Letter From The President Of The Boston Bar Association

2005-12-01 00:00

To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel:

Thanks to decades of outstanding leaders, talented and dedicated staff, and committed volunteer members, the BBA has distinguished itself among its peers nationally. The BBA is recognized for its member services, CLE, extraordinarily well-attended special events such as the Annual Meeting Luncheon and Law Day Dinner, and the work of its philanthropic affiliate, the Boston Bar Foundation. In addition, the BBA stands out for adhering scrupulously to its stated mission:To advance the highest standards of excellence for the legal profession, to facilitate access to justice, and to serve the community at large. It is that third component of our mission - service to the community - that I want to emphasize in this column and to highlight in the coming year.

The BBA provides a voice for 9,500 lawyers who want to make an impact, and also provides them with a vehicle for achieving positive change in their community. At a time when editorials are lamenting the potential loss of civic leadership resulting from the acquisitions of Fleet, Gillette, John Hancock and Reebok, I see an opportunity for an institution of lawyers, and individual lawyers, to step up. I dare say that we are a part of the civic landscape - along with educational institutions, hospitals and other nonprofits - that is stable, permanent and invested in a productive, diverse and vibrant city.

As a bar association, is there a pragmatic and effective role to play in civic leadership?Our track record says "yes."Our aspirations suggest that we can do even more.

Currently, the BBA sponsors more than a dozen public service initiatives, which are funded through a grant from the Boston Bar Foundation. This includes ten separate programs in the Boston public schools through the BBA Children and Youth Outreach Project. In the past year, under the leadership of President M. Ellen Carpenter, the Financial Literacy Education Project for high school students was launched in partnership with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. There is the much praised BBA Public Interest Leadership Program through which a select group of lawyers in their first ten years of practice spend a year honing their public interest leadership skills. Through extensive research and strategic alliances with other groups, our Health Law Section developed a comprehensive Children's Mental Health Guidethat is in high demand among parents, policy makers, health care professionals, and educators. Pro bono legal services, through special projects and long-term affiliations with organizations such as the Volunteer Lawyers Project, are a staple of BBA activity. Through the Boston Bar Foundation, grants in the hundreds of thousands of dollars are made each year directly to providers of legal services to the indigent, children, elderly and working poor. At the same time, the BBA regularly speaks out on public policy issues pending before the Legislature and the courts - particularly those that relate to the justice system.

There is still more that needs to be done. Today, the fact that the need for public service and civic leadership in Boston is greater than ever presents an opportunity for lawyers. This opportunity comes at a time when many lawyers feel a reciprocal need to break out of their daily routines and contribute to the larger good. Our Boston colleague, Michael Greco, in his role as President of the American Bar Association, has called for a "Renaissance of Idealism" among lawyers to revitalize the public service mission of the profession. He has challenged every lawyer to take on at least one pro bono matter or one civic or non-profit leadership position.

At the BBA we intend to promote our public service mission aggressively and do everything possible to facilitate its fulfillment. I will be convening a Public Service Committee to identify and encourage participation in public service opportunities as well as to establish criteria for determining which projects are feasible and how success might be measured.This effort will be kicked-off by an address at our Annual Meeting Luncheon from Paul Grogan, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation. During the coming year, we intend to initiate a dialogue with other non-partisan, civic leadership entities, such as MassINC, to identify ways in which the BBA can join with them to address issues of mutual concern affecting our city and state. The BBA will continue to be vocal with respect to policy and legislation affecting our legal practice, the justice system at large, and fundamental civil rights. We will look for opportunities to increase the visibility of the BBA and its projects.All of this will be done with an eye toward accomplishing the BBA's public service mission.

It is such a privilege to serve as President of the BBA. I stand at the helm of a powerful, well-respected and effective organization, nurtured by a superb staff and top notch volunteer leadership. In particular, I thank my predecessor, Ellen Carpenter, for her inspired and dedicated stewardship. In literally hundreds of interactions with legislators, officials from the executive branch, judges, chief justices, the press, her fellow lawyers and others, Ellen's strong voice on behalf of the profession and unfailing good humor stood the BBA in good stead.As the BBA faces a myriad of issues and challenges in the coming year, I look forward to drawing on the depth of talent within the BBA to help us advance on our continuous path of success.

Sincerely,

Edwin P. (Ned) Leibensperger