Lawyers Journal

Stumping for the MBA: Gateway Cities opportunities; Hampshire County news

GATEWAY CITIES UPDATE

The MBA's initial Gateway Cities forum held at UMass Law School in North Dartmouth on Jan. 26, ably organized by Margaret Xifaris and Fran Ford, confirmed that there are numerous existing opportunities for lawyers to get involved- now. The majority of forum participants, representing New Bedford and environs, echoed a common theme: mentoring is a crucial element in improving the quality of life and opportunities for the residents. Education, of course, also was deemed crucial.

But a more nuanced and expansive approach to education and training, as suggested by several of the forum participants, views mentoring as being not just for typical school-age individuals, but also, adults seeking to return to school, frequently without a support system to assist them in doing so.

As an example, a single parent, who dealt with a pregnancy as a teenager and as an adult in her 20s, wants to better herself by further education and training, may lack the resources necessary to juggle the roles of parent, worker and student. An empathetic and supportive adult mentor can make all the difference.

The 15-year-old with a spotty record in school, with limited family support and guidance, can benefit from a mentor providing encouragement and other assistance in seeing to it that this youngster continues with school and gets a diploma. Urban school attendance rates are shockingly low, with correspondingly high dropout rates. Speaker after speaker echoed the theme that a little bit of mentoring help can go a long way in enhancing the prospects for appropriate education, training, employment and, ultimately, responsible, satisfying adulthood.

Opportunities already existing are abundant. For example, take a look at the SMILES mentoring program in New Bedford. This program works to keep youngsters in school, matching appropriate adult community members with youngsters. Similar programs no doubt exist in communities near you. Programs like these are wonderful opportunities for volunteerism.

Thinking more expansively about our role as lawyers in the society of which we are just a part is what the Gateway Cities initiative is really about. If the initial forum at UMass Law School is any indication, I am confident that there is much that we lawyers, individually and collectively, can do by thinking globally and acting locally, as the shopworn phrase goes. Stay tuned for more information as the Gateway Cities initiative progresses.

NEWS FROM HAMPSHIRE COUNTY

As a representative of the MBA, I was privileged to attend the Hampshire County Bar Association's 16th Annual Appreciation Reception & Contribution to Justice Award Ceremony at the Hotel Northampton on Feb. 2, 2012. The event was organized under the leadership of Hampshire County Bar President Leslie McLellan Brown. The award recipient was Diane "Dee" Grzeskowicz, the operations supervisor for the Hampshire Probate & Family Court. Grzeskowicz, by all accounts, is a superb example of what it means to be a dedicated public servant.

Speaker after speaker echoed the theme of her hard work, her expertise, her unfailing good nature, her sense of humor, and ultimately, her ability to serve the public- lawyers and litigants alike- in a climate of declining resources for our courts. Among the speakers I was pleased to hear was former MBA Family Law Section Council chair and Hampshire Probate & Family Court Judge Linda S. Fidnick, who did a masterful job praising Grzeskowicz. When she accepted the award, Grzeskowicz came across as the humble, dedicated public servant described by Judge Fidnick and others.

As I drove home that evening from Northampton to Topsfield, I reflected on our collective good fortune in having a court employee like Grzeskowicz, a county bar president like Leslie McLellan Brown, and a judge like Linda Fidnick. While the event specifically was to honor Grzeskowicz, it had broader meaning. It is heartening and encouraging that we have court employees, judges and lawyers like these working together to do what our system is about: providing justice for all of us. It was an honor for me, as an MBA representative, to be at this event.

COMING ATTRACTIONS

It is my hope- scheduling logistics permitting- to attend many county and other bar association events throughout the commonwealth, in order to find out what you are thinking, and, in turn, to share when appropriate, some of my own views.

We have been experiencing many changes in our profession during the past 25 years or so, some of which have had a substantial impact on the way we practice law and how we interact with each other. We need to face up to these changes, adapt to them and take appropriate positions and action when necessary. Doing so will require good communication, among other things. I hope to hear from as many of you as wish to be heard. The MBA is, after all, your organization.

©2014 Massachusetts Bar Association