Mark Mason's story of endurance

Issue September 2006 By Tricia Oliver

Mark Mason is not your typical attorney. A gritty work ethic, keen intellect and a solid appreciation for serving the greater good have all gradually guided him into his current role as a highly regarded litigator and the attorney tapped to assume the highest elected office of the Massachusetts Bar Association.

Mason's story to date is one of consistently making the right choices, which were sometimes the most difficult.

Legal re-considerations
Mason grew up with an appreciation for the law. "My parents really nurtured a sense of respect for the law," he said. Although his father was an attorney, Mason swore he'd never follow suit.

He studied psychology and French at Columbia University, graduating with a bachelor's degree in psychology in 1980. His father tried to sway him, sending him American Bar Association materials, but Mason was convinced he would not become a lawyer.

"I had no interest and I was being rebellious," he said.

After working a bit in advertising, Mason eventually changed his mind and entered Boston University School of Law, where he graduated in 1984. It still was not until he started his third year of law school that he knew he was where he wanted to be.

"I then saw how meaningful and fun it was to practice law," he said.

Mason did well at Boston University School of Law, where he was president of the International Law Society and assistant editor of the American Journal of Law and Medicine. He passed the bar the first time he took it, but despite sending out "hundreds and hundreds" of resumes, Mason had difficultly with finding a job in mid-to-large-sized firms.

For that following year, Mason secured temporary jobs, writing legal treatises and doing administrative work. It was a time that he admits was difficult both professionally and financially.

Finally, Mason landed an interview at Graham & Albano, a two-person firm in Hadley, Mass. He had so little money that he remembers taking the bus and a cab to the interview. The return trip was even more humbling. "I actually hitchhiked back to the bus station."

It paid off, as he was offered and took the job, working for 10 months there before setting out on his own, doing general trial practice as a bar advocate out of Holyoke for two-and-a-half years.

An early connection with the MBA
During this time in his early career, he was involved with the MBA's Young Lawyers Division, eventually serving as a representative on the House of Delegates and serving as chair from 1991 to 1992. He was also very active in the Hampden County Bar Association.

"That's really key to where I am today," he said of his involvement with Young Lawyers. "I got involved principally because I wanted to do community service work."

Mason joined Kamberg Berman & Gold PC in Springfield as an associate in its trial practice department from 1988 though 1990 before starting his own firm, Sapirstein, Mason, Hurst & Hurst PC in Springfield, where he was a principal from 1990 to 1994, focusing on commercial litigation and labor and employment practice. He also was a principal at Conflict Resolution Inc. in Springfield from 1990 through 1994, providing dispute resolution.

In March of 1994, he joined Cooley Shrair PC as a principal in its litigation department. At this time, he was becoming increasingly more involved in the MBA. At this time, he was gaining momentum and was eager to become an officer, so he applied for an MBA officer position.

Despite Mason's energy and drive, another factor was serving as an obstacle. "While the culture is obviously changing, the legal profession hasn't traditionally accepted openly gay lawyers," said Mason, making him a bit cautious in his quest for an MBA?leadership position.

In 2002, Mason won the nomination for MBA secretary. In addition to serving as an officer over the course of the last four years, Mason chaired a number of key MBA committees and task forces, including the Budget and Finance Committee, the Same Gender Marriage Task Force, the Committee on Diversity in the Profession and the Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee.

An MBA first
While Mason isn't the first openly gay bar association president in the country, he will be the MBA's first openly gay president.

"We are fortunate to live in a state whose constitution respects marriage equality," said Mason, who has displayed his commitment to equality with his work on key initiatives addressing equality and diversity. Mason has served as the chair of MBA's Same Gender Marriage Task Force and the Committee on Diversity in the Profession.

Today, Mason is on the top of his game. Still armed with the same admirable work ethic, focus and appreciation for community service he possessed as a young attorney, Mason is now in a position to positively impact the legal community and the citizens of Massachusetts on a much larger scale.