President's Message: Join me in a commitment to achieve a healthier 2021

Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021 By MBA President Denise I. Murphy
Article Picture
MBA President Denise I. Murphy

It finally arrived — the long awaited, much anticipated, and desperately needed end of 2020. Around this time last year, I, like many of you, planned to celebrate the New Year, anticipating a year of family time, work and bar-related activities. I looked forward to supporting then-President John Morrissey as he continued to engage our community in healthy discourse and open communication. That clearly didn’t happen the way I anticipated.

I really think I should have taken my husband’s name (White) when we married, because Murphy’s Law struck and hit us all hard. COVID-19 happened. Our entire way of life changed over the course of a few weeks, transforming us all to a remote, virtual existence as we grappled with technology, life-threatening disease, isolation and grief.

Then, over the course of the year, the violence directed toward people of color reached a crescendo and social justice activists pushed back against the bias, both implicit and explicit, in our system of justice. And they were finally heard.

But you all know this. There is no one who hasn’t been either impacted by or aware of the pandemic or the social justice movement.

What I’d like to do at this moment, is to remind you of the other aspects of this past year.

When COVID first appeared, the staff at the MBA rallied, creating a resource page for all attorneys in the commonwealth, to help them navigate the ever-changing legal and health landscape cause by the pandemic. (Note that I didn’t use the word, “pivot.” I may never use that word again.)

I assumed the presidency of the MBA in a virtual world, without the usual trappings and celebration. Chief Justice Ralph Gants, despite his recent heart attack, contacted me to let me know that he still intended to administer my oath of office. I will always cherish the fact that he was willing to do that for me. Justice Frank Gaziano, my once law review editee, administered the oath after Chief Justice Gants’ passing. My family and friends watched via Zoom as I stood before my children, my sisters and my husband and promised to uphold the MBA’s mission and purpose. Many people attended the event via Zoom and heard my goals as president.
Because of COVID, our legal professionals are in crisis and need help to ensure their physical and mental health. I believe that social justice is critical and that diversity, equity and inclusion efforts should be active, not just wordsmithing. We are better than that and need to work together to ensure that actions take place. 

Because of COVID, legal professionals realized that they can effectively work outside the office. Remote capabilities increased and we became adept at working in virtual communities. Even a dinosaur like me has been able to work remotely and much more efficiently.

Because of COVID, I’ve been able to “travel” to remote parts of the commonwealth and attend local bar associations’ meetings and events, sometimes one right after the other. I was and remain impressed by the innovative ways that local bar associations are engaging with their members to eliminate isolation. The virtual nature of our interactions actually allowed me to see these people as individuals, and not just as a large gathering of people.

Because of COVID, I enjoyed participating in the many virtual social events presented by the MBA. While my trivia skills are nothing short of pathetic, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know members from different practice and demographic areas. The MBA staff, once again, came to the rescue, thinking outside the box in ways to engage our members.

And finally, because of COVID, I began to rethink my approach to my own well-being as an attorney. I decided that part of my well-being is to ensure that my fellow attorneys receive the resources that they need and that I, too, need to take some time, just for me. So, I created a list of the people who give me joy (I look at that list a lot), I read books, just for fun, and I’ve learned to create boundaries to ensure that I take some time for me.

I leave you with these questions:

Because of COVID, what are the positive steps you are taking to ensure that you are well, mentally, physically and spiritually? And will you join me in a commitment to achieve a healthier 2021?