Lawyers Journal

MBA Centennial

The 1980s is a decade of firsts for state bar leadership

At the turn of the decade, the Massachusetts Bar Association elected Wayne A. Budd president (1979-80). He was not just the first black president of the MBA, he was the first black president of any state bar association. He was also the youngest MBA president. His prominence in the legal field came at a time when blacks made up a tiny fraction -- not even 2 percent -- of the state's lawyers in 1983.

Several years later, Alice Richmond set another milestone, as she became the MBA's first woman president (1986-87).

During Richmond's term, she attracted attention to Massachusetts' homeless in the post-Vietnam era, and the MBA addressed the improper conduct of some judges toward female trial lawyers, who were becoming a greater presence in the courtroom.

The organization experienced another first when, in 1984, the MBA became a homeowner, having acquired 20 West St. after years of moving from rented office to rented office in Boston. The purchase and ribbon-cutting ceremony in the fall of 1984 was accomplished due to the efforts -- over nearly two decades -- of a number of presidents and other volunteers.

Michael S. Greco, who led the headquarters search committee and would later become president of the American Bar Association, addressed the issue of professionalism in the profession upon the start of his 1985-86 term. He immediately launched a statewide MBA Commission on Lawyer Professionalism.

"Throughout the nation, there is a concern among thoughtful lawyers … that there has been significant erosion of lawyer professionalism, and not just in terms of competence or ethical conduct, but in terms of civilities between lawyers, and in the courtesy and consideration given by lawyers in dealing with their clients, with other professionals and the courts."

Greco also played a nationally visible and vocal role advocating greater funding for legal services for the poor, testifying before the Legal Services Corp. board, a Senate subcommittee and an ABA subcommittee.

Increasing funding for legal aid had been championed nearly a decade earlier by MBA President Roy A. Hammer (1978-79), who made the approval of an Interest On Lawyers Trust Accounts program (IOLTA) a top priority in 1978. But it would take years of perseverance by Hammer and others to see the program launched in Massachusetts.

Using the interest from clients' accounts to fund millions in court-approved public service programs was a novel approach in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and it wasn't until July 1985 that the Supreme Judicial Court approved a petition by the MBA, the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corp. and the Boston Bar Association to create the program.

Timeline 1980s

1980: Richard D. Gelinas is elected president of the MBA.
1981: Thomas J. Wynn is elected president of the MBA.
1982: Daniel O. Mahone is elected president of the MBA.
1982: Carl Modecki resigns as executive director. During his tenure, the association's membership nearly triples, the staff increases from two full-time employees to 20, and the budget increases from about $83,000 to $1.6 million. He is succeeded by Daniel Hovey, who remains for two years.
1983: William E. Bernstein is elected president of the MBA.
1984: Richard G. Hoffman is elected president of the MBA.
1984: After three years of searching and negotiating, the MBA moves into 20 West St., the first building it owns outright, and its current home. Built in 1922, it was featured in the August 1923 issue of The Architectural Forum as "an excellent example of the 'Renaissance Revival' style." From the early 1930s through the 1970s, it housed a restaurant and candy store belonging to the Schraffts family. At the time the MBA purchases the building, it has been vacant for a decade, a decrepit hulk on a street on the edges of the Combat Zone, one of Boston's most notorious neighborhoods. It is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
1985: Michael S. Greco is elected president of the MBA.
1985: A University of North Carolina study finds that the Massachusetts Law Review is the legal periodical cited most often by courts in the United States.
1985: Roy A. Hammer receives the Gold Medal Award.
1985: The Interest on Lawyers' Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program is approved in Massachusetts.
1986: The legal community is shaken by the dissolution of Herrick & Smith, one of the city's oldest and largest firms, because the firm felt it could not be successful in the new, highly competitive marketplace.
1986: Alice E. Richmond is elected president of the MBA. She is the first female president in the history of the organization.
1986: The MBA celebrates its 75th anniversary.
1987: John M. Callahan is elected president of the MBA.
1989: Thomas F. Maffei is elected president of the MBA.

MBA Did You Know?

Massachusetts was on the forefront of racial equality in the legal field in the mid-1800s, as home to the first black lawyer, the first black judge, the first black law school graduate, the first black admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court and the first blacks to serve on a state legislature.

Although racial problems rose again in Massachusetts during the busing riots and in simmering tensions, Wayne Budd was elected by the MBA to become the first black state bar association president in the nation.

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 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 World War II veterans through the MBA's annual Massachusetts Law Institute, which would become the Continuing Legal Education program.

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