When the Hon. Aileen H. Belford made her regular trek from Fall
River to Boston in 1959 to prepare for the Massachusetts bar exam,
there were no expressways, no Route 24, and no beacons in the night
to light the way. There was only one task at hand: Pass the bar
examination so she could begin to practice. Fifty years later,
Belford continues to be regarded as a standard-bearer for women in
Massachusetts seeking to advance in the legal profession.
"Aileen Belford blazed a trail for all professional women, not
just lawyers," said Denise Squillante, president-elect of the
Massachusetts Bar Association. "Where most people would be
deterred, Aileen always viewed it as an opportunity to reach out,
create dialogue and demonstrate her capabilities and
professionalism among her peers and colleagues alike."
"You do what you have to do to get the job done," said Belford,
a retired first justice for the Fall River District Court. "Still,
I must admit the experience of preparing for the bar exam, at that
time, certainly remains one of the hardest things I ever had to
When Belford received her bar card, there was no advertising
permitted. To publicize her practice, she would walk up and down
Main Street in Fall River purchasing items by check that clearly
identified her as a practicing attorney.
"I became extremely active in civic and community groups," she
said. "When I was asked to speak, the local news media published my
comments, and they also helped to promote my firm. I became a
member of every community group and organization I could think
Belford's distinguished record of professional and community
service was recognized when she was given the Lelia J. Robinson
Award in 2002 from the Massachusetts Women's Bar Association.
After joining her late husband, Lloyd Belford, in private
practice in Fall River, she was appointed assistant attorney
general under Edward Brooke in 1963.
"Things were very different back then," said Belford. "I would
go to Boston, do my assistant attorney general work, come home and
handle my private practice. Then, I would spend most nights either
speaking or listening to speakers across many of the civic and
community groups in Fall River."
In 1969, when she was elected president of the Massachusetts
Association of Women Lawyers (MAWL), Belford was given a seat on
the MBA's House of Delegates.
As she had before, Belford engaged her colleagues in a
discussion of the law and continued to earn respect through her
involvement in events within the legal profession across the
"She is a woman who loves being a lawyer, loves bar
associations, loves the collegiality of the profession and one who
loves being connected with her colleagues," said Squillante.
"Massachusetts has a rich legacy of general practice attorneys in
smaller communities who have made significant contributions to
their state and nation. Aileen Belford is a modern-day
personification of that tradition."