House of Delegates meeting features updates on diversity, well-being initiatives

Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020
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The MBA's House of Delegates met via Zoom on Nov. 18.

The Massachusetts Bar Association’s House of Delegates (HOD) convened virtually over Zoom on Wednesday, Nov. 18, where they received updates about MBA initiatives on wellness and diversity and other MBA programs.

MBA President Denise I. Murphy announced that the MBA has been working to establish the Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants Access to Justice Fund in collaboration with the Massachusetts Bar Foundation (MBF) and the Ralph D. Gants Access to Justice Fund Advisory Committee. The fund’s goal is to honor Gants’ legacy by raising money to support initiatives that he was passionate about and working on before he died: access to justice, criminal justice reform and racial equity.

Murphy also updated HOD members about the MBA’s Tiered Community Mentoring Program (TCM), which held its kickoff event remotely earlier this month. Normally held in both Boston and Worcester, TCM matches practicing attorneys with high school, college and law school students with the goal of creating a diverse mentoring network. This year, due to COVID-19, TCM is being conducted virtually, allowing both the Boston and Worcester programs to be combined for the first time. With the ongoing success of TCM, Murphy added, “Let’s talk about expanding this great program to other parts of the commonwealth.”

The MBA president then spoke about the work of the MBA’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee (“DEI Committee”), which has been holding discussions with affinity bar members. "We’re already taking actions and are working with them," she said, adding that everyone understands this is an ongoing process. Murphy reminded each section council leader to appoint a liaison to the DEI Committee to help ensure that diversity, equity and inclusion considerations are a part of every MBA program. 

Lawyer well-being is a top MBA priority this year, and Murphy encouraged everyone to be mindful of their colleagues, especially during the holidays, which can be difficult for some people and heighten feelings of isolation. "Our Well-Being Task Force is ready, willing and available to help you," she said, referencing the MBA task force led by Vice President Grace V.B. Garcia and fellow co-chair Marianne LeBlanc. Garcia later provided more detail about the work of the task force, which is in the process of putting together a well-being toolkit, in conjunction with the SJC’s Standing Committee on Lawyer Well-Being, that can be used as a resource for bar associations. The task force is also exploring the idea of a Wellness Month, she said. 

During his report, MBA Chief Legal Counsel and Chief Operating Officer Martin W. Healy offered an update on state budget negotiations, particularly as they affect funding for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) and civil legal aid. While the respective Ways and Means committees for both the House and Senate have reported favorable increases in their proposals for legal aid funding, it remains an ongoing process. Healy said a virtual Walk to the Hill, slated for Jan. 27, will offer another opportunity for the MBA and its members to advocate for legal aid funding. Noting that the work of the MBA hasn’t been slowed during the pandemic, Healy also commended MBA staff and volunteers for continuing to present successful programs and conferences, including the well-attended Probate Law Conference, which was held virtually earlier this month with programs occurring over the course of a week. 

Minutes from the September HOD meeting were approved by HOD vote during the report from MBA Secretary Victoria Santoro Mair. The next HOD meeting will be held in January 2021.