Mark D Mason launched his term as president of the Massachusetts Bar Association in grand style Sept. 7, highlighting his ambitious agenda to nearly 300 people gathered in the Museum of Fine Arts.
The reception, which featured remarks by Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall, also honored more than 30 of the MBA's 50-year members in the museum's upper rotunda and William I. Koch Gallery, with European paintings dating from 1500 to 1700 hanging from the 48-foot-high walls.
Warren Fitzgerald, whose term as MBA president ended in August, introduced Marshall in glowing terms.
"She brings to this judiciary a sense of dignity that is unparalleled," Fitzgerald said. "She has unrivalled skills of diplomacy. She brings a sense of intelligence to everything she does. She has a commitment to excellence."
In her speech, Marshall praised the "great tradition" of organizations like the MBA in sustaining strong leadership from year to year.
"I do revere this profession and the rule of law," Marshall said, noting that great lawyers and an independent judiciary go hand-in-hand.
"I know, Mark, that you will continue to respect this great tradition," she said.
In introducing Mason, Fitzgerald noted that Marshall and Mason shared a number of laudable qualities.
"He brings a dignity to this profession and the Massachusetts Bar Association that increasingly, each year, we need," Fitzgerald said. "He is a magnificent diplomat and keenly intelligent. And he is possessed of more courage than any lawyer I know. He truly, truly has a love for this profession. This year, we will be united in the law under President Mark Mason."
Continuing to echo his chosen theme for this year and the MBA's Annual Conference, Mason told the gathering, "We all stand here tonight united in the law."
Following up on Marshall's introduction, he emphasized that the MBA will continue to be a leading advocate for a strong and independent judiciary.
"Please, rest assured that we, as a bar association, are committed to ensuring your independence," Mason told members of the judiciary in the audience.
As part of that cooperation, the MBA will hold its first Bench-Bar Symposium, on Nov. 30, as a separate event rather than as a part of the Annual Conference.
Mason explained his plans to bring civics education into high school classrooms across the state with teams of attorneys and judges. Eventually, he'd like to have 1,000 lawyers or more in Massachusetts classrooms on a regular basis.
The MBA has begun partnering with law schools across the state to improve programming, law practice management and recruitment of minority students.
He also plans to re-organize the Young Lawyers Section Council as the Young Lawyers Division to re-invigorate the participation and contributions by young lawyers in MBA activities. The change was approved at the Sept. 20 House of Delegates meeting held at Southern New England School of Law.
"Together, as a team, we will build upon our past success," he said.
Mason thanked his mother, Naomi Franklin, who sat beaming a few feet away from him, and his father, Stanley Mason, a lawyer who had encouraged him to consider a legal career, who passed away in 1999. Mason, the MBA's first openly gay president, also thanked John Shea, whom he married that weekend.
Mason also thanked the past MBA presidents, whom he credited with serving as role models for him personally and for all members of the bar, and his law firm, Springfield-based Cooley Shrair PC, for its "complete support" of his presidency.