MBA President Dick Campbell has asked me to write from time to
time on MBA initiatives. As Dick told those assembled at a recent
House of Delegates meeting at UMass-Amherst, when I was an
undergraduate at Amherst College, I was a reporter for the college
newspaper, covering sports and other events. When I was a junior,
the editor asked me to write a weekly column. He told me I had free
rein to write on any topic, with one caveat: he would name the
column. When I had my cup of coffee with Amherst College football,
one of my teammates dubbed me "Stump." That handle stuck.
To this day, many, including nieces and nephews, call me that. So,
the editor of the Amherst College newspaper named the column, "On
the Stump." For those of you bent on verification, you can check
the archives of the Amherst College "Student."
President Campbell, wiser than my college editor, has given me
some specific direction regarding column topics. One of the major
MBA initiatives, which will be ongoing, we hope, is to find ways to
utilize the skills and talents of the legal profession, working
with others, to help to revitalize our so-called "Gateway
When people talk, somewhat casually, I believe, about our
unemployment rate in Massachusetts - currently in the 7 percent
range, a bit better than the national rate - such talk overlooks
the fact that our Gateway Cities have unemployment rates
considerably higher. Those unemployment rates have been higher,
persistently so, for many years.
Our Gateway Cities, the places where earlier immigrants settled to
live and work, are now the places where many of our current
immigrants have settled. Many blather about an "immigration
problem." What, in any meaningful way, is being done? This is
where, I submit, lawyers can and should come in.
LAWYERS AS VOLUNTEER ANALYZERS, ORGANIZERS, PROBLEM
Our profession has a proud tradition of volunteerism. Pick any one
of our 351 cities and towns in this commonwealth. Examine the
makeup of the leadership and active participants in a wide variety
of organizations. You quickly will conclude that lawyers are prime
movers as volunteers. How can we harness our tradition of volunteer
service to tackle the problems of our Gateway Cities?
I presume no wisdom regarding the ultimate answer to that
question, but suggest that the skills we lawyers use each and every
day in representing our clients are skills that can assist in
tackling and solving problems in our Gateway Cities.
SOME INITIAL SUGGESTIONS
While there are some existing initiatives, notably those of
MassINC, regarding the challenges in our Gateway Cities, there is
an untapped talent pool within our legal profession that could be
directed toward facing those challenges.
Start with our historic commitment as a profession to volunteerism
and service to our communities. Add to that commitment the large
number of unemployed or underemployed lawyers in Massachusetts. How
can we put them to work, addressing the challenges of chronic
unemployment in our Gateway Cities? The irony in this opportunity
We have bright, energetic new admittees to our profession, looking
to utilize the legal education they have worked very hard and spent
considerable monies to obtain. Why not harness that resource as a
kind of legal, urban Peace Corps, to attack the problems of the
Gateway Cities? We even might consider public funding for this
urban Peace Corps, for positions designed to deal with, for
example, the multitudinous problems faced by our immigrant
We have seen in recent years many instances of exploitation of our
immigrant population (the "notario" unauthorized practice
of law problem is an example). Despite these difficult economic
times, we should not be afraid to consider public funding for
appropriate and productive new initiatives.
Our country's history of dealing with many waves of immigration
has not always been laudable. Nevertheless, we have been a
welcoming nation, a place where people have come to make better
lives for themselves and their families.
From a personal perspective, it is not lost on me that my mother
(now 92) was a first-generation American-Romanian, her parents
having come to this country at a very young age from very small
villages in Romania (which, also not lost on me, are little changed
from what they were when my grandparents left those villages in the
early 1900s). My father's family also were immigrants, having come
over on the Mayflower, nearly 300 years earlier.
There was little substantive difference in the motivations of the
two sides of my family in coming to this country. Both sides wanted
a better life, and this place offered that opportunity. That is
still the case, I believe, and, more important, ought to be the
Our Gateway Cities present large challenges. MBA President
Campbell wisely has counseled that we should not shrink from
difficult problems. Indeed, history teaches that our profession has
shown repeatedly the ability to solve such problems.
I urge each and every one of you to think about these problems and
potential ways of addressing them. The current political, economic
and media landscape has made it all too easy for too many to lapse
into combinations and permutations of sloganeering, jingoism and
separatism. It is long overdue for us to start developing concrete,
This is a challenge for all of us as lawyers. The MBA's
preliminary task force on our Gateway Cities is working on a call
for action. When the call comes, I hope you will answer it.
Robert L. Holloway Jr. is president-elect of the
Massachusetts Bar Association.