MBA presidents tackle social issues in
In the early 1970s, the Massachusetts Bar Association was
growing in a number of ways, including the number of members, the
number and type of professional staff, and the scope of its
Starting in the late 1960s, the MBA had begun taking a role in a
number of societal issues, including the exposure of brutal
conditions that the criminally insane were living in at Bridgewater
State Hospital by President Paul A. Tamburello (1966-68).
As Robert J. Brink wrote in Fiat Justitia, A History of the
Massachusetts Bar.Association 1910-1985, "The
profession itself had matured enough that the MBA could
successfully begin shifting its focus from a narrow interest in the
internal problems of the legal community to a concern with the
law's efforts on society as a whole."
The MBA did not fail to assert itself on a number of legal
debates, including proposals for lawyer recertification, defending
the tort system against legislative efforts, merit selection of
judges and court reform.
During the term of Frederick G. Fisher Jr. (1973-74), two
important programs were launched: the Fee Arbitration Board and the
Lawyer Referral Service. Those factored into the American Bar
Association awarding the MBA its third Award of Merit in seven
It was also a time of evolution in the MBA's leadership. Although
the MBA had always welcomed women and minority lawyers, 1976 saw
the first woman run for the office of president, Colette
She failed in her challenge of the nominated candidate, Raymond J.
Kenney Jr., but, as Brink noted in Fiat Justitia,
"Manoil may have lost the presidency in 1976, but, fighting in the
MBA's mainstream arena, she won an important round in the
continuing struggle of women to gain equal status with men in the
It would be another decade before the MBA saw its first woman
president, but the end of the decade did see another significant
first when Wayne A. Budd became the association's first black
president. Not only that, he was also its youngest president, and
the first black bar association president in the country.
1970: Richard K. Donahue is elected president
of the MBA. He would be the last president to serve a multiple-year
term, as the association's bylaws were amended at the 1973 annual
meeting to create a "president-elect" position, allowing the
leadership a greater focus on advancing the association's long-term
August 1972: At the conclusion of his term, Donahue
reports a 55 percent increase in membership over 18 months,
bringing the association's membership to more than 7,300
1972: Berge C. Tashjian is elected president of
1972: Newly hired Executive Director Carl Modecki
modernizes and expands the management of the association, including
the installation of computers in the headquarters in Center
1973: Frederick G. Fisher is elected president of the
September 1973: James W. Dolan is hired as the
association's first full-time legislative counsel, completing the
association's transformation into an organizational vehicle that
could drive forward the policies of the MBA.
September 1973: After discussions and negotiations
ranging over four decades, the unification debate comes to an end
when the Supreme Judicial Court rules that the MBA and the Boston
Bar Association could, and should, proceed with a partial
unification. The court drafts a set of rules to register all
attorneys, to investigate uniformly and, if warranted, to prosecute
ethical complaints against attorneys. It also establishes a client
security fund and requires all attorneys to pay an annual fee to
help support these efforts. The issue of full unification was
postponed for several years, by which point the partial unification
was in effect and no further consideration was necessary.
1974: Charles J. Kickham is elected president of the
April 1974: Two months after it was proposed, the Lawyer
Referral Service has 550 members and is generating $850 in revenue
for the MBA.
1974: After nearly doubling its membership in
five years, to 9,100 of the state's 14,000 attorneys, the MBA
receives the American Bar Association's Award of Merit for the
third time in seven years in recognition of the programs developed
by the many members and committees.
1975: Charles Y. Wadsworth is elected president of the
1976: Paul R. Sugarman is elected president of
1977: Raymond J. Kenney Jr. is elected president
of the MBA, a result of the first contested election for president
in the association's 65-year history. His challenger, Colette
Manoil, was the first woman to seek the office.
1977: The MBA undergoes the first major change to
its organizational structure since 1911. Rather than attempting to
coordinate the work of more than 50 committees (and their
subcommittees), the association is divided into sections according
to practice area, with a chairman responsible for each section's
work. Adopted provisionally for one year, the organizational change
was so effective it was permanently adopted by the 11,000 members
the following year with virtually no debate.
1978: Roy A. Hammer is elected president of the
June 1978: Sweeping judicial reform is approved by the
Legislature in the last day of its session, completely reorganizing
and restructuring the state's courts into a unified system,
resulting in a number of ongoing compromises and
1979: Wayne A. Budd is elected president of the
MBA. He is the youngest president elected in the association's
history, and the first black president of any state bar association
in the nation.
MBA Did you know?
"Robert Grant's Bench and Bar of Massachusetts: 1889-1929
reports that in 1880 there were only four women lawyers in
Massachusetts from a total of 1,984." By 1920, this had barely
improved, to 47 women lawyers from a state total of 4,897. Through
equality efforts over the 20th century by the MBA, the Women's Bar
Association and other groups, the female lawyer population in 2005
represented approximately one-third of the 38,143 active lawyers in
In addition to its member-specific education, the MBA has tried to
educate the public about the law as well. In the early 1990s, a
radio segment entitled "It's Your Law" gave two-minute snippets of
advice to listeners of 24 radio stations statewide. It covered
topics such as sexual harassment in the workplace, workers'
compensation, bankruptcy and AIDS discrimination. During the war in
the Persian Gulf, special shows on the rights of reservists and the
military were produced, earning the MBA program an award from the
As the MBA's scope widened to include issues such as judicial
administration and social problems, its ability to help both the
public and the profession expanded as well. In 1965, MBA President
Livingston Hall initiated the creation of the Massachusetts Bar
Foundation. In 1971, MBF President Joseph Schneider announced the
beginning of scholarships to students at local law schools and his
intention to expand the MBF to provide benefits to as many law
students and local residents as possible.