Bond praised for uplifting leadership style, emphasis on DEI

Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022 By Cameron Woodcock
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2021-22 MBA President Thomas M. Bond

Outgoing Massachusetts Bar Association President Thomas M. Bond has always
equated his position to that of an ambassador for the legal community who is charged with bringing people together to advance common interests. That overarching view of the presidency guided Bond throughout the 2021-22 association year, during which he furthered the MBA’s ongoing commitment to organizational diversity and championed improvements to courthouse technology and increases in judicial salaries.

Bond started his term by appointing three women of color and four women total to the Executive Management Board, then selected two attorneys of color to serve on the Nominating Committee, continuing a recent push to expand representation on decision-making bodies. He placed a similar emphasis on diversity in relaunching the MBA Leadership Academy, beginning with a coordinated recruitment of young lawyers from affinity bar associations serving minority groups within the profession. The first class of Leadership Academy fellows since the 2019-20 year attended four instructional programs, each designed by one of Bond’s fellow officers and featuring panelists of

Bond is sworn in as MBA president by Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Kimberly S. Budd.
Discussing the need for a diversity of backgrounds and experiences at all levels of the association, Bond said, “We all see things just by nature through our own eyes. It’s good to get the perspectives of people from all communities, with different outlooks on things and different beliefs. It makes for a richer, more vibrant organization.”

The composition of the 2021-22 Leadership Academy also aligned with Bond’s focus on creating a pipeline for underrepresented members of the legal industry to pursue future employment in the judiciary. According to Bond, the MBA’s efforts to shape the next generation of Massachusetts jurists took on added significance at a time when Gov. Charlie Baker and his administration have broken new ground with several of their appointments to the bench.

Bond speaks at his opening reception.
In addition to the Leadership Academy, Bond’s vision to build pathways for aspiring judges centered on the continued growth of the Tiered Community Mentoring Program (TCM), which assembles four-person teams of high school students, undergraduate students, law students and practicing attorneys. After lawyers from affinity bar associations previously reported to the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) that they lacked role models with shared cultural identities, the MBA joined with those same groups to nearly double the number of program mentors of color. 

Through a new partnership with the Trial Court, the MBA also established paid summer internships in local courthouses for five TCM participants — two in high school, one in college, and two in law school. “If you can give someone a paid internship, that makes all the difference in the world,” Bond said, noting that he turned down a similar opportunity during his college career and chose instead to take a paid position because he needed the money. 

In adapting to the changing face of the legal profession, the MBA likewise relied on direction from its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee, which was co-chaired by Shayla Mombeleur and MBA Past President Hon. Robert W. Harnais. The committee worked with judicial leaders on strategies to better accommodate transgender and nonbinary court users, and co-sponsored programs on addressing bias in the workplace, in the courtroom, and during attorney-conducted voir dire.
Bond at the "Celebration of MBA Diversity" event with, from left: Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Kimberly S. Budd, MBA Past President Wayne A. Budd and U.S. Attorney Rachael S. Rollins.

Bond praised Mombeleur’s leadership as committee co-chair and said her appointment to the role serves a larger goal of empowering more young people of color to become involved in the MBA. Mombeleur, in turn, said, “Tom Bond has demonstrated what it means to authentically and thoughtfully place DEI values and principles at the center of a presidency. He has continuously proven his commitment to integrating diversity, equity and inclusion into his agenda by increasing leadership opportunities for diverse members of the bar, and consistently focusing on DEI initiatives that improve morale and promote fairness within our legal community. From the impactful DEI programs, CLEs and open conversations, to the way he uplifts and supports others, Tom has elevated the culture within the MBA and set an incredible standard to follow.”

In keeping with the overall theme of the association year, the MBA hosted a May reception at the Westin Boston Seaport District titled, “A Celebration of MBA Diversity: Past, Present and Future.” The well-attended program highlighted the MBA’s legacy as an inclusive organization, including its founding commitment to admit lawyers of all races and its early acceptance of female members.

Bond presents the MBA President's Award to MBA Past President Wayne A. Budd.
“I think we have to keep in mind that the MBA has roots in diversity, and that it was founded because a lot of people didn’t have a statewide bar association that would admit them,” Bond said. “Throughout the years, we’ve continued to live up to that. I thought it was good to highlight and celebrate where we’ve come over the past 110 years.”

The event also honored MBA Past President Wayne A. Budd, a former U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts, who made history in 1979 as the first Black president of any state bar association in the country. He received the MBA President’s Award alongside Massachusetts’ first Black female U.S. attorney, Rachael S. Rollins, who previously became the first female district attorney in Suffolk County and the first woman of color elected district attorney in the commonwealth. Budd’s daughter, SJC Chief Justice Kimberly S. Budd, spoke about the importance of diversity in judicial selection and discussed existing efforts to eliminate racial inequities in the court system.

Support for the legal community

As a plaintiff’s lawyer by trade, Bond believes strongly in the merits of an adversarial system of justice but said he relished the opportunity to work closely with defense attorneys and chief judges as part of his MBA duties. In addition, after dealing exclusively with individual clients in his own practice, Bond embraced the added responsibility of representing both the MBA and the collective needs of the profession. 

“As a lawyer, I can only help one person at a time. But as the Mass. Bar president, I was given the opportunity and privilege to help the entire legal community,” Bond said. “I had so much fun and met so many different people that I wish I could stay on another year!”

One such occasion to act in support of the bench and bar came as the Trial Court sought to secure $165 million in bond funding to modernize the technology infrastructure in courthouses around the commonwealth. Bond endorsed the pending legislation throughout his term, including at last October’s Annual State of the Judiciary Address, and also organized a December joint meeting between court and bar leaders to provide information on the proposed upgrades. The bill ultimately passed both the House and Senate at the close of the legislative session in early August and has since been signed into law.
Bond speaks at the "Celebration of MBA Diversity" event.

Bond said he became a vocal proponent of the bill in part because there is broad consensus in the legal community about the need for updated technology in the courts. He added that by inviting county and affinity bar associations to participate in the roundtable discussion with court officials, the MBA offered a platform for various stakeholders to weigh in on the potential use of state funds in their local facilities.

“If you were to ask one thousand lawyers, from all communities, if they think we need better technology in the courtroom, whether they were lawyers or judges, everybody would say yes,” Bond said. “We are the statewide bar association, and it was important for us to bring people together, to include everybody, and to give them an opportunity to speak to the court.”

MBA Chief Legal Counsel and Chief Operating Officer Martin W. Healy echoed Bond’s sentiments on the MBA’s obligation to legal specialty groups and said, “Throughout his term, Tom has demonstrated a strong passion for the work of the MBA and its role as a voice for lawyers in all corners of the state. Tom’s unifying style of leadership, coupled with his personable demeanor, endeared him to both our membership and partner agencies as he presided over a successful year on many fronts for the MBA.” 

Beyond supporting the operational needs of the courts, Bond called for the legislature to approve a 12.5 percent pay increase for Massachusetts judges, who had last received a raise in 2018. Lawmakers went on to fund the Trial Court’s request in their final budget for fiscal year 2023, with Bond hailing the decision as an important acknowledgment of the judiciary’s skillful handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In his interactions with chief justices, Bond said he underscored the synergistic relationship between the bench and bar and their equal stake in ensuring proper building maintenance and employee compensation. Notably, he encouraged Chief Justice Budd and her colleagues to refer to their spending plan as “the legal community’s budget request” rather than “the Trial Court’s budget request” to convey the impact of court funding on lawyers and their livelihoods.

“We use the court every day. We live there, we work there, and the system is what puts food on the table and a roof over our heads,” Bond said. “Sometimes people think that the court’s budget is only what the Trial Court is asking for, but it’s also what lawyers are asking for.”

Post-presidency plans

Although he has heard from some of his predecessors that the most desired job at the MBA is that of immediate past president, Bond will be sorry to see the association year end on Aug. 31. He said he will miss the camaraderie between himself and the other officers, along with his busy schedule of MBA engagements and regular meetings with lawyers from around the state.
Bond with, from left: Anthony Melo; and MBA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee members Theresa Coney and Shayla Mombeleur of the Committee for Public Counsel Services, and Angel Melendez of Williamson & Melendez.
“Until I got into the communities, I didn’t realize, objectively, the good that the Massachusetts Bar Association does for the judiciary, the legislature, legal aid societies, communities of color, lawyers, judges, and so many other groups,” Bond said.

Following the conclusion of his term, Bond plans to take on a more active role as a volunteer for the MBA’s philanthropic partner, the Massachusetts Bar Foundation, which he called “the best-kept secret in the commonwealth.” In addition, as the chair of the 2023 Nominating Committee, he looks forward to helping the MBA select its next slate of officers and delegates. 

While Bond is leaving office, his vital contributions to the MBA and its standing in the legal profession will be felt for years to come, according to 2019-20 MBA President John J. Morrissey. 

“Tom Bond has a well-deserved reputation as a thoughtful, inclusive, and compassionate leader,” Morrissey said. “He demonstrated these qualities by maintaining his leadership team’s focus on diversity and inclusion during a challenging post-pandemic period of transition at the MBA. Tom’s leadership during this period was also instrumental in the passage of legislation critical to the delivery of justice in Massachusetts including the IT Bond Bill, a judicial pay raise and increased funding for legal aid. Tom’s efforts leave the MBA on a solid foundation for continued growth and relevance in an ever-changing social environment.”