Lawyers Journal

MBA Centennial

The 1960s was, in many ways, a transformative decade, not just for the Massachusetts Bar Association, but for the legal profession in Massachusetts. Some of the initiatives from nearly a half-century ago include: the expanded availability of continuing education; greater legal input in the legislative process; policing of the profession; and the creation of the Massachusetts Bar Foundation.

Massachusetts Bar Association President Gerald P. Walsh (1959-60) set the stage by suggesting the MBA create a newsletter and expand the organization's annual continuing legal education program to a year-round, statewide effort. He would not see his plans come to fruition, however; he died shortly after stepping down in 1960 due to illness.

Harold Horvitz (1960-62) started to put Walsh's ideas into effect in 1960, including starting the monthly MBA Newsletter, which would later become Lawyers Journal.

Walsh's intention to improve continuing education -- which the MBA started offering at its 1942 Annual Meeting -- was followed through by presidents Horvitz and Laurence H. Lougee (1962-63). Richard Milstein, who had previously introduced CLE to Hampden County, was hired to run the MBA's program, and by the fall of 1962, programs were offered in New Bedford, Pittsfield, Springfield and Worcester.

Horvitz would also, along with Committee on Legislation Chairman Livingston Hall, convince the Board of Delegates on Sept. 20, 1960, to hire a "legislative agent" to keep the MBA apprised of the Legislature's activity as it happened, rather than simply weigh in after legislation was passed.

After Hall became president (1963-64), he helped create the Massachusetts Bar Foundation in the spring of 1965, modeling it on the American Bar Foundation. He also oversaw the launch of the Young Lawyers Section, for attorneys under 36, following vthe introduction of the Junior Bar.

Hall's term was capped, at the June 1964 Annual Meeting, with another breakthrough: the creation of the Clients' Security Fund, which provided compensation to the victims of dishonest lawyers, duties now handled by the state's Clients' Security Board. (The fund was set in motion by Horvitz in 1961, when he appointed Pittsfield attorney Lincoln S. Cain to investigate whether it would be viable.)

President Walter H. McLaughlin Sr. (1964-66) eventually succeeded in convincing the Supreme Judicial Court chief justice to allow depositions to be used as a discovery tool in litigation, a position that had been advocated by the MBA's Committee on Administration of Justice in 1962.

McLaughlin, who had been involved in many of the MBA's initiatives before becoming president in 1964, also advocated the purchase of a permanent headquarters for the MBA two decades before it would find its permanent home at 20 West St. in Boston.

One of McLaughlin's other major efforts was the unification of the bar after decades of discussion. The debate over mandating membership in the state bar association, with annual dues, would not be settled until 1974, when the SJC settled on a compromise that created the Board of Bar Overseers.

Centennial Timeline: 1960s

1960: Harold Horvitz is elected president of the MBA.

1962: Laurence H. Lougee is elected president of the MBA.

1962: For the first time, through the coordinated dissemination of materials through a network of local associations, cohesive continuing legal education is available to every member of the bar.

1962: With an expanded committee base and a greater number of active members, the MBA is able to address issues it was less than successful on just a few years prior, including the administration of justice, which would become the dominant and defining vision of the association through the mid-1960s.

1963: Livingston Hall, professor at Harvard Law School, is elected president of the MBA.

1963: In December, the Young Lawyers Section is formed to develop the young leadership of the association and assist bar members under the age of 36 gain experience and network

1964: At the annual meeting in June, the association votes to establish a client security fund, providing compensation to clients for monetary losses caused by dishonest acts of members of the bar. It is the first bar association in the country to do so, and leads to the creation of the state's Clients' Security Board.

1964: Walter McLaughlin Sr. is elected president of the MBA.

1964: Unification of the various state bar associations into one organization, a sensitive and deeply personal topic that had been discussed at various times since the 1930s, is once again broached at the annual meeting. It will be discussed for the next 10 years.

1965: An organizational meeting on May 13 begins the process of establishing the Massachusetts Bar Foundation, dedicated to supporting the bar association and students of law.

1966: Paul A. Tamburello is elected president of the MBA.

Father Robert F. Drinan, former dean of the Boston College Law School, receives the Gold Award at the MBA Annual Meeting in recognition of his devotion to public service, his work in the area of civil rights, and his expertise on the relationship between church and state. The award was also a recognition of the Committee on Administration of Justice - created, implemented and directed by Drinan - as one of the most productive and important committees in the association's history. Drinan later served five terms in Congress.

1967: The headquarters of the MBA move from Barrister's Hall, near Scollay Square, to One Center Plaza.

1967: Tamburello leads a delegation of doctors and dignitaries on a tour of Bridgewater State Hospital, the state's only institution for the criminally insane. The deplorable conditions witnessed by journalists and a documentary crew receive national attention. Tamburello pledges the assistance of the 6,000 members of the bar association to those confined because they lacked legal aid. He personally took on the case of the first inmate represented by the bar, who had been unlawfully detained for 53 years.

1968: Phillip L. Sisk is elected president of the MBA.

1970: After Tamburello's discovery at Bridgewater and the subsequent work by MBA members and the attorney general's office, a complete revision and reform of the state's laws regarding mental illness is completed. The new code is heralded as one of the most comprehensive statutory overhauls in modern history and as a national model of how to humanely protect the interests of the mentally ill.

MBA Did You Know?

  • The MBA adopted "sections" in the mid-1970s to encourage more involvement by sorting members into areas of substantive law. Up until that point, committees and subcommittees were difficult for new members to join. The section model today enables members to enjoy special programs and events focused on their practice area, in addition to association-wide services and events.
  • In the early 20th century, aspiring lawyers qualified for the bar by clerking with or shadowing practicing attorneys. However, the growth in importance of law schools changed the focus of lawyers to the mindset of the profession and away from strict memorization of the law. MBA President Mayo Shattuck aimed to close the gap between theory and practice by offering refresher courses for returning WWII veterans through the MBA's annual Massachusetts Law Institute.
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