To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel:
In this time of economic turmoil and uncertainty, the Massachusetts Bar Association is spending its 2011-12 association year focused on three important initiatives in hopes of creating new solutions to issues affecting both the legal and local communities in Massachusetts.
The foundation of the law economy in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is full, adequate public financial support for the courts. But the truth of the matter is that due to budget constraints and a lack of understanding on the part of the public, the courts are not being properly funded. As a result, courts are closing; judges are retiring early and support staff is not being replaced.
To help underscore the state’s need for a fully funded court system, the MBA in January launched a high-profile awareness campaign on the effects of under-funded courts. Billboards on major highways in the cities of Boston, Fall River and Worcester direct motorists to the MBA’s website, www.massbar.org, where the public is offered statistics on the courts, asked to contact their legislators and shown public service announcement-style videos highlighting the negative impact of inadequate court funding through the perspective of judicial leadership, attorneys, academic leaders and court staff. The campaign will run through the state’s fiscal year 2013 budget cycle and is expected to conclude in June.
The state’s current, weakened economy means job prospects for recent graduates are bleak. To address this reality, the MBA formed the Task Force on Law, the Economy and Underemployment. The task force -- composed of lawyers, a judge, recent law school graduates, recruiters and a pre-law advisor -- is currently analyzing the root causes of and potential solutions to the underemployment of recent law school graduates in Massachusetts. The task force plans to publish its recommendations this spring.
Lastly, the MBA is partnering with politicians and business groups in struggling communities across Massachusetts to identify ways attorneys can lend their expertise. Massachusetts’ “Gateway Cities” are those mid-sized cities whose residents are experiencing significantly higher rates of unemployment and a stalemate in social, economic and civic innovation. Some examples are Brockton, Fall River, Lawrence, New Bedford, Springfield and Worcester. The initiative kicked off in January with a forum at the University of Massachusetts School of Law in Dartmouth. Similar meetings will be held in other parts of the state.
The MBA feels compelled to focus on these areas of critical concern to our state. We live in interesting and difficult times, and as leaders of our profession, we can and should make a difference to our fellow citizens. Now is the time to take action.
Richard P. Campbell