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Reflections on My Year as BBA President

Last week I chaired my final Council meeting as President of the Boston Bar Association. It is hard for me to believe that the year is already up. When I look back on the past twelve months, however, I am equally surprised by just how much has happened.

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Principal for a Day

It has been an honor to represent the BBA this year. One of the most rewarding aspects of serving a term as president is the opportunity to stand on the shoulders of the people who came before me and advance their hard work. And it is especially satisfying when the work is something that I am truly passionate about, like civil legal aid.

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Honoring the Task Force at the Annual Meeting

Early in my presidency, the BBA released Investing in Justice: A Roadmap to Cost Effective Funding for Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts. Past BBA Presidents J.D. Smeallie and Paul Dacier devoted much of their respective terms to making sure that the report’s research was thorough, compelling and accurate. It was exciting for me to take the BBA helm as the report was wrapping up. After many (many!) meetings – with media, with legislators, with fellow attorneys at Walk to the Hill – using the report as the cornerstone of our position, I am proud to have played a role in securing an additional $2 million for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, particularly in a year when level funding or funding cuts were the norm.

Similarly, when the Boston Marathon trial began, I was able to use the report from the 2013 BBA Death Penalty Working Group to convey a position against capital punishment that was rooted in data and focused on the fair administration of justice. Being the voice of the BBA during this intense and highly emotional trial was a challenge, and I’m extremely proud to have contributed to the civil and thoughtful discussions on this important issue.

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With Chief Justice Roberto Ronquillo and Justice Georges at Boston Municipal Drug Court

I’ve had so many great experiences in my role as BBA President – from sitting in on a session of the Boston Municipal Drug Court in Dorchester, to serving as Principal for a Day at Mary Lyon Pilot High School in Brighton, to attending individual and highly informative meetings with the leadership of our judiciary – there simply isn’t space to list them all.

At the end of the day, I think the best part of my year has been working with such a strong team of volunteer leaders and staff. There is excellence at every level of the BBA. As I hand the baton to my successor, Lisa Arrowood of Arrowood Peters, I look forward to future experiences at 16 Beacon Street. I hope to see you there with me.

Q&A with the Court Management Advisory Board: Glenn Mangurian Covers the Latest Report

The Legislature created the Court Management and Advisory Board (“CMAB”) in 2003 as an independent group of professionals who could bring management expertise, knowledge and experience to bear on the challenges facing the court system. The CMAB reports it findings to the Justices of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, leaders of the Legislature as well as the Chief Justice and the Court Administrator of the Massachusetts Trial Court.

BBA Week spoke with advisory board member Glenn Mangurian about the most recent report.

Q:       What are the main findings of the Advisory Board’s report?

Mangurian: Over the past 11 years, the Massachusetts Trial Court has been on a difficult but essential journey as it seeks to transform itself from an unevenly-performing, decentralized, often autonomous set of “islands of justice”, managed according to anecdote, intuition and habit, to a consistently high-performing system, managed according to modern best practice disciplines.

The Massachusetts Trial Court is on the move and headed in the right direction.  The Trial Court is addressing the consequences of the fiscal crisis of 2008-2012, and implementing and adapting to the structural changes made by the 2011 court reform legislation. Court management is “under the spotlight”. This focused attention to management “raises the bar” on execution excellence and follow-through at all levels.

The Trial Court must confront additional challenges such as the growing importance of specialty courts to address evolving judicial needs of the public and the scarcity of resources. Regardless of court funding levels, the public expects to be treated with respect and dignity in our courts, and to have its business handled in an expeditious and orderly manner.

The Trial Court “has a lot on its plate” for the next five years. The recent partial restoration and relative stability of the essential funding of the Trial Court is having a significant impact on court management and is important to further court management improvements.

Q:       What do you see as an important call to action as a result of these findings?

Mangurian: The 21st century Trial Court requires increased cross-disciplinary teamwork, active learning and innovation, and expansive talent and leadership development.  To assist the Trial Court in solidifying the progress made to date and preparing for the management challenges that lie ahead, the CMAB believes the Trial Court should focus leadership responsibility and overall accountability in three areas:

  • Knowledge management and decision analytics

The Trial Court should concentrate significant management attention on policy development, best practice sharing and training related to all aspects of evidence-based, data-driven decision-making.

  • Experience of court users

The Trial Court should work to improve the experience of court users having a wide range of perspectives, issues and concerns, and to measure the courts’ performance in this regard over time.

  • Talent development

The building of the Trial Court’s leadership capacity and human capital is of critical importance to the quality, strength, flexibility and resilience of our justice system. Because of an aging workforce and the prospects of increased retirements, there is a growing need to cultivate the next generation of court leaders to ensure continued judicial excellence into the future.

In addition the CMAB recommends the SJC establish a regular and recurring schedule of strategic and operational oversight meetings with the Chief Justice of the Trial Court and the Court Administrator.

Q:       How would you encourage BBA members to use this information?

Mangurian: The BBA has long been an advocate for the judicial funding. The Court Management Advisory Board thanks you for your support of the Trial Court.

We encourage all members to read the report. The report can be accessed here.

The document should serve as a catalyst for conversations among members and with employees of the Trial Court. The CMAB is planning an open discussion with the BBA on the report and work of the CMAB. Stay tuned for the specific date, time and location.

A Look Back at the BBA’s Accomplishments of 2014

The end of another year provides us with an opportunity to pause and reflect on where we were at the start of the year and how far we’ve come. Anticipation of a new year always marries nostalgia for the past and optimism for the future.

For me, it has been a very rewarding journey. In September of 2014, I assumed the presidency of the BBA, kicking off the program year at the very successful Annual Meeting Luncheon where we welcomed Adam Liptak of the New York Times. In the few months since, I feel that we as an organization have accomplished a great deal. One of our largest projects was the release of Investing in Justice, the report of the BBA Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts. Not only were we able to share its results with our members and the legal community, but we also worked hard to spread the message in the media that there are demonstrable fiscal, economic, and social benefits to providing greater funding for civil legal aid. This has been a huge step towards changing the discussion on this issue as people begin to view legal aid not just as a charity but as an investment.

We’ve also reached out to work with the different branches of government in a number of ways. While meeting with the chief judges and justices of the courts, we learned more about their priorities and how the bench and bar can work in tandem on common goals and initiatives. We have also started conversations with members of the legislature about projects of mutual interest. For example, the BBA recently approved a proposal to expand the Housing Court statewide and is working with the courts and Legislature to make this proposition a reality. Finally, we honored Governor Deval Patrick with the Beacon Award for Diversity & Inclusion for his work in shaping a more diverse judiciary in Massachusetts.

Let’s not forget that earlier in the year, the BBA took a stand against the death penalty in federal cases, issued a report concerning the Annie Dookhan drug lab scandal via the Drug Lab Crisis Task Force, and secured a record number of 64 summer jobs for Boston public high school students through the Summer Jobs Program – among many other successes.

We are proud of these landmark moments from the past year; and we are just as proud of the smaller, daily accomplishments across the legal community that have produced substantive change in the quality of life for our fellow residents of the Commonwealth. All of us are lucky to be part of a community of truly committed and passionate attorneys in our state, and we all benefit in particular from those who dedicate their professional lives to public service.

I could tell you more about this critically valuable public service work, which is very near and dear to me as the former President of Greater Boston Legal Services. But it’s much more meaningful to hear about it straight from those who are in the trenches. We reached out to two of our closest partner organizations – the Volunteer Lawyers Project, an initiative of the BBA, and Greater Boston Legal Services itself – and asked them, “What has been your greatest accomplishment of 2014?” Their answers are uplifting reminders of how the law can serve the people, and we wish them only the best as they pursue their missions into the new year. Here’s what they had to say:

“People from communities of color are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system, and their criminal records have devastating economic consequences. I am proud that the GBLS CORI & Re-entry Project helped so many clients seal their records and break the cycle of poverty, unemployment, and/or homelessness. We also had a landmark victory in 2014 in the Commonwealth v. Pon case where the SJC threw out an outdated draconian standard for criminal record sealing by judges, replaced it with a good cause standard, and, in a thoughtful opinion, gave judges modern world guidance on the factors to be weighed in deciding whether to seal records. GBLS is struggling with budget problems and lack of staff to meet client needs. We are grateful to the BBA for hosting CORI trainings and helping us recruit attorney and law student volunteers to help the CORI project stay afloat and continue its important work.” – Pauline Quirion, GBLS

“As always, VLP’s clients have reaped much benefit from our partnership with the Boston Bar Association. The list of projects and initiatives would fill several posts, but this year, we are most proud of the new initiative that will provide an attorney for the day for homeowners facing tax foreclosure in the Land Court. VLP worked closely with the Land Court judges and staff, the BBA Real Estate Section, and the BBA staff to assess the need and the services that would be most helpful to the potential clients. When it became clear that the majority of litigants needing assistance would not be financially eligible for VLP services, the BBA Real Estate Section – along with the BBA staff – stepped in to take over, and have now trained a cadre of volunteers who will assist folks on the verge of losing their homes due to unpaid taxes on a Limited Assistance Representation (LAR)/Attorney for the Day basis.” – Volunteer Lawyers Project

We are looking forward to a productive 2015; here’s to our success in helping to support and improve our community, and have a safe, happy New Year!

Welcome, New Lawyers!

Next week, a familiar scene will take place at the historic Faneuil Hall: Excited family members will pack the galleries of the Great Hall. Gradually, the floor seats will fill up with recent admittees to the bar. Finally, Clerk for the County of Suffolk to the Supreme Judicial Court Maura Doyle will take the stage and orient the audience to the historic hall in which they are sitting and the significance of the ceremony that is about to take place.

For so many, the Faneuil Hall swearing-in ceremony is the first official step into new lives as practicing members of the legal profession. We more experienced attorneys have all been in those shoes at some point, and I’m sure we can recall the sense of pride, excitement, and accomplishment that accompanied the event. The sense of gravitas felt as we swore to uphold the standards of the profession was enormous and has stayed with us throughout the years.

So to the new lawyers who are embarking on this journey and joining the noble tradition of the law: I congratulate and welcome you. You became a part of the legal community as a law student. As a new lawyer, it is now time to put your passion into practice and find ways to protect the rights of those who cannot always protect themselves. Your hard work over the past several years has finally paid off, and I hope you find that the years to come exceed your expectations and offer you fulfillment.

I would be remiss as President of the BBA if I didn’t take this opportunity to urge you to become involved or increase your involvement in the BBA. Many of our members and volunteers would agree that it has been one of the best choices they have ever made, personally and professionally. I can attest to that as well: as a young attorney, I was encouraged to join a BBA committee by the founder of the firm where I was then working. Through this initial step, I got involved in the BBA’s Delivery of Legal Services Section, which connected me to like-minded attorneys and allowed me the chance to work more closely on issues of access to justice and civil legal aid. , These issues were very important to me, and I did not have the opportunity to work on them as a part of my regular legal practice. My experiences with the BBA played a huge role in my subsequent work with the Equal Justice Coalition and led to the privilege of serving as president of Greater Boston Legal Services.

With this in mind, I encourage you to view the BBA as a stepping stone for discovering new opportunities, making valuable connections across all areas of the legal community, and finding roles –particularly leadership roles – that may be outside your practice area. The BBA hosts a range of educational programs, but that’s only a small part of its offerings. There are many ways to be a part of the critical work it does in the greater Boston community and meet other enthusiastic, committed volunteers. Here are just a few upcoming programs and events:

This is only a quick look at some of the programming the BBA has lined up in the next couple of months. I invite you to explore our calendar for other events and public service opportunities, and to seriously consider a membership at the BBA – it will enhance your experience even further.

Start of a New Year at the BBA

Today is my daughter’s first day of kindergarten, and is also the day I am sitting down to write my first blog post as President of the BBA.  What an exciting time of firsts!  I am very much looking forward to the coming year.  The BBA will be focusing on a number of important issues, including court funding, civil legal aid, livable wages for prosecutors and public defenders, the injustice of mass incarceration, and the challenges facing law students and new lawyers in the changing economy.

My involvement in the BBA has always been an important part of my personal and professional identity, and has allowed me to advocate for issues affecting the administration of justice which do not come up in my “day job” at Foley Hoag.  In fact, it is one of the reasons that I love being a lawyer.  As Steve Jobs once said, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.  If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”  I am glad that my search for professional fulfillment has led me to the BBA.

The mission of the BBA is to advance the highest standards of excellence for the legal profession, facilitate access to justice, and serve the community at large.  If you share my passion for these issues, I hope that you will be active in the BBA in the coming year and join us in this important work.