Here we go ...

Issue September 2015 By Robert W. Harnais

This is a column I never dreamed I'd be writing. But here I am, beginning a term as the president of the Massachusetts Bar Association, and I can't tell you how humbled I am. The MBA is a marvelous organization that provides help and expertise to the public and to the legal profession. To lead the MBA is a tremendous honor. I just hope I don't screw it up.

I'm also immensely proud to be the association's first Hispanic president. My parents are both from Argentina. They moved to this country and provided me with every advantage they could muster. I owe so much to them, and by extension, to my heritage.

As I visit various courts, read our professional journals and talk to myriad people in the course of my work, I can't help but notice that our legal community is changing. We are becoming more diverse. For instance, in the same year I am the MBA's first Hispanic president, the American Bar Association has a black woman as its president for the first time. As old barriers fall one by one, our profession becomes stronger and more representative of our society. I am happy to be part of that changing of the guard.

I think our profession is changing in other ways too -- some that aren't as good. For instance, it seems to me we are becoming less collegial. Some might say that's the way it has to be -- I like to think not. The things I cherish most as a lawyer are the relationships I've made, the chance to see familiar faces at the courthouse, the opportunity to work with and learn from people I admire. I'd like to see our profession restore the civility that used to be woven into its fabric. And yes, I'd like to see our members having more fun with their work. I hope I can help the MBA contribute to reaching that goal.

I succeed Past President Marsha Kazarosian, and I have huge shoes to fill, though I won't look as good in them. Marsha was an outstanding president, just as she is a lawyer. I learned so much from her during my year as president-elect, and I am grateful for the experience.

I also want to tip my hat to the Massachusetts Association of Hispanic Attorneys (MAHA). It was through MAHA that I first gained experience in working with the MBA. I wouldn't be writing this column without MAHA. 
Everybody has their first love and MAHA is mine.

The MBA's role in continuing legal education is so important, and our members are incredible resources. It is a privilege to practice in a state with such high standards and superbly talented members who are dedicated to the highest ideals of the law. The association provides a network for members from all corners of the state to learn and share knowledge. Although we are an adversarial system, everyone wins when the law is practiced on the highest possible plane.

Our community programs and our advocacy work also are extremely important, and we will continue to support measures that help make justice more available to more people.

Ultimately, it is you, the esteemed members of this bar, who are the dominant factors in bringing justice to people from all walks of life. The availability of justice is what makes our legal system such a marvel. It brings me great joy and pride to be a colleague of all you lawyers who help average people navigate the roads to justice.

Speaking of colleagues, leadership of the MBA is very much a team effort, and I look forward to working with so many top-notch professionals. President-elect Jeff Catalano, Vice President Chris Kenney, Treasurer Chris Sullivan and Secretary John Morrissey are bound to keep us moving in the right direction. Our House of Delegates is a versatile and experienced group, not to mention the outstanding full-time staff leadership in the persons of Marty Healy, Gwen Landford, Lee Constantine and all the talented, hard-working bar association staff. I am planning on a good year, and I welcome thoughts and recommendations from any and all members. My policy is a wide-open door. I would love to visit with members from the western part of the state, Cape Cod, Cape Ann and everywhere in between. I want to hear your ideas, your stories. I'd like to hear your thoughts on how the association can better serve you and your community of lawyers and clients. I urge you to take advantage of the opportunity to be heard. This association, like most, works best when it has widespread participation. My goal is to make it as easy and as fun to do that as possible.

I want to reiterate how thrilled I am to be writing to you from this space. We're going to have a great year. I want to keep things informal and look forward to getting your input. I want this to be a real team effort, and I'm proud to be your teammate. And I hope I don't screw it up!