Taking over as president of the MBA is a very daunting task when
I have to follow in the footsteps of those amazing people who came
before me. Our most recent president, Bob Harnais, the first
Hispanic president of the MBA, has pretty big shoes to fill. He has
done so much to improve the MBA, and I hope to do him and the other
incredible officers who preceded me proud by grabbing the MBA
banner and continuing the charge ahead.
Little did I know that my leadership training for this position
began long ago. I recall that the summer after I turned 16 years
old I wasn't sure what to do with myself. My father said to me:
"I'm sure someone has an opportunity for you. Go find it." So I
walked down the street and got the first of many odd jobs I held
through high school and college - burger flipper, dishwasher,
janitor, factory worker, delivery boy, mail clerk… . While these
weren't particularly glamorous jobs, they did offer me an insight
into different types of management and leadership styles, good and
bad, of my various bosses. I became an acute observer of how to
motivate people to do their best work by treating them with
respect. I saw people walk out when they were devalued. But I also
learned how far a small compliment like "Nice job" could go to make
you work harder.
After graduating from the University of Scranton, I deferred my
admission to BC Law for a year to join the Jesuit Volunteer Corps
(JVC) in Boston. That was my first deep dive into public service,
where I worked with troubled adolescents in an alternative school.
I also worked some weekend shifts at the Pine Street Inn homeless
shelter. Having come from a rather homogenous working class town,
it was my first real introduction to disadvantaged inner city
communities. There I learned about leadership not just from people
who were in charge of me, but from those for whom I was
responsible. I learned the importance of being genuine, honest and
caring. I observed that people who have been mistreated or
misjudged, or who have been through really rough times, can spot a
phony a mile away.
After graduating from law school, I had a burning desire to
become part of something committed to serving each other in the
profession and society at large. That's when I introduced myself to
the MBA. I made a cold call to the MBA 16 years ago, and asked if
there was anything I could do. The person on the other line said
something that sounded vaguely familiar: "I'm sure we have an
opportunity for you."
Since that day, the MBA has given me many opportunities to get
involved in a larger community committed to social justice and the
improvement of our profession. I also learned, through trial and
error, how to lead and motivate others. I have served and chaired
section councils, debated substantial issues on the House of
Delegates, organized and participated on CLE programs, and
testified for the MBA at the State House on important legislation.
I came to understand that more important than savoring victory and
achievement is rebounding from defeat and failure. The former keeps
us energized, but the latter takes measure of our grit - an
essential ingredient for future success.
And so the rest of the story is that I now have the opportunity
to help lead this terrific bar association that consists of people
who accomplish so much for so many, often humbly without asking for
recognition - another quality I have seen in great leaders.
I cannot overstate how proud I am to lead an association of
people who advocate for the civil rights of those whom I served in
JVC so long ago; who volunteer at the Pine Street Inn where I once
roamed the halls; who argue for increased pay for judges, public
defenders and DAs, so that everyone gets equal access to justice;
and who push for improved civility and respect that has been such a
part of my upbringing.
The MBA has been out front, leading the charge, with each
president becoming the new flag bearer. And as I take my turn, I am
mindful that everyone who has fulfilled this position before me has
not done it alone, and my situation is certainly no different. I am
so grateful to the many bosses, mentors and fellow officers who
have guided me; to my law firm partners, associates and staff who
support me; and to my wife, family and friends who inspire me.
And to those of you who have a desire to give back to the
profession and make a difference in society while also making great
friends and professional connections, I convey that the MBA has an
opportunity for you. Come get it.