New MBA President Thomas M. Bond to Build Relationships, Strengthen Diversity

Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021 By Cameron Woodcock
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2021-22 Massachusetts Bar Association President Thomas M. Bond.

From the moment he joined the Massachusetts Bar Association almost 10 years ago, plaintiff’s attorney Thomas M. Bond has embraced the experience as an opportunity to build meaningful relationships with his counterparts on the defense side of civil law. In that spirit of collaboration, now President Bond will focus his 2021-22 term on working with partner organizations in the legal community to increase diversity and inclusion at the MBA and support equitable pathways for advancement in the profession.

As an initial step toward improving representation in the MBA leadership ranks, Bond filled four seats on the Executive Management Board with an all-female slate of attorneys, three of whom are women of color. He also contacted the Young Lawyers Division to request the names of diverse candidates for appointment to the MBA’s section councils. Bond said his nomination decisions further an ongoing commitment by past presidents and current officers to amplify new voices for the betterment of the association.

“I am looking forward to working with and being a resource to all communities,” said Bond, who practices admiralty and maritime law as founder and managing partner of the Kaplan/Bond Group in Boston. “We need the depth and breadth of what diverse people can bring to our organization, and I feel strongly that their voices, perspectives and experiences will make our organization stronger.”

Following the official start of the membership year on Sept. 1, Bond will now continue his agenda with the resumption of the MBA Leadership Academy after a nearly 18-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with closing out the 2019-20 program, Bond plans on selecting a new and diverse cohort of young attorneys to learn valuable trial skills and practical insights into effective lawyering.

Bond presents information about organizing and running meetings to the 2018-19 Leadership Academy class.
In assembling the next Leadership Academy class, Bond hopes to draw heavily from the memberships of affinity bar associations, including the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association, Massachusetts Black Women Attorneys, Massachusetts Association of Hispanic Attorneys, Massachusetts LGBTQ Bar Association, and Asian American Lawyers Association of Massachusetts. With a 36-year background in litigation, Bond would also like to bring a greater emphasis on trial and motion practice as he relaunches the 12-month program, which has traditionally covered the universal attributes of successful leaders.

The Leadership Academy program, which develops leaders who will work diligently toward the improvement of our profession and our society, also creates a pipeline to future judgeships for minority and other practitioners. As a former chair of the MBA’s Judicial Diversity Task Force, Bond said he heard firsthand from Trial Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey about the need for bar associations to play an active role in the development of aspiring jurists.

Whether they envision themselves as litigators or judges, today’s young lawyers are limited in their ability to try cases by the high potential for settlement of civil disputes and the continued impact of the pandemic, Bond said. With those circumstances in mind, the Leadership Academy will seek to provide participants with a basic foundation of trials skills, demystify the experience of practicing in federal court, and explain how to forge a productive working relationship with opposing counsel.

Bond sees additional opportunities to diversify the legal industry through the continued promotion of the MBA’s Tiered Community Mentoring (TCM) and Judicial Youth Corps (JYC) programs. Both initiatives exist to build career paths for individuals from primarily underserved communities, with the JYC program targeting high school students and the TCM program supporting students at all levels of study. As part of his general desire to enhance existing MBA services, Bond plans to organize an informational seminar on the two programs and increase outreach to members and affinity bar associations.

Determined to serve as a catalyst for change during his time as president, Bond notes the MBA’s long history as an inclusive organization since its incorporation in 1911. Past MBA presidents who were pioneers include Moorfield Storey in 1913, a civil rights leader who was the first president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); Wayne A. Budd, who in 1979 became the first Black president elected by a statewide bar association; Alice E. Richmond, elected in 1986 as the MBA’s first female president; and Robert W. Harnais, now a judge in the District Court, who was elected the MBA’s first Hispanic president in 2015.

Alongside Bond, the other 2021-22 MBA officers include President-elect Grace V.B. Garcia (top middle), Vice President Damian J. Turco (top right), Treasurer Victoria Santoro Mair (bottom left) and Secretary Michael H. Hayden (bottom middle). Martin W. Healy (bottom right) is the MBA’s chief legal counsel and chief operating officer. Click here to learn more about the 2021-22 officers.
During recent years, Bond said, the MBA has consistently advocated for systemic improvements and legislative actions aimed at strengthening legal protections for marginalized groups. Through its member committees and House of Delegates, the MBA has adopted resolutions supporting criminal justice reform, conviction integrity, immigrant and civil rights, marriage equality and police accountability, among many other important causes.

“Tom cares about equality and has been working diligently to ensure that we realize that goal,” said Immediate Past MBA President Denise I. Murphy, who made improving diversity, equity and inclusion at the MBA a priority during the 2020-21 year. “I don’t know how I would have achieved any measure of success during my presidency if it were not for Tom’s support, his sage advice, and his never-ending support. I’m honored to call him friend."

Professional Background and Upbringing

As the youngest of four brothers in a Charlton working-class family, Bond said he learned at an early age to mediate conflicts and help maintain a healthy rapport between siblings. He has strived to carry himself in a similar fashion throughout his legal career, keeping open lines of communication in his practice and treating opponents with respect rather than resentment.

Bond (right) with MBA Past President John J. Morrissey.
Since joining the MBA in 2012 at the urging of his friend and former fellow officer, 2019-20 President John J. Morrissey, Bond has found that the organization offers him a welcome reprieve from the contentious aspects of litigation. In particular, he has relished the chance to work alongside defense lawyers and judges outside of their respective jobs to address issues affecting the legal community at large.

“At the MBA, it was just so refreshing,” Bond said of the contrast between his daily responsibilities and the MBA experience. “I just breathe easier when I come into the doors of the MBA and I’m looking forward to seeing these people.”

Bond’s passion to bring together lawyers and judges is apparent in his MBA service, most notably as a past chair and six-year member of the Judicial Administration Section Council. There, Bond participated in bench-bar efforts to reach a compromise on the implementation of attorney-conducted voir dire and championed equal representation in the court system through his role as chair of the Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Diversity. In addition, Bond has frequently moderated “View from the Bench” panels and other CLE programs designed to bridge the professional divide between judges and the attorneys who appear in their courtrooms.

“During his time at the MBA, Tom has always shown an innate ability to unify people from all corners of the Massachusetts legal community,” said MBA Chief Legal Counsel and Chief Operating Officer Martin W. Healy. “His skill as a consensus builder will undoubtedly serve him well as he works with the MBA’s many stakeholders to foster a more inclusive environment in our profession.” 

While Bond is comfortable interacting with dignitaries in the state judiciary, he also shares the same humble background as the commercial fishermen, merchant seamen and construction laborers who make up his client base. Bond’s parents both held modest jobs, his father as a truck driver and his mother as a school cafeteria worker, and he and his brothers became the first in their family to attend college.

To pay for his education at Northeastern University and Suffolk University Law School, Bond worked in a variety of labor-intensive roles, including as a forklift operator, milk truck driver, loading dock attendant and warehouse assistant. With student loans to repay soon after his 1985 law school graduation, Bond interviewed at several firms before landing a position with the Law Office of David Kaplan in Chelsea. Although he lacked the required two to three years of experience, Bond said his persistence and ambition eventually led Kaplan to offer him the job.

Bond has remained with the firm, later renamed the Kaplan/Bond Group, for the entirety of his career. With Kaplan as his mentor, Bond has developed a successful maritime and personal injury practice in the state and federal courts, along with a track record of more than 25 cases argued or briefed at the appellate court level. In his most high-profile case, Bond persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a First Circuit holding that the dredge digging the Ted Williams Tunnel was not a “vessel.” Bond has also represented more than 100 undocumented workers with injury claims.

All these years later, Bond still appreciates the camaraderie he enjoys with his clients and the immense satisfaction that comes from leading them out of difficult situations.

“I’m a working-class kid, and I feel comfortable helping people who have a similar background to how I grew up,” Bond said, adding that most clients come to his office in fishing boots as opposed to bow ties. “It’s such a privilege and an honor to be able to help people because a lot of them don’t know where to turn.”

Murphy, who worked with Bond as an MBA officer for many years, said: “Tom Bond is a rare find. He is a decent and sincere human being who takes the time to listen, really listen to people. I believe Tom’s listening skills are among his finest features. He’s also perhaps one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met, and he fearlessly embraces changes that might make a lesser person hesitate. In my years of working with Tom, I’ve come to know how deeply he loves his family, his friends, the legal profession and the Massachusetts Bar Association.”

In addition to enriching his professional life, the MBA has given Bond a valuable source of referral business, which he said accounts for around 90% of his caseload. For that reason, he encourages young attorneys to involve themselves in MBA activities, including section council meetings, to expand their contacts in the legal community and tap into the expertise of fellow practitioners. 

Given its size and statewide reach, the MBA also has the capacity to effectuate policy changes that benefit lawyers and the clients they serve, providing another incentive to participate in the organization, Bond said. Regardless of why people choose to belong to the MBA, Bond hopes to establish himself as a president for all attorneys and an accessible voice for those who want more out of their memberships.

“The best way to describe what I believe a president of the MBA should be is an ambassador,” Bond said. “It’s about trying to bring goodwill, bring people together and get things done. I want to reach out to our communities and ask, ‘What would you like to see? What would you like from the MBA?’”