Four Massachusetts Bar Association members will be honored for their outstanding service at the MBA Volunteer Recognition Dinner at Lombardo's in Randolph on Aug. 8.
Jason E. Armiger, Richard W. Cole, Hon. Rudolph Kass and Meghan H. Slack will each be presented with the Volunteer Recognition Award, which salutes members who volunteer substantial time and effort to the mission, programs and/or publications of the MBA or otherwise enhance the organization in a significant way.
Shain M. Neumeier will receive the Outstanding Young Lawyer Award, which is given to a young lawyer who has demonstrated outstanding character, leadership and legal achievement, and has contributed service to the community. The recipient of the award must be a member of the MBA who has been in practice for fewer than 10 years and who has made a significant contribution to the legal profession.
Nominations for the four volunteer awards were made to the MBA's Volunteer Recognition Committee who provided recommendations to MBA officers. The officers voted on the award recipients based on the committee's recommendations.
Members of the MBA's Young Lawyers Division screened applicants for the Outstanding Young Lawyer Award before bringing a final recommendation to a full committee vote. The chosen candidate was then approved by the MBA's Executive Management Board.
Volunteer Recognition Awards:Jason E. ArmigerGesmer Updegrove LLP
Business litigation attorney Jason E. Armiger is only six years removed from law school, his entry into the profession aided by the guidance of several willing mentors.
Armiger has reciprocated this generosity since joining the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division in 2013, particularly by serving as Law Student Committee co-chair for the past three years. In this position, Armiger coordinates an annual slate of educational programming for students attending Massachusetts’ nine law schools, while ensuring that the MBA maintains a regular presence on each campus. Specific programs have served to showcase the various career paths available to impending graduates, and to provide judicial insight into the importance of civility and professionalism for all practicing lawyers.
In addition to his supervisory roles, Armiger acts as an industry contact and personal mentor to interested law students, and as an attorney coach for Lexington High School’s Mock Trial team in the MBA-sponsored program.
“I’ve had a lot of help and a lot of mentors throughout my life and career, and since I’m in a position to give back some of what was given to me, I try to take advantage of that whenever I can,” said Armiger, who recently concluded his term as YLD secretary and has been elected treasurer for the coming year.
Armiger has also focused his educational outreach on the benefits associated with joining the MBA, resulting in a marked increase in law student membership, which currently stands in the thousands. The early recruitment of beginner lawyers has, in turn, helped create a “more diverse and dedicated” membership base, Armiger said.Richard W. ColeCole Civil Rights and Safe Schools Consulting
Veteran civil rights attorney Richard W. Cole first discovered his eventual calling as early as age 8, inspired by the social justice movements of the 1950s and 60s.
For more than 25 years, he has continued to channel his long-held passion in service to the Massachusetts Bar Association, most notably as chair of its Civil Rights and Social Justice Section Council and its Working Group on Immigration. It is in these managerial roles that Cole has recorded his proudest volunteer achievement to date: helping to establish the MBA as a thought leader in the areas of immigrant rights and criminal justice reform.
At Cole’s urging, the MBA opened 2017 with an affirmation of its support for due process in immigration proceedings, introducing a historic resolution that received overwhelming approval from the House of Delegates. Shortly thereafter, Cole sought to strengthen the collective voice of the local immigrant advocacy community by uniting a coalition of governmental and non-governmental organizations under the MBA umbrella. The working group has since undertaken several projects aimed at preserving and expanding legal protections for immigrants, and its efforts proved instrumental in the American Bar Association’s adoption last summer of three MBA-submitted policies related to mandatory minimums and government detentions.
Cole also initiated the creation of the MBA Criminal Justice Reform Working Group, some of whose resolutions were included in the landmark reform bill signed into law in April.
“We’re in very challenging times, and it’s critical that the legal community stand up for basic propositions around the rule of law and protecting basic rights,” Cole said of his volunteer interest in social justice issues.
Hon. Rudolph Kass
The Mediation Group
Fifteen years into his retirement from the Massachusetts Appeals Court, Hon. Rudolph Kass feels he still has more to contribute to the legal profession.
That’s why he continues to lend his judicial expertise to the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Law Review Board, where he has accumulated more than a decade of volunteer service as an editor and an author of case comments. All the while, Kass has embarked on a second act in alternative dispute resolution, maintaining regular employment with The Mediation Group since ending his approximately 25-year tenure as an associate justice in 2003.
For Kass, his ongoing involvement with the Law Review Board offers a window into the current state of local and federal law, as well the chance to participate in lively discussions with fellow members of the bar and the judiciary. “I’m 88 years old; I prefer to stay engaged,” said Kass, who also presently serves as an Access to Justice Fellow at Greater Boston Legal Services, where he coaches attorneys preparing to argue before the Appeals Court and the Supreme Judicial Court.
An accomplished real estate attorney before being appointed to the bench, Kass has remained eager to expand his already broad base of legal knowledge, saying of his time on the Law Review Board: “I’ve enjoyed learning about things I know nothing about.”
Meghan H. Slack
Law Office of Meghan Slack
As a prominent Massachusetts Bar Association volunteer, incoming Young Lawyers Division Chair-elect Meghan H. Slack has used her platform to spotlight the need for greater organizational diversity and more representative leadership in the legal profession.
In keeping with her dedicated service to the YLD, Slack has helped spearhead efforts to engage the MBA community in thoughtful dialogue about implicit bias in the workplace, as well as the value of diversity in law firms. These timely forums come as the legal field continues to attract, hire and promote a small number of minority attorneys, while offering too few opportunities for women to attain senior rank, Slack said.
Slack, whose solo practice centers on the increasingly prevalent issue of employment discrimination, says she plans to remain a fixture in the gender and diversity arena going forward. “With the work I do, I’m very aware of these problems, and I really want to try to be part of the solution,” said Slack, who is also a recognized educational leader on the Labor & Employment Section Council, where she has risen to vice-chair.
Alongside her fellow officers, Slack has likewise worked to reinforce the YLD’s role as “the bridge between law students and the organization as a whole,” namely by easing the transition from newly licensed attorney to MBA member. As a YLD executive, Slack said she finds herself in the unique position not only to mentor lawyers within her peer group, but also to exercise their collective voice to shape the direction of the organization.
Outstanding Young Lawyer Award:
Shain M. Neumeier
The Law Office of Shain M. Neumeier
When disability and LGBTQ rights attorney Shain M. Neumeier entered solo practice in November 2017, it marked the latest chapter in a legal career spent defying expectations.
As an autistic person with a visible craniofacial condition, Neumeier overcame long odds to attend and graduate cum laude from Suffolk University Law School, starting with the belief that their appearance and speech were incompatible with the courtroom environment. Even after graduating, they were repeatedly denied the chance to participate in litigation.
“If nobody is going to give me that chance, I have to make it,” Neumeier said of the decision to become a sole practitioner.
Nearly one year after departing the world of nonprofit legal services, Neumeier acts in equal parts as a trial lawyer and a catalyst for systemic change in the treatment of disabled and LGBTQ individuals. Specifically, Neumeier defends against involuntary civil commitment and works to hold facilities accountable for abuse and neglect, standing in strong opposition to harsh practices that are similar to what Neumeier and their friends endured as disabled youth. In addition, Neumeier enables transgender clients to live safely and authentically by assisting with name and gender identity changes on official documents.
As a fellow member of the transgender and disability communities, Neumeier has the shared experiences to closely identify with each individual client, making their unique brand of legal advocacy all the more personal and impactful.