President Garcia to emphasize ‘communication, collaboration and community’

Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022 By Cameron Woodcock
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2022-23 MBA President Grace V.B. Garcia

Grace V.B. Garcia has a number of specific goals she hopes to accomplish during her tenure as president of the Massachusetts Bar Association, but her primary desire is to position the organization for sustained success long after she leaves office. Garcia’s forward-thinking mindset reflects both an objective to address the prevailing needs of the MBA and the profession and an unwillingness to treat her presidency as a standalone or “one-off” effort. 

During the 2022-23 association year, which began on Sept. 1, Garcia will focus on the themes of “communication, collaboration and community” to further the MBA’s core objectives, including the administration of justice and respect for the rule of law. As part of her emphasis on building for the future, Garcia will also continue the work of recent past presidents to increase diversity, equity and inclusion within the bar and enhance the well-being of lawyers around the commonwealth.

“As we know, the needs of both our legal community and the community at large continually change,” Garcia said. “The pandemic has highlighted several areas where we can take active steps to better the lives of legal professionals, help those in need of legal services within the commonwealth, and take steps that support and uphold the rule of law. By concentrating on communication, collaboration and our communities, my goal is to not only strengthen the MBA, but make measurable progress in addressing these issues, as well.”

Namely, Garcia will seek to expand general awareness about the MBA’s mission of service to the profession and the public, while also encouraging more open communication on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion in legal practice. In addition, Garcia wants to see the MBA provide increased support to its practice groups and affinity bar associations and stimulate greater collaboration between their members. Garcia hopes that her focus on fostering interdisciplinary partnerships will serve to enrich the professional lives of member attorneys in a way that mirrors her own experience of belonging to the MBA for more than 20 years.

“I really value the MBA and what it has provided me throughout the years, whether it is networking, education or exposing me to issues outside of my practice area,” said Garcia, a partner and civil defense lawyer at Morrison Mahoney LLP in Boston. “I want to be able to give back and have the MBA be valuable to others in ways that are helpful to them.”

At a time when some attorneys may still feel disconnected from their legal colleagues, Garcia also believes that the MBA can be an important source of community for its statewide constituency, particularly with the continuation of both in-person and remote meetings. Beyond supporting established practitioners, Garcia plans on broadening MBA outreach to include members of the public with pro bono or other legal needs, as well as students and young people with an interest in the law.

After serving for two years as co-chair of the MBA’s Lawyer Well-Being Committee, Garcia will work throughout her term to remain attentive to the mental health challenges facing today’s lawyers. Noting the MBA’s recent endorsement of public service loan forgiveness for qualified bar advocates, Garcia said she intends to design programs and champion policies geared toward easing the burdens of practicing law. 

“Well-being efforts are vitally important, and we’ve seen that throughout the pandemic. As we now navigate the long-term effects of the pandemic, and the changes it has created, both professionally and personally for people, a focus on well-being is crucial to ensuring those within our legal community thrive,” Garcia said.

As a general philosophy, Garcia said she believes in the importance of maintaining continuity between presidencies and in making strategic, measurable and achievable improvements rather than sweeping changes to MBA initiatives. With that goal in mind, in addition to reaffirming the MBA’s commitment to diversity and lawyer well-being, Garcia hopes to draw on recommendations from past participants to continue the success of the MBA Leadership Academy. Garcia will also seek to further expand the reach of the Tiered Community Mentoring Program, which she said provides a clear trajectory for students to embark on careers in the legal profession. 

MBA Chief Legal Counsel and Chief Operating Officer Martin W. Healy said Garcia is uniquely qualified to serve as president while praising her dedication to upholding MBA values and strengthening existing programs.

“Grace is a thoughtful leader who believes in the MBA’s mission and has a number of innovative ideas to increase our footprint in the legal community and beyond,” Healy said. “Over the years, she has invested considerable time and energy as an MBA volunteer, and the deep institutional knowledge she has acquired in the process will be instrumental as she serves out her term as president.”

Garcia’s fellow partner at Morrison Mahoney, MBA Treasurer Michael H. Hayden, added: “I have had the pleasure of working with Grace for the last 18 years. She has always demonstrated a tremendous work ethic and commitment to the job, while also maintaining an important measure of work-life balance that is so vitally important to our profession. We’ve litigated together in the trenches and, at the same time, Grace has taken the time to meet my children from the time they were infants through their time now in middle school. The MBA and its members are very fortunate to have a president as dedicated, conscientious and intelligent as Grace and I very much look forward to following her leadership as president this year.”

Legal background and MBA involvement

Raised in Sandwich, Garcia had a unique introduction to the law at the age of 12, when she made a written request to the judge presiding over her parents’ divorce case and received his formal approval during a meeting in his chambers. That early encounter shaped Garcia’s interest in becoming a lawyer, specifically one who specialized in advocating for children, before she decided during her undergraduate studies at the University of Rochester that she wanted to work as a litigator.

Garcia went on to graduate cum laude from Boston University School of Law and has followed her intended career path as a trial attorney concentrating in the defense of construction and product liability matters. As a partner at Morrison Mahoney, where she has practiced since 2002, Garcia enjoys the technical aspects of her job and the continuous learning experience that comes from interacting with engineers and other experts in their fields. In addition, Garcia has found that most lawyers in her practice area hold themselves to high standards of civility without compromising their cases — an important distinction that she plans to impress upon MBA members during her time as president.

“Lawyers who do best are those who can be great advocates for their clients without being uncivil,” Garcia said. “You can be an incredible advocate and an adversary in the most positive way, and really take a strong position in support of your client, and still be civil. That’s part of the communication aspect I want to emphasize.”

Grace A to J event
Garcia speaks at the MBA's Access to Justice Awards Celebration in June.
Garcia became involved in the MBA soon after she entered the legal workforce, attending her first Annual Meeting and then joining the Young Lawyers Division. Right away, Garcia said she recognized the MBA’s role in expanding her professional network and her base of knowledge as a member of the legal community, as well as the value of mentoring and pro bono service. Along with the practical benefits of membership, Garcia said she has led a better quality of life and a more fulfilling career due to her longtime participation in the MBA.

“Being part of a bar association adds something to your day-to-day work that you just can’t get otherwise — the networking, the mentoring, the ability to speak to others if they have a question, and the ability to bring up issues of concern and have them addressed,” Garcia said. “There is no question that being part of a legal association and the MBA makes one happier in the practice of law and adds a little bit more meaning to it.”

Now with nearly 25 years in practice, Garcia looks back on her early days of membership with gratitude for the seasoned attorney who first encouraged her to join the MBA. Garcia received another lasting piece of advice at a seminal point later in her career, when a colleague assured her that she could succeed as a working mother of two in a competitive industry. 

“Many women think that they have to make a choice between family and career, but I think you can do both well,” Garcia said.

Prior to her election as president, Garcia served in a variety of leadership positions for the MBA, including as a member of the COVID Response Task Force and a former chair of the Law Day initiative and Civics Task Force. As chair of the Volunteer Recognition Committee, a position she had held since 2011, Garcia came to greatly appreciate the generosity of those member attorneys who dedicate themselves to helping others and supporting the MBA. 

“I’m always in awe at the amount of time that people volunteer and the issues that they undertake and are willing to support, whether they have to do with changes in the law or the legal needs of those in the community or underserved populations,” Garcia said.

In what will be the culmination of her own career of service to the MBA, Garcia hopes to play an important role in charting the future course of the organization in consultation with its many stakeholders. 

“My goal is not to be a one-off year, but rather to focus on actions that will make the MBA better for the long term and in the future,” Garcia said. “I want to continue the MBA’s standing as an inclusive and responsive organization by actively listening to the needs of the legal community and the public and incorporating those needs and recommendations to be better.”