Giving back is the greatest benefit

Issue August 2015 By Marsha V. Kazarosian

"Is possible to do both?"

That's the question I am frequently asked when people hear that I serve as the president of the Massachusetts Bar Association, in addition to practicing law full time. It is not an unfair question, and I think the answer is important for everyone to hear if you are considering volunteering for a leadership position at a bar association. I am familiar with this question because during the time I was raising my three children, practicing law and volunteering in the legal community, many fellow attorneys asked: "How do you juggle it all?"

You CAN do it all, particularly in this day and age of electronic and virtual offices. However, the remedy ultimately lies in knowing how to prioritize projects, using the technology available to be as efficient as possible, delegating liberally and being as lucky, as I am, to have the support of staff and coworkers.

I have been volunteering in one position or another at the MBA, as well as other bar associations across the commonwealth, for as long as I can remember. I firmly believe that if you truly understand that working to make the practice of law better is actually a task that goes hand-in-hand with growing your own practice, doing both is a no-brainer. There is always time to make things better, but if becoming involved in bar leadership is important to you, it is an experience you should embrace. There is no better place to meet like-minded, committed and engaged attorneys than in an association setting where the common goal is to learn the law, improve the profession and right wrongs.

I am very proud that I have been able to be a part of an organization like the MBA that is always at the forefront in addressing the issues facing the legal profession throughout the state. It is not just lawyers we are helping; we are benefitting all citizens in the commonwealth. When we testify on Beacon Hill or appear in the press as an expert, we show lawyers at their best and strengthen the MBA's role as the preeminent voice of the profession. And I know that our increased presence on the public stage helps improve the public's perception of lawyers.

Perhaps the greatest benefit I've received during my years of leadership is the close friendships I have developed with my fellow officers, past and present. We all have work colleagues in our lives. Mine here at the MBA have become so much more; they have honestly become like family. The bond you develop with fellow officers when you stand together for a cause or tackle an adversarial issue is indescribable, and it is not easily broken.

If I haven't already convinced you to volunteer, let me take this time with my last message to you all, to try to allay concerns and dispel some of the myths associated with volunteering as part of bar association leadership.

You don't need to give up your practice. Over the years that I have been active with bar association work, I have learned how to be more efficient in prioritizing my time and the issues that need my attention. I pace myself. Understanding that it is normal not to be able to please everyone is the first step toward success. You will not have time for everything and everyone may not be reached at once. That is normal, and the sooner you set expectations, the happier everyone will be. Although I may have joked about it, I have never felt that I could not be effective and successful in both volunteer and professional roles. In fact, the MBA, like the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys and the Essex County Bar Association, have been great complements to my practice.

You don't need to be from a large firm, with a pool of associates to take up the slack. You just need to manage your time and learn how to use the resources available to you. Fortunately, at the MBA, the resources are substantial. The MBA has some of the most dedicated, hard-working staff I've ever seen. From event planning to scheduling to researching a legislative issue, the MBA team does a phenomenal job of keeping the MBA running smoothly and making our jobs as officers manageable. In addition to the staff, the MBA is made up of volunteers who, just like you and me, have practices to run and clients to serve, so we all chip in for the cause. We all do the heavy lifting, and consequently that makes it lighter for all of us.

And by the way, I understand that good fortune plays a role. Marty Healy is the MBA's good fortune, and as a result every officer's and every member's as well. He is an extraordinary leader whose support and advice and counsel are invaluable. Without Marty's incomparable guidance and leadership, the MBA would not be where it is today.

So, yes, leading the MBA requires making some extra commitments and sometimes finding that 25th hour in the day, but that is more the exception than the rule. And it is no different for anyone who is a partner at a firm, or who runs his/her own business or serves on a board. If your goal is to nurture and grow your practice, you do what you need to do. And volunteering at the MBA has most assuredly helped nurture and grow my practice. As the saying goes, when you are doing what you love to do, it never feels like work.

You don't need to worry about the time commitment. For anyone who is worried, let me put it this way: I've been a bar president, raised a family, grown my career and run my own firm -- all seemingly full-time jobs and all at the same time. And I survived, my kids survived and my practice has survived and grown. In fact, I am now a member in a firm that includes a wonderful partnership with two former bar presidents and colleagues, Walter A. Costello Jr. and Kathleen M. O'Donnell, whom I was fortunate enough to meet as a result of my bar involvement. So believe me, you may not understand what benefits your involvement in bar leadership may bring you, but I can promise you that it is a gift that keeps on giving in ways that you might never foresee.

You don't need to worry about fitting in. One of the best parts about the MBA is that my MBA family comes from all different backgrounds and practices. I am a litigator, but at the MBA I've worked shoulder to shoulder with lawyers from a variety of specialties. It's something I don't think you see as much in more specialized bar associations.

Our strong partnership with the judiciary is equally impressive. The relationships I've developed working closely with our colleagues on the bench this year is another thing I will cherish.

This year, it has been the honor of my career to serve as MBA president. I am grateful for the unwavering support I've received from my fellow officers, staff and all the members I've been fortunate to meet during my tenure in leadership. Each of you has played a part in making my year as president so rewarding.

It is an awesome experience to see the fruits of your labor. And there is no better place to have that experience than here at the MBA. Try it. You'll love it. I did!