Section Review

Family Law Section comments

Denise Squillante served as chair of the Family Law Section Council during the 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 terms. She has a law practice in Fall River.
It is a bittersweet moment during which I offer my farewell comments to you as chair of the Family Law Section Council. I thoroughly enjoyed serving the Section Council and working with all of the staff at the MBA. I forward my heartfelt thanks to all of the staff members on West Street, who were always so helpful and gracious to me. I extend my thank you to all of the Section Council members who I have worked with throughout the years. Your talents and hard work have honored me. I am passing the torch to Susan Huettner, who will lead you well.

Richard Van Nostrand is the new MBA president, and one of his initiatives will be to improve the image of the bar. I am certain that each and every one of you, in your individual communities, can do many things to help to improve the image of the bar. Maybe it is providing a pro bono service to someone in need, having professional programs in your area, reaching out to the poor and elderly or educating your community about what a lawyer does. Perhaps it can start by reminding your colleagues and everyone we work with in the system that kindness and basic courtesy will go a long way to improve the image of the bar. I am certain that our new president will welcome new ideas on how to achieve this goal.

It will take an effort across the bar in general to help in this task. We all have a vested interest in improving the image of lawyers. Improving the image of lawyers will improve the image of the bench and the judicial system in general. I also believe that it will enhance the view of the judicial system in the eyes of the public. Think of some ideas, we need your help.

I also would suggest that we remember that, as family law practitioners, we practice in some of the most difficult and emotionally charged cases. It is at times challenging to remember that our opponent is also our colleague. Count to 10 rather than be rude or lose your temper. If you are rude, apologize. This will go a long way. There is an entire arena of members of the public who watch everything we do as lawyers and it does not serve our image to have our clients or other members of the public or court watch us fighting as children.

I also want to impress upon you that what you do, each and every day, is crucial to our society. Our work affects the foundation of our society, the family. I cannot picture a system that will balance the rights of people, attempt to achieve fairness, protect victims of domestic violence and protect children that will serve the people without the assistance of lawyers. The work that you do is significant and important. Do not forget that, each and every day, you do what you went to law school to accomplish - you help people.

I remember once attempting to explain to my daughter when she was young what a lawyer does. In simple terms I told her that lawyers help people. As she has gotten older, I have attempted to redefine my description of what it is we do in more sophisticated terms. I believe that after almost 20 years of practicing family law that I perhaps was seeking to enhance the definition for myself.

And then, I picked up some summer reading. Among my selections was Caroline Kennedy's new book, "A Patriot's Handbook." To me, this is a compilation of our history in verse, song, poetry, famous speeches and, yes, famous and landmark legal decisions. After reading several selections of the book (which has a prominent place on my nightstand), I have come to the conclusion that the best way to describe a lawyer is that a lawyer is a patriot. As a patriot, you help to protect people and the legal system within which we work. Remember that role.

See you at the annual conference!

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