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Continued advocacy for Massachusetts courts is key

Your help is still needed to urge legislators to support $593.9 million for FY13 court funding

Carrying the momentum of the successful March 19 Court Advocacy Day, MBA members are encouraged to continue their advocacy for adequate court funding as the House is expected to release its proposed budget in the coming weeks.

MBA members can make a difference by reaching out to their state senators and representatives to reiterate the importance of ensuring a fully funded judicial system. Urge them to support $593.9 million for FY13 court funding. Click here to identify your state representatives and senators.

Click here to read "Justice in the Balance," an overview of the Massachusetts Judiciary for the Legislature. Click here for specific information on case filings, fund and staffing of the Massachusetts Trial Court.

Join the MBA in its continued advocacy for proper funding of the state's third branch of government.
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Highly Anticipated Probate Code to go into effect March 31, 2012

Attend MUPC Basics: An overview of the New Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code on April 27

The Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code takes effect on March 31, 2012. The bill that is going into effect was the version previously enacted and does not include proposed technical changes, the Uniform Trust Code and the revised filing fee schedule, which are pending before the Legislature. To view the MUPC, click here.

MUPC Probate and Estate forms are currently available on the Probate and Family Court website and will be accepted beginning April 2, 2012. Please see the Probate and Family Court website to access forms and the procedural manual.

If you are looking for a comprehensive overview of the new MUPC, attend the MBA's day-long CLE on April 27, MUPC Basics: An overview of the New Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code.

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Photograph by Tricia M. Oliver
Massachusetts Parole Board Chair Joshua Wall.

Wall addresses MBA delegates, remarks aim to dispel misperceptions of Parole

The MBA House of Delegates welcomed Massachusetts Parole Board Chairman Joshua Wall as a guest speaker at its March 22 meeting at UMass Lowell. Wall shared perspective and insight gained in the 13 months since assuming his leadership post following Gov. Deval Patrick's dismissal of all but one member of the former board.

Prior to the controversy of granting parole to Dominic Cinelli, a career criminal, accused of murdering Woburn officer John McGuire during a botched robbery, the Massachusetts Parole Board acted in "near anonymity," Wall said. However, he was quick to point out early in his remarks that "we are not, nor have we been involved in a 'crack-down' on parole" in the commonwealth.

As directed by the governor, Wall explained that his goals have been on rebuilding a more productive, efficient parole system, and more careful attention paid to parolees who have committed murder as well as those with lengthy, serious criminal records.

Wall explained that he has worked to change the culture at the Parole Board. "We are going to do something better," he said.

Commending Patrick's choices for the other members comprising the board, Wall pointed out that he is the first chair with experience in managing a government agency. Wall, 52, is a veteran Suffolk County prosecutor. He began working in the Suffolk District Attorney's office in 1993 and served as chief of the Child Protection Unit, Major Felony Unit and Senior Trial Unit. When District Attorney Daniel F. Conley took office in 2002, he promoted Wall to the position of first assistant and supervisor of all Superior Court prosecutions.

On the current Parole Board, Wall is joined by a forensic psychologist and a corrections professional, among others with highly relevant experience. He said that having this caliber of expertise has been significantly beneficial to improving the board and its practices.

He also stressed the amount and level of training undertaken by the group. According to Wall, by June 1, the complete board will have participated in 50 trainings. Said Wall, "We are not just picking parolees, we are trying to make sure they succeed," following re-entry into society.

In addition to Wall's remarks, MBA delegates were also greeted to UMass Lowell by Provost Ahmed Abdelal. Abdelal explained that UMass Lowell has invested nearly $300 million in construction recently, a sign that the campus is getting stronger. He said the UMass Lowell is "less expensive and better that many of the places that we think about."
The provost also spoke to the international focus of the university. "We want our students to be globally knowledgeable and prepared," he said.

Other activity at the March 22 meeting included an informational report from chairs of the MBA Task Force on Law, the Economy and Underemployment; approval of the proposed slate of 2012 Access to Justice Awardees; a vote in favor of the MBA submitting an amicus brief relative to a case involving judicial privilege now before the Supreme Judicial Court, and a vote against supporting in principle the Uniform Trade Secrets Act.

The final HOD meeting of the 2011-12 association year will take place at UMass Boston on Thursday, May 17.

Featured member benefit: MBA Member Appreciation Week, April 2-6

Join us on April 5 for a FREE Member Appreciation Dessert Tasting and Reception

2012 Member Appreciation Week Banner

Thursday, April 5: Join us for our FREE Member Appreciation Dessert Tasting and Reception at the University of Massachusetts Club, 225 Franklin St., Boston.

Complimentary beer and wine provided. Click here to R.S.V.P.


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2012 Annual Dinner to be held on Boston waterfront

May 31 event to feature Legislator of the Year Awardee DeLeo and annual Access to Justice Award presentations

The Massachusetts Bar Association will hold its 2012 Annual Dinner on Thursday, May 31 at the Westin Boston Waterfront, 425 Summer St., Boston. The event will feature the presentation of  the Legislator of the Year Award to Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and the annual MBA Access to Justice Awards.

Attend this annual event as a sponsor. Sponsorship opportunities to consider include:

  • Platinum Sponsor ($5,000)
    Table for 10, full page ad in dinner program, firm logo projected at the dinner, sponsorship level recognition in Lawyers Journal and displayed on MBA website
  • Gold Sponsor ($3,500)
    Table for 10, 1/2 page ad in dinner program, firm logo projected at the dinner, sponsorship level recognition in Lawyers Journal and displayed on MBA website
  • Silver sponsor ($2,500)
    Table for 10, 1/4 page ad in dinner program, firm logo projected at the dinner
Click here to register for the MBA's 2012 Annual Dinner online. For a printable PDF outlining sponsorship opportunities and table reservation information, click here. For additional information call (617) 338-0543.
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Excellence in the Law event to salute finest in the profession

MBA to honor the Hon. Mark Wolf and Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen

Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly and the Massachusetts Bar Association will honor the best of the legal profession at Excellence in the Law on Thursday, May 10 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the Fairmont Copley Plaza, 138 St James Ave., Boston.

The MBA will bestow the Daniel F. Toomey Excellence in the Judiciary Award to the Hon. Mark Wolf, chief judge of the U.S. District Court; and the Excellence in Legal Journalism Award to Pulitzer-prize winning Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen. The ceremony will also honor Diversity Heroes, Emerging Legal Leaders, Excellence in Pro Bono, Marketing, Firm Administration and Operations.

WolfPhotoWolf was appointed to the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts in 1985 and became its chief judge in 2006. He is also a member of the Judicial Conference of the United States, having previously served on its committees on Criminal Law, the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, and Codes of Conduct. Wolf also previously served in the Department of Justice as a Special Assistant to the Deputy Attorney General of the United States (1974) and the Attorney General of the United States (1975-1977), and as Deputy United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts and Chief of the Public Corruption unit in that office (1981-1985). He was also in private practice in Washington, D.C. with Surrey, Karasik & Morse and in Boston with Sullivan & Worcester.

Wolf has taught courses on the role of the judge in American democracy at the Harvard, Boston College and New England Law Schools, and spoken on this subject and human rights issues in Egypt, Cyprus, Turkey, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and China. Chief Judge Wolf is a graduate of Yale College and the Harvard Law School.

CullenCullen has written for The Boston Globe since 1985, and served as a local, national and foreign correspondent before becoming a columnist in 2007. His columns highlighting the suicide of a 15-year-old girl who had been bullied by schoolmates helped win the top award from the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia University in 2011.

Cullen had several stints on the Globe's Spotlight Team, including the 1988 team that exposed the mobster James "Whitey" Bulger as an FBI informant and the team that won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2003 for exposing the cover-up of sexual abuse of minors by Roman Catholic priests. Cullen spent more than 20 years covering the conflict in Northern Ireland, more than any other American journalist, and in 1994 was honored by the Overseas Press Club of America for his interpretive reporting from Northern Ireland. In 1997, he was appointed as the Globe's Dublin bureau chief, covering the peace process in Northern Ireland fulltime.

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April Lawyers Journal available now

The April issue of Lawyers Journal has been mailed to members and is now available online.

It features a profile of the MBA's 2012 Legislator of the Year Awardee - House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. He will receive this high honor at the MBA's May 31 Annual Dinner to take place at the Westin Boston Waterfront. The issue also includes coverage of the well-attended Court Advocacy Day held on May 19 at the Statehouse and a preview of the May 10 General Practice, Solo and Small Firm's Symposium in the form of a Q&A with program chair Scott Goldberg.

April's Lawyers Journal also features:

  • Substantive articles on U.S. v. Jones and the upcoming changes concerning the sealing of criminal records that go in effect in May with CORI reform;
  • Seven tips for "do-it-yourself" marketing;
  • Coverage of MBA meetings held with American Bar Association President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III during his recent Bay State visit;
  • News on the 2012 champ of MBA's Mock Trial Tournament Finals held in Faneuil Hall last week;
  • An announcement of MBA's second Gateway Cities Forum to be held in Worcester on April 30; and
  • Sponsorship opportunities for you or your firm to consider for the MBA's May 31 Annual Dinner.

Click here to read the April issue of Lawyers Journal.

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Photograph by Merrill Shea
The winning team from Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School poses with Mock Trial judges and the championship trophy.

Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School named state champion of the MBA's 2012 Mock Trial Program

Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School of South Hadley won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2012 Mock Trial State Championship, advancing to the national competition in Albuquerque, New Mexico in May.

After the nearly three-hour mock trial, Pioneer Valley was victorious over Marshfield High School by a 2-1 vote. A panel of three Massachusetts judges selected the winner; District Court Justice Barbara Savitt Pearson served as the presiding judge, while Superior Court Associate Justice John T. Lu and Superior Court Associate Justice Janet Kenton-Walker assisted.  

"You are invested, you are bright, and you give us great confidence as leaders in our future," said Pearson addressing the competitors. "You should be so proud of yourselves."

The competition took place in the historic Great Hall in Boston's Faneuil Hall before hundreds of spectators ranging from friends, family, and students to legal professionals.

Pioneer Valley represented the plaintiff, Alex Soltin, a Huffington Falls high school junior who was the victim of bullying and suffered a mental breakdown. The defendant in the civil trial was Allen Sway, a teacher at Baird Academy. Marshfield represented Sway, charged with negligence for failing to properly report the bullying suffered by Soltin.

"Both teams were just superb," said Kenton-Walker. "It's nice to have young people so actively engaged in the judiciary."  

Pioneer Valley won not only the highest score but also won the case, convincing the majority of the judges that the plaintiff was liable.

A donation for $2,500 from the MBA's philanthropic partner, the Massachusetts Bar Foundation, was made to help fund Pioneer Valley's trip to nationals.

The Mock Trial Program is administered by the MBA, and made possible by the international law firm of Brown Rudnick through its Center for the Public Interest in Boston, which has contributed $25,000 per year to the program since 1998.



Most valuable lawyer: Pricing flat fee cases

Despite lawyers' avowed hatred for tracking time, most still practice some form of time capture/utilize time sheets -- perhaps because it's familiar and comforting to have boxes ready for completion. Lately, though, I have noticed that a growing number of the new attorneys with whom I consult express interest in applying alternative fee arrangements, most especially flat fees. Whenever I talk with these folks, we eventually get around to the topic of the actual fee setting, and I'll ask: "So, what will you charge on the flat fee?" Almost always, the answer is pat, say: $1000 for a will/power of attorney/health care proxy package. The follow-up question -- "How did you arrive at that figure?" -- does not often admit of a similarly measured response, though, with the most common reply being something like, "Well, it seems like a good number," or "That's what my friend from law school thinks seems to be a good rate." Very irregularly do I get a truly well-reasoned answer to my query -- a truly well-reasoned answer being one that incorporates information gleaned from market research, a derived expectation of how long it will take to get the work in question completed and/or an idea of firm costs associated with the work (not an exhaustive list of factors). Of course, it's nearly impossible to settle upon a true value for your services as an attorney if you have not met those considerations. I often, then, tell new attorneys, looking at applying flat fee rates, to make a best attempt to arrive at a number that reflects the true value of their work, with an understanding that there must be a per se discount in place for clients working with new attorneys, who, within the marketplace for legal services, cannot possibly charge for the personal value (to the attorney, for the hours he or she must labor on a matter in a field novel to him or her) of the case. A flat fee determination for the new attorney, then, should be informed by a cadre of considerations, including those related to market forces (competitors' pricing; clients' expectations; field saturation) and bottom line factors (cost to complete the work; time/hours spent; service features applied).

Just as it is difficult to project revenue when starting up, so it is difficult to correctly forecast flat fee pricing. Once the new attorney has handled a handful, or two, of cases in a niche, he or she will have a better idea of whether his or her initial guess came close to capturing the actual value of the service, or not. But, in order to flesh that comparison out, the new attorney will have to utilize some tool for tracking time spent on the work, to determine how much the process costs him or her, in hours used. Only with a sense of how much a project costs in time will the attorney be able to effectively arrive at a value proposition that works for the client and the firm.

Since markets change over time, it is also advisable for attorneys to continue to maintain time records/keep time for flat fee cases, even if those records never make it to invoice, but are only utilized for the attorney's personal interest in calculating case values. It makes little sense to hang onto a flat fee projection decided upon four months into the practice of law 20 years down the line. Tracking time, even informally, over the course of time, means that attorneys applying flat fees can adjust those fees accordingly, as the economy ebbs and flows, and to adjust for other factors.

If you eschew the timesheet, or manual time tracking, you may want to test out some automatic time tracking tools, as alternatives for gathering informal logs to include within your value formula(e).

*The popular consultant Jay Shepherd may disagree with portions of this post, being that he is timeless as a Struldbrug -- says so right here, at his reimagined blog, where you can follow Jay's continuing take on professionals' pricing knowledge versus time.

Tip courtesy of Jared Correia, Law Office Management Assistance Program.

Published March 29, 2012


To learn more about the Law Practice Management Section, which is complimentary for all MBA members, contact LPM Section Chair Thomas J. Barbar or Vice Chair Stephen Seckler.
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News from the courts

Private Counsel Compensation Hearings; SJC Standing Advisory Committee on the Rules of Civil Procedure Invites Comments on Proposed Amendments to Rule 4

Private Counsel Compensation Hearings

Pursuant to M.G.L. ch. 211D, § 11 (Establishment and Review of Compensation Rates) the Committee for Public Counsel Services will be holding hearings in order to solicit input on the current rates of compensation for attorneys who accept appointments to represent indigent persons. All persons who accept these appointments are invited to attend and to provide input on this issue.

April 5, 2012, 4:30-6:30 p.m.                 
Taunton Superior Court, 9 Court Street, 2nd Floor, Taunton, MA

April 12, 2012, 4:30-6:30 p.m.
Salem Superior Court, 56 Federal Street, Salem, MA

Written Testimony may be emailed to Denise Simonini at [e-mail dsimonini]. Please include subject line: "Public Compensation Hearing"


SJC Standing Advisory Committee on the Rules of Civil Procedure Invites Comments on Proposed Amendments to Rule 4 of the Massachusetts Rules of Appellate Procedure

The Supreme Judicial Court 's Standing Advisory Committee on the Rules of Civil Procedure invites comments on a proposed amendment to Mass. R. A. P. 4(a) dealing with post judgment motions. The proposed amendment addresses the motions that toll the time period for appeals. The amended section states that motions to alter or amend judgment under Rule 59 or motions for relief from judgment, however titled, would stay the time for taking an appeal as long as the motions are served within 10 days after entry of judgment. The amendment makes clear that the substance and not the title of the motion should control. As stated in the Reporter's Notes, "a post-judgment motion seeking to correct an error of law, whether titled as a motion to alter, amend, or vacate, for relief from judgment, or for reconsideration, if served within 10 days, will extend the running of the time period to file a notice of appeal."

The Committee solicits and welcomes comments from the bar prior to presenting its recommendation to the Rules Committee of the Supreme Judicial Court. Comments should be directed to Christine Burak, Supreme Judicial Court, John Adams Courthouse, One Pemberton Square, Boston 02108 or to [e-mail christine.burak] on or before April 27.

Click here to view the proposed amendments to Rule 4.



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Section News: Upcoming meetings and special section events

Join in the April 3 Health Law Section Council meeting. Volunteer at the Greater Boston Food Bank on April 4. Attend the April 5 Public Law Section Council meeting.

Health Law Section Council meeting

Tuesday, April 3, 5:15-6:45 p.m.
MBA, 20 West St., Boston

The next meeting of the Health Law Section Council is scheduled for Tuesday, April 3 from 5:15 to 6:45 p.m. All section members are invited to attend.

To R.S.V.P., click here.


Volunteer at the Greater Boston Food Bank

Wednesday, April 4, 5:30-8 p.m.
Greater Boston Food Bank, 70 South Bay Ave., Roxbury

The Business Law Section and Young Lawyers Division are sponsoring an evening of volunteering at The Greater Boston Food Bank on Wednesday, April 4 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Volunteers will inspect, sort and repack donated grocery products that are then distributed to hunger relief agencies.

To volunteer, click here.


Public Law Section Council meeting

Thursday, April 5, 5:30-7 p.m.
MBA, 20 West St., Boston

The next meeting of the Public Law Section Council is scheduled for Thursday, April 5 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. All section members are invited to attend.

To R.S.V.P., click here.



Upcoming CLE seminar and program schedule

Register for April programs including "Latest in the Law: Criminal/Juvenile Law Update," "Conveying Real Estate under the MUPC," "Lifecycle of Business Part 2," and more.

CLE Heading

To register for the following programs, call MBA Member Services at (617) 338-0530, [e-mail membership] or visit the CLE Web site. Scroll down for program details, including dates and registration details.

Recorded program Recorded session available for purchase after live program through MBA On Demand.

Live program Real-time webcast available for purchase through MBA On Demand.


Law Practice Management Section Educational Series: When Clients Complain Live program
Wednesday, April 4, 12:30-1:30 p.m.
MBA, 20 West St., Boston

MUPC Help Desk Training Live program
Thursday, April 5, noon-1:30 p.m.
MBA, 20 West St., Boston

Health Law Legal Chat Series: Session I Live program
Friday, April 6, noon-1 p.m.
NOTE: There is no on-site attendance for Legal Chats.

Advanced Deposition Skills: Effective Techniques for Taking and Defending Key Depositions for Trial Live program
Tuesday, April 10, 4-7 p.m.
MBA, 20 West St., Boston

Latest in the Law: Criminal/Juvenile Law Update Live program
Thursday, April 12, 5-7 p.m.
MBA, 20 West St., Boston

Law Practice Management Section Educational Series: Social Media and Blogging
Live program
Wednesday, April 18, 12:30-1:30 p.m.
MBA, 20 West St., Boston

Conveying Real Estate under the MUPC Live program
Thursday, April 19, 5-7 p.m.
MBA, 20 West St., Boston

Health Law Legal Chat Series: Session II Live program
Friday, April 20, noon-1 p.m.
MBA, 20 West St., Boston

Lifecycle of a Business Part 2: Land Use/Permitting & Business Financing Live program
Wednesday, April 25, 5-7 p.m.
MBA, 20 West St., Boston

MUPC Basics: An Overview of the New Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code
Friday, April 27, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Massachusetts School of Law, 500 Federal St., Andover


Criminal/ Immigration Law Training Conference Live program
Wednesday, May 9, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
MBA, 20 West St., Boston

GP Solo Symposium Recorded program
Thursday, May 10, noon-5 p.m.
Lombardo's, 6 Billings St., Randolph

33rd Annual Labor & Employment Law Spring Conference Recorded program
Friday, May 18, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Colonnade Hotel, 120 Huntington Ave., Boston


MBA On Demand

Unable to attend these seminars? Purchase the recorded session available after the live program through MBA On Demand and watch the presentation from the comfort of your home or office.

To view a listing of current programs offered on MBA On Demand, click here.

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