Summer is rapidly drawing to a close, and as we all say farewell to warmer weather and longer days, I will also be ending my term as President of the Boston Bar Association.
It has been a truly life-changing year, both personally and for the BBA. Leading an organization with such a profound mission statement – to advance excellence in the profession, to facilitate access to justice, and to serve the community at large – caused me to alter the way I looked at challenges in society and the role of lawyers in it. As an organization, we have made great strides and done outstanding work, and we have shown Boston that we make every effort to promote the betterment of all through our knowledge of the Constitution. The volunteers and leaders within this community are both efficient and effective, in large part because they care passionately about the causes they champion.
This year, the BBA has worked hard on a number of issues of importance to our community. Funding for civil legal aid and the judiciary, the third coequal branch of government, have always been major priorities; our collective efforts in reaching out to the legislature and standing together at events like Walk to the Hill surely did not go unnoticed. In the current 2015 fiscal year, MLAC funding increased from $13 million to $15 million, while Trial Court funding increased from $585.5 million to $612 million.
Moreover, throughout this past year we have started to examine more closely the unmet need for civil legal aid in Massachusetts and how to address it. The BBA Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts, led by past BBA President J.D. Smeallie, will be releasing its report in the coming weeks, and we look forward to using the report to help shape the discourse surrounding this issue in our Commonwealth.
In policy issues, the BBA’s strong stance against the federal death penalty garnered local and national attention. The Death Penalty Working Group produced a powerful study titled “The BBA and the Death Penalty,” reaffirming the BBA’s longstanding opposition to capital punishment at the state level and expanding its reasoning to encompass opposition to the federal death penalty as well. The BBA additionally produced a report from the Drug Lab Crisis Task Force and convened a Gun Control Working Group to study the more than 60 gun control bills filed this session. Finally, in response to concerns voiced by many of our members, we lobbied in Washington, D.C. against proposed federal legislation regarding accrual accounting practices in service industries, which could have a disruptive impact on law firms.
There have been countless other committees, working groups, programs, and events over this past year that have influenced the way we think and how we approach the profession. None of this was the work of one person, or even a few people. These accomplishments were made through the dedicated time and energy of a great number of attorneys who saw the need for leadership in the larger community and volunteered their services to seek solutions to many of the daunting issues facing our society. They are true leaders, both within the legal community and in Boston, with extraordinary talent and intelligence.
So to the membership of the Boston Bar Association: I extend my most sincere gratitude to you. By your vote, I was given the opportunity to serve as the Association’s President; that trust and confidence is something that has stayed with me throughout this year and will stay with me forever. I have been fortunate to work with and learn from so many of you over the past year and look forward to continuing to do so, because your commitment to the mission of the BBA is both admirable and personally inspiring. We are 11,000 strong, and I firmly believe that the best is yet to come for our organization and for the entire legal community.
Finally, but most importantly of all, my deepest thanks go to the remarkable staff of the BBA. Anyone who has worked with these individuals knows that they are not only incredibly intelligent and responsible, but they are also friendly and caring people who work extremely hard to make sure that the BBA is operating at the highest echelon. All credit for everything that the BBA produces – from daily lunch events to the Annual Meeting – goes to them. In the past year alone, 16,000 attorneys have been through the BBA to attend these events, and I know all would agree that they were superb. The BBA staff consists of a world-class group of professionals who provide unparalleled personal support to the BBA and its members, and I am profoundly grateful for all that they did to make this past year a smooth, fulfilling, and unforgettable journey.
I congratulate the incoming officers of the BBA and particularly wish Julia Huston, the incoming President of the BBA, good luck. She will be a strong leader for this noble institution and a great steward for its storied history of professional excellence and public service, as I have felt so privileged to be this year.
Thank you all for your readership over the past year, and I look forward to seeing you in the future.