Valerie A. Yarashus is wrapping up her year as president of the
Massachusetts Bar Association the way she began: mindful of the
past as she plans for the future.
From the very start of her 2009-10 term, Yarashus spoke about
the importance of bridging the goals of the association's founders
with the opportunities facing the organization and its future
"To me, it feels like it's been a phenomenal lead-up to the
MBA's centennial year, which is monumentally significant," Yarashus
said. "Access to justice and diversity have been key priorities
this year, just as they were to the founders and have been for the
past 100 years."
In addition to those ongoing issues, Yarashus said that
technology is playing an increasing role in what the MBA can offer
its members. Today, those services include Twitter and LinkedIn,
and MBA On Demand, which allows lawyers to experience CLE programs,
conferences and events like Bench Bar Forums and Annual Conference
"It's exciting to implement these technological advances, and to
see how much members all across the commonwealth will benefit from
them," she said.
In addition, two recently completed projects were of significant
importance, she said.
The first was the completion of the Crisis in Court Funding Task
Force, to help the Legislature and media understand the extent of
the problems caused by cutting court funding. The report conveyed
stories from court officials about how inadequate funding affects
citizens every day.
Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall
thanked Yarashus in a June 7 letter: "On behalf of the Justices, I
write to commend you, the Massachusetts Bar Association and the
members of the Crisis in Court Funding Task on the excellent Report
of the Task Force that was recently issued … Your Report makes
[the] case [for adequate funding] clearly and eloquently, with
numerous examples of how justice is being delayed, often for those
who may need it the most … You have demonstrated exceptional
leadership throughout this time of crisis, for which I am most
The second project succeeded in overhauling the MBA's bylaws,
which were approved at the House of Delegates meeting on May 19 and
are set for a vote at a membership meeting on July 21.
"The bylaw revision was one of the most important projects we
completed," Yarashus said. "It felt absolutely critical for me to
get the Mass. Bar positioned to have the best centennial year
anyone could imagine."
Yarashus and President-elect Denise Squillante have worked
together closely on the MBA's centennial plans.
"Valerie and I began the year as what I have referred to as
'Team Centennial,' Squillante said. "Her leadership this year has
laid the foundation for the association to move forward with a year
of 100th anniversary statewide celebrations. Valerie
began her year with certain goals to accomplish, among them,
governance and new bylaws. Through her leadership, the association
will be stronger moving forward in the coming years."
In preparing her remarks for the passing of the gavel ceremony
at the May 19 HOD, Yarashus said she realized that it would be the
first time the association's leadership would extend from one woman
"I am thrilled that she and I were able to be one of the
'firsts' for the association," Squillante said about the MBA's
first consecutive women presidents.
"I was excited to be passing the gavel to another woman,"
Yarashus said. "Denise and I have always been very interested in
keeping inclusiveness at the top of our minds in making
For Yarashus, the creation of the Tiered Community Mentoring
program was a personally satisfying endeavor to plant the seeds for
diversity in the profession.
Launched by the MBA's Diversity Task Force in October, it
matched up practicing lawyers, Suffolk University Law School
students and students from Roxbury Community College and John D.
O'Bryant High School in Roxbury. Yarashus has already committed to
serving as a mentor in next year's program.
Yarashus said she does not plan, however, to continue attending
the monthly meetings of the MBA Leadership Roundtable. She started
the program, with Past President Edward W. McIntyre, in which
select members of leadership read and discuss books about
leadership and organization. While she values the discussion and
interaction, she said it's important to provide the organization's
future leaders the opportunity.
"I'm hoping that over the next few years, the Leadership
Roundtable will develop into a full leadership institute," she
said, like those run in some states where people apply to be
accepted and go through yearlong training. "This way, the
roundtable itself will be able to lay the foundation for other
It's also been an active year for the MBA on the legislative
front, with the association advocating positions on a number of
bills, in addition to the regular defense of judicial independence
and adequate court and legal aid funding.
"It's been very rewarding for me to work on legislative issues
across all practice areas," she said, noting MBA efforts on
requiring liquor liability insurance for all commercial
establishments that serve alcohol, Criminal Offender Registration
Information (CORI) reform and securing MBA representation on both
the Probation Task Force and an alimony task force created by the
Joint Committee on the Judiciary.
In addition to taking on the president's commitments, Yarashus
also joined the firm of Meehan, Boyle, Black & Bogdanow PC in
Boston where she credits her colleagues for supporting her as she
balanced work commitments and presidential duties.
"I truly feel like I have the best of all worlds here. Each and
every one of my colleagues is truly creative, collaborative and
brilliant in his or her own, unique way," she said, noting that
several of the firm's partners have served as MBA president over
the years. "They know exactly what it takes to have a successful
Other projects, like the Task Force on Peremptory Challenges and
the Plain English Jury Instruction Task Force, have been concerns
of hers for years and will be ongoing efforts.
Bringing back a full program for the Annual Conference,
including the "magical moment" during the keynote speech by the
Southern Poverty Law Center's Morris Dees, was one of the many
events and initiatives made possible by staff and volunteers, she
said. She estimates she made more than 400 presidential
appointments during her term, for everything from section
leadership to task forces and committees.
"I feel so grateful to so many people on so many levels," she
said, noting that she's also eager to return to balancing family
and work without as many MBA responsibilities.
Yet, she said, "As much as I look forward to more evenings at
home, it has been incredibly fulfilling to work on issues I really
care about. More than anything, it's been humbling and deeply
satisfying to look back to the founders' vision and see that, even
a century later, we share their commitment to justice and fairness,
diversity and professionalism. I think they would be proud to see
the bridges we've built. And, hopeful for what is yet to come."