Each year, the BBA’s Law Day Dinner caps the celebration of Law Day, an annual holiday on May 1st. The holiday takes us from Boston Municipal Court in Brighton to Boston public school classrooms and allows us to reflect on the role of law in our country’s foundation and society.
On May 12th, we welcomed 1,400 attorneys, judges, legislators, and business and community representatives to the 2014 Law Day Dinner. The dinner this year was particularly meaningful, as we recognized those who have worked hard to serve the community and make Boston a better, safer place to live and work. It was our great privilege to honor the Marathon Assistance Project volunteers, who provided legal advice to aid the recovery of small businesses and individuals affected by the Marathon bombing; the Private Industry Council, with whom we partner to provide valuable summer jobs for Boston teens; and the BBA’s own Bonnie Sashin, who retired as the institution’s Director of Communications & External Relations this spring.
We were also pleased that Mayor Martin J. Walsh joined us as our keynote speaker. Mayor Walsh has truly represented the strength of our city in these last several months and has been a staunch supporter of initiatives and ideas that benefit Boston – such as expanding the job market for Boston’s youth, preventing gun violence, and increasing transparency and trust in city government. He spoke eloquently about the legacy of service in Boston’s legal community and how this supports the policy work of city government.
For those who were unable to join us for the evening, there were several noteworthy highlights from the speech:
- Mayor Walsh joined us in honoring the attorneys who volunteered through the Marathon Assistance Project, saying that “they showed us that the law is not just about how we define justice—it’s about how we live justice in our community.” He added that being an attorney is a vocation, which literally means ‘a calling,’ both “to take up a career…and also to serve a community.” A show of hands illustrated that an overwhelming number of attorneys in the room were participating in pro bono work this year.
- While discussing the need for legal services, Mayor Walsh said, “A society is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable, and [those who need legal services] are the most vulnerable among us” – reminding us that our development of these programs and organizations, and our tireless advocacy for their increased funding, is another important aspect to our service to the community.
- Mayor Walsh also joined us in calling for more firms to hire a student through the Summer Jobs Program, citing a hiring crisis for young people – particularly minority groups. Notably, Mayor Walsh explained, “Instead of seeing justice as a form of punishment, [students] can learn about how the law empowers us and helps us live in peace with our neighbors.” We are well aware that some of Boston’s youth may have only had negative experiences with the law to this point, and that the BBA Summer Jobs Program can transform this perception and help them understand the services it provides to the community.
- Finally, Mayor Walsh ended his speech with a reminder of what Law Day is about: “So nowhere is the meaning of Law Day more clear than in Boston. Law Day reminds us that the law is not just a career, and it is not just a rulebook. The law is where our most fundamental beliefs meet our most pressing practical needs. In government, especially, we are always mindful that our very existence is a matter of law.”
The mission of the Boston Bar Association is to advance the highest standards of excellence for the legal profession, facilitate access to justice, and serve the community at large. We have always placed a strong emphasis on public service and constantly strive to provide larger numbers of diverse pro bono opportunities, which we encourage all members to take advantage of.
To hear the Mayor of our city recognize our mission and thank the Association for maintaining this tradition means that we as lawyers are fulfilling the promise of our vocation – we are ensuring that appropriate justice is delivered throughout the community for those who need it most. Our skills and knowledge through legal training, along with a culture of service that sets our profession apart, allow us to address the needs and struggles of our fellow citizens. There is no higher calling – no greater vocation – than that.