We have spoken before about our deep and abiding respect for the judiciary. Every day, our judges carry out the noble task of administering justice within the Commonwealth – a task mandated to them by the Constitution as the third co-equal branch of government. We need to listen and to learn from our judiciary because their perspective is expansive and diverse.
Fostering excellence in the profession, and particularly educating new lawyers, is part of the mission of the Boston Bar Association. To that end, the BBA has created programs that promote meaningful interactions and a deeper level of engagement with judges in every stage of a lawyer’s career. Remember, our judges are members of the profession as well; in many cases, they have firsthand experience from practicing before the bench and know very well what it is like to be in that position. Even before then, they were young lawyers – and before that, law students – who were eager to learn more about the profession themselves. All of our judges come from different backgrounds and took different paths to the bench; therefore, there is something new to learn from all of them.
- Through the Judicial Internship Program, law students learn directly from a judge in an internship with the Boston Municipal Courts, Massachusetts State District Courts, or the Probate and Family Court. Not only do the students become more proficient legal researchers and writers with a better understanding of the intricacies of the Massachusetts court system and the legal system at large, but they also find mentors and professional development experiences that truly enrich the way they approach the profession. It can also provide more guidance as the students determine what path they might take and where they want their careers to go.
- The BBA recently launched a series of breakfast roundtables in partnership with the U.S. District Court that bring new lawyers into the federal courthouse to meet with a different judge of the court for each session. It is a small, relaxed, and more personal group setting, and it is highly beneficial for the attendees to hear from the judges on a wide range of topics and be able to ask questions. Such a direct learning experience can both enhance a young lawyer’s early experiences in the law and reinforce the importance of the judiciary, the lessons to be learned from it, and its place within the legal community.
- Even in the later stages of one’s career, there are still many forums to hear from esteemed members of the judiciary and develop a broader understanding of the state’s justice system and where it stands. Bench-bar programs are excellent opportunities for continued learning and contribute to the development of the profession.
It is because there is so much to learn from members of our judiciary that it is incumbent upon all of us to help them by advocating for increased funding year-round so that they have the proper resources to render fair judgment. Not only is it a necessity, but it is also our duty as users of the courts and beneficiaries of the wisdom that our judges so often find the time in their busy schedules to share.
In a recent meeting at the Supreme Judicial Court, bar leaders from all over Massachusetts gathered for a discussion about the state of the courts, this year’s budget priorities, and the status of the Trial Court’s ongoing Strategic Planning Initiative. The numbers from the recently released House budget are an improvement, but they are not enough to bring the courts up to where they should be.
As lawyers, we constantly receive wisdom and equity from our judges. Also, advocating for increased funding is critical to ensuring that their tireless work continues to protect access to justice across our Commonwealth.