Two affiliated Massachusetts bar organizations will now have official representation on the MBA's House of Delegates.
At its meeting in March, the MBA's Executive Management Board approved applications by the Asian American Lawyers Association of Massachusetts (AALAM) and the Massachusetts Association of Hispanic Attorneys (MAHA) to gain representation on the House of Delegates.
The House of Delegates later approved the applications. The vote enables these affiliated bar organizations to have one seat per organization on the House of Delegates, giving each full voting rights on the MBA's governing body.
The applications and approval follows changes the MBA made last year in its bylaws to make the MBA more inclusive and increase diversity.
MBA President Joseph P.J. Vrabel said diversity and inclusion are extremely important to the credibility of the MBA.
"As the representative body of more than 20,000 members, the MBA must reach out to all segments of our society if we expect to be the voice of the bar," Vrabel said. "One of our more important missions will always be to act on behalf of our constituencies and, even more importantly, listen to what our membership has to say. If we listen well to a more diverse membership, our actions will be more meaningful and more responsive to our members.
"The admission of the Asian and Hispanic bar associations as affiliated bar organizations of the MBA demonstrates that we intend to act on our efforts to become more diverse and inclusive, not just talk about it. This is an important step for the MBA, a step that puts us on a path leading to an increasingly more important role for the MBA in today's legal community."
AALAM has approximately 120 members, who include attorneys, judges and law professors, and a mailing list of more than 300 affiliated attorneys. MAHA has approximately 107 active members and 320 inactive members.
AALAM President Theodore D. Chuang said granting AALAM's application would be the strongest message the MBA could send to indicate that diversity in general, and the recruitment of Asian American attorneys in particular, are top priorities for the MBA.
"With enrollment of Asian Americans at law schools growing every year, the ranks of Asian American attorneys in Massachusetts are also growing steadily," Chuang wrote in the bar's application. "If AALAM is represented in the House of Delegates, it will serve as a bridge between the MBA and one of the fastest-growing segments of the bar. AALAM representation will facilitate the ability of the MBA to recruit and retain Asian American attorney as members, CLE instructors and panelists, and leaders within the MBA."
MAHA President Julio Hernando said MAHA is the only statewide organization that represents the interests of the Latino legal community and Latinos in general. In the MAHA application, Hernando wrote:
"It is clear that MAHA is a leading voice in the support of the Latino community and other immigrant communities. The work that MAHA has performed over the years exemplifies the dedication that the legal community, in general, has had in regards to providing proper representation and access to justice to immigrant communities. However, the rapid influx of immigrant communities invites a new host of issues to be resolved. The MBA has taken a leadership role over the years in addressing the needs of the legal community and the constituencies that they serve. It is our contention that MAHA will be able to compliment the MBA in its efforts to advance the goals of the legal community and the public at large."