After the stock market crash plunged the nation into the Great
Depression, the Massachusetts Bar Association fell into a period of
malaise as well. Membership had dwindled, and in 1940, the MBA did
not have enough people to hold its annual meeting.
To the rescue came Mayo A. Shattuck, a new member of the MBA who
served as president from 1941-44.
As described in Fiat Justitia, A History of the Massachusetts
Bar Association 1910-1985, Shattuck, from Hingham, cut quite
In 1941, Mayo Shattuck, who had been a member less than a month,
became the MBA's new president and, armed with a three-year term,
so completely mobilized the Association that it seemed like a
'dashing hero saves the day' movie plot. In fact, Shattuck, with
his Clark Gablesque mustache, possessed a courage and a fighting
spirit to match the movie metaphor.
Shattuck had made a splash - as reported on the front page of the
Boston Herald's Jan. 16, 1941 issue - for
enduring the boos and shouts of hundreds of people at a public
debate, to argue that the United States should aid Britain in World
War II (The bombing of Pearl Harbor that December would settle the
debate). These were turbulent times, for the association and the
Upon taking office, he immediately created a committee to "study
the deficiencies or our organization and make
One of the first recommendations was to restart the annual
meeting, but adding both a social element and legal education
offerings to the standard MBA business, a tradition that carries
through to today. Indeed, MBA members had complained about the lack
of any formal educational programs since at least 1931. The success
of those offerings led to what became continuing legal education in
Shattuck also oversaw the hiring of the MBA's first executive
secretary, set the stage for encouraging greater participation in
the Massachusetts Law Quarterly (before it became the
Massachusetts Law Review), and the creation of its Junior
Bar for younger bar members that would eventually be known as Young
But perhaps his greatest accomplishment was reviving the MBA's
membership, which had sunk to as little as 600 members. Shattuck
appointed groups in 62 cities and towns across the state to
actively recruit other lawyers to join the MBA.
The effort was a success. Hundreds more had joined by the end of
Shattuck's term, and membership continued increasing in the years
and decades after him.
1940: The association is unable to gather enough
interested members to hold the annual meeting.
June 1941: May Shattuck, less than one month into
his membership in the association, is voted into a three-year term
as MBA president. A dramatic orator, he starts shaking the
association out of its apathy.
Nov. 1941: Shattuck publishes the recommendations
of a subcommittee in a special issue of the Quarterly. Included in
the recommendations is the beginning of the association's focus on
continuing education for the state's attorneys.
Nov. 1941: The MBA moves into new offices on the
second floor of 5 Park St.
Dec. 7, 1941: Pearl Harbor is bombed.
May 1942: For the first time, the association
holds a two-day annual meeting combining education, entertainment
and association business. It includes the first daylong annual
Massachusetts Law Institute, which later became known as the
Swampscott Institutes, for decades the state's most important forum
for refresher courses.
June 1943: As the Boston Herald reports, an
astonishing 40 percent of practicing attorneys are also employed in
the war effort or serving in the armed forces. The vacuum creates
great opportunities for women, who are once again, if not welcomed,
at least tolerated in the profession.
1945: The MBA moves into new offices in Room 622,
53 State St.
1946: MBA President Edward O. Proctor is
1947-50: Concerns about communism sweep the
country. In 1951, the MBA's Executive Committee goes on record
rejecting the loyalty oath proposed by a special committee of the
Legislature, but agrees to exclude all members of the Communist
Party from membership in both the association and the bar.
1950: After a decade of activism and recruitment, the MBA
has 2,600 members, more than half of the estimated 5,000 members of
MBA Did You Know?
- The McCarthy Era left few parts of the country untouched, as
government officials hunted down "subversive" individuals.
Massachusetts lawyers were required to cite a "loyalty pledge" to
join or even remain a member of the bar. The MBA stood firmly
against this new oath.
Eventually, however, under pressure from other bar associations
and legislative figures, MBA members voted to exclude Communist
Party members from membership in both the MBA and the bar itself.
MBA President Samuel P. Sears wanted to take more proactive steps
and insisted on educating the population about democracy and the
law to avert growing Communist sentiment.
- 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 solve
the gap between theory and practice and to offer "refresher
courses" for returning WWII veterans through the MBA's annual
Massachusetts Law Institute.
- From the 1930s through the early 1970s, MBA presidents usually
held three-year terms. This concept was devised to allow each
president to engage in long-term planning for the association,
rather than to enact short-term personal goals. In 1973, members at
the annual meeting recognized that to allow more lawyers an
opportunity for MBA leadership, this term should once again be
shortened to one year. To resolve the problem of continuity, the
association decided to allow the new "president-elect" to learn
about problems facing the organization before they assumed their
- In the 1960s, the MBA became a force on the frontlines defining
and defending the boundaries of the legal profession. It helped
form the Joint Committee of the Press and Bar, which resolved the
conflict between the media's right to freedom of the press under
the First Amendment, and lawyers' claims to their clients' right to
a fair trial under the Sixth Amendment.
- The Joint Committee issued a "Guide for the Bar and News
Media," which gained the support of Massachusetts newspapers and
became a model for efforts in other states. In addition, the MBA
participated in the Joint Conference Committee on Physician-Lawyer
Relationships to agree on certain courtesies and considerations for
meetings both within and without trial.