based activities that helped so many deserving people and causes.

This year the MBA raised funds to support the Pine Street Inn Project in the hope of creating a new facility there. We also raised funds and helped distribute food to 2,000 hungry people just before Thanksgiving. We were able to help those who otherwise would have had very little to celebrate on a holiday so much of us take for granted.

Our "Working Families" and "Justice for All" initiatives have been particularly focused on creating safe and fair conditions for workers. Last fall, our Workplace Safety Task Force, which has become a model for virtually every other state in the country, received a national award for innovation and community service by a national nonprofit organization representing the interests of millions of workers across the United States. Through that task force, we are currently working to advance a bill which would raise burial benefits for the families of deceased workers, as well as a bill which protects domestic workers, often the victims of abuse.

Our "Consumer Advocacy" initiative is a new and exciting component of our work, and seeks to serve as a clearinghouse for information and legal rights for those who are treated unfairly by big business and powerful interests who would abuse those less fortunate without the means to defend themselves. These efforts include protecting the victims of predatory lending, defective products and unscrupulous corporate behavior. We also seek to acknowledge businesses that are responsible and supportive of consumers.

When we talk about our perennial race to help others, there is no better example than our work with the Boston Marathon bombing survivors. One of our proudest achievements has been the pro bono work we've spearheaded on behalf of these inspiring people, many of whom have been running the "marathon between the marathons" on the road to recovery. Our support for them will endure long after the cheering has stopped.

We know many survivors are still struggling. These include victims of traumatic brain injury and others with injuries that are not visible and difficult to diagnose. The MBA is now active in the process of establishing a Traumatic Brain Injury Task Force, educating the public and attorneys as to this silent epidemic, as well as seeking to collaborate with others in an attempt to facilitate assistance to those in need who are victims of TBI.

The MBA's journey on this race started 103 years ago with our founding by Oliver Wendell Holmes and Louis Brandeis. Since then, we have maintained a proud tradition as the preeminent statewide voice for justice. We have always been and continue to be committed to protecting the disadvantaged and those most vulnerable.

As president, I have been just one runner in this never ending relay. I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish so far this year, and I still have more to do. It is my hope, and my promise, that when the time comes for me to pass that baton to our next worthy leader, my friend Marsha V. Kazarosian, I will have done my very best to extend the MBA's lead in the race.