Five Massachusetts Bar Association members were recognized for their outstanding service at the MBA Volunteer Recognition Dinner on July 19 at Lombardo's in Randolph. Hon. Paul A. Chernoff (ret.), Hon. Edward M. Ginsburg (ret.), Rick Eurich and Donald Gibson were each presented with a Volunteer Recognition Award, which salutes members who volunteer substantial time and effort to the mission, program and/or publications of the MBA or otherwise enhance the organization in a significant way.
Ventura Dennis received the Outstanding Young Lawyer Award, which is given to a young lawyer who has demonstrated outstanding character, leadership and legal achievement, and has contributed service to the community. The recipient of the award must be a member of the MBA who has been in practice for fewer than 10 years and who has made a significant contribution to the legal profession
In addition to the five volunteer awards, the MBA also recognized its 50-year members with service plaques at the July 19 Volunteer Recognition Dinner. In attendance at the event: Kevin B. Callanan, Bradley R. Cook, Martin S. Cosgrove, David A. Ladizki, Nancy S. Nemon, Howard Newell, Norman C. Ross, Gerald C. Rovner and Roy D. Santos.
Volunteer Recognition Award
Hon. Edward M. Ginsburg (ret.) and Hon. Paul A. Chernoff (ret.)
Countless new attorneys have been inspired by the team of Judges Edward M. Ginsburg (ret.) and Paul A. Chernoff (ret.). The Massachusetts Bar Association has benefitted, as well, from this pair of well respected judges, who have shown a remarkable dedication to the MBA through their work on professionalism-based CLEs aimed at young practitioners.
Ginsburg and Chernoff created a training program about five years ago to teach young attorneys the keys they consider vital to a lawyer's success - most notably, the importance of professionalism and professional behavior. "If you practice with professionalism, that's the way to success, and … our aim is to show that," says Ginsburg.
Twice a year, Ginsburg and Chernoff drive to the College of the Holy Cross to teach "Ethics for the Practicing Lawyer" and "Your Reputation is Everything: How Lawyers Should Act." Chernoff notes how he and Ginsburg will play off one another to make the training courses humorous, as well as informative. "Judge Ginsburg and I, we like to say that we don't agree on very much," says Chernoff. "But I think we do agree that the key to the program … is to make it non-academic and to make it interesting and entertaining, yet very informative. And that's really hard to do."
Ginsburg and Chernoff take time during the end of their presentations to ensure that they answer any of the young attorneys' questions. By spreading their knowledge and helping young attorneys, they're only paying forward the experience that helped them when they were new to the bar.
"I think that it's up to older lawyers to help mentor younger lawyers, because that's what helped me," says Ginsburg. "Older lawyers helped mentor me, and I think it's a way of giving back. And it's fun. It's fun!"
Volunteer Recognition Award
Rick Eurich, although retired from his firm, has selflessly contributed his time and efforts to the MBA for more than 20 years. He has volunteered at the MBA in several roles, most notably as a member of the MBA's Insurance Committee, a group whose role he sees as providing "insurance, expertise, knowledge, and ability to the MBA and through the MBA to its various members."
The numerous hours that Eurich has spent meticulously investigating, editing and negotiating the MBA's insurance issues has been vital in reforming the MBA's malpractice insurance policy. According to one colleague, "Without his expertise, knowledge and commitment, the MBA's program would not have risen to the largest lawyer's malpractice program in Massachusetts."
For his part, Eurich is equally proud of the benefits the Insurance Committee has helped provide to MBA members. "What is really satisfying to me is that we have been able - not surreptitiously, but certainly invisibly - to provide them with better insurance and at a better rate than they otherwise would be able to get, and, to that extent, have benefited them and committed them to continue in their practice," he says.
In addition to his irreplaceable efforts within the Insurance Committee, Eurich also found the time and energy to volunteer as a judge with the MBA's Mock Trial Program for several years, where he was able to apply and share the knowledge that he has learned as a lawyer. Eurich believes that "the most rewarding part is seeing how much time and effort the high school students put into this program … and see[ing] how they perform after they have invested all that time."
Volunteer Recognition Award
Over the past 17 years, Donald Gibson's involvement with the MBA's High School Mock Trial Program has included stints as an attorney coach, judge and committee member, among other roles. Most recently he served as chair of the Mock Trial Committee. At each step of the way he's made a lasting mark on the program and its students.
Gibson has been a vital leader for the program, whether helping to create the cases that are presented to the students or serving as a coach and providing students with positive feedback and constructive observations. He believes strongly that the students are getting a real-world benefit from participating in the program, and he has always been gratified by the way they are "like sponges" and soak it all in.
The MBA's Mock Trial Program, which has grown to feature more than 130 high schools in the commonwealth, allows high school students the opportunity to further their interests in the area of law through "applied learning," he explains. He tells them: "It's something in the real world; this is what I do. … This is going to affect you in the future. You have an investment in this."
He believes the most important benefit of the program for the students is their enhanced esteem and self confidence. In turn, he says he feels better about the future of the profession. "When you see these kids and you work with these students, and you see how bright they are, how intelligent they are, and how, if they are challenged properly, how they respond and how they improve, it just gives me a lot of self confidence and affirmation that, hey, we are going to be alright," Gibson says.
While this is Gibson's last year in the Mock Trial program, he hopes his efforts have helped shape these future lawyers and that the Mock Trial Program will continue to grow.
"I would like to think that I have done something to make that future a little brighter - that somewhere down the line there is a little bit of me that's carried on through them and that's going to make a major difference someday," he says.
Outstanding Young Lawyer Award
In a short period of time Ventura Dennis has done some remarkable things at Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS). A 2013 Boston University School of Law graduate, Dennis began her time at GBLS as a law student intern. She then pursued a fellowship in the CORI and Re-entry Project of GBLS, which led to a full-time position there, where she still works as an attorney.
Through her work at GBLS, Dennis has been able to get criminal records sealed for hundreds of individuals, increasing their opportunities to obtain a job, earn an education, and acquire housing. Many of these individuals were able to escape poverty due to her hard work and dedication. She also developed a criminal record sealing clinic in the Bromley Heath public housing development in Boston, which furthered her passion for helping others.
"I feel very fortunate that I'm able to advocate and be on the front lines for these poor communities in Massachusetts," Dennis says. "And because I'm from them myself and I have family and friends who are still in these communities, I feel like I'm able to have a direct effect on people's lives, and that is what motivates me to keep going, even though it can be very stressful and disappointing sometimes."
Dennis has also proven to be an effective mentor to her peers. At GBLS she developed a lunch group for attorneys who are on fellowships to come together as one and further their interests and skills related to legal services. Dennis believes that this group "is a great way for us to connect and problem solve." While keeping busy with all of her projects, Dennis has also taken on a leadership role by serving as a member of the legal services' attorney of color coalition.
Dennis' impressive skills, as well as her strong passion to empower others, have led to many successes already. And she's not done yet. Her newest project is to explore the massive firings of Uber drivers, as this issue appears to pertain to the new CORI law.