We are united in the law

Issue September 2006 By Mark D Mason

As members of the bar, the judiciary, the General Court and the executive branch, we are united in the law. Indeed, the law is the common thread woven through the fabric of our lives. Whether we perceive the law to be a fundamental concept of justice, natural law, common law or statutory authority, it is the law which has brought us to our profession. It is the law which motivates us, inspires us and which creates goals toward which we strive. We hold in common that the law constitutes the pillars which support the weight of our society. As its caretakers, we all share in the responsibility of maintaining the integrity of the law.

It was Abraham Lincoln who stated, "A house divided against itself cannot stand." While his words resonate within our American heritage, we respect, likewise, the importance of individuality. Quite naturally, reconciling conflicting interests is often difficult. It is sometimes easier to become entrenched in our opinions than to find common solutions to complex problems. Ultimately, however, the measure of our success is the appropriateness of the result and not the vicissitudes of battle.

Our diversity strengthens our unity in the law. The diversity of our experience, opinions and ideals bind us to the law. Without such diversity, we would be devoid of the ability to formulate and interpret the law. Indeed, we encourage debate on such diversity of opinion. Diversity is our birthright; it enriches our ability to ensure that the law is just and fair to all.

On June 13, 1771, John Adams wrote in his diary of the "Harmony prevailing between the Governor and the House," adding, "Behold how good and pleasant it is, for Brethren to dwell together in Unity." John Adams' words rang true when, in 1910, the Massachusetts Bar Association was incorporated declaring Fiat Justitia — "Let Justice Be Done." Nearly 100 years later, we have expanded upon our founding purpose in calling for "diversity and unity in the legal profession and respect for the law," as set forth in our bylaws. There is no doubt that our founders, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Justice Louis D. Brandeis and Chief Justice Moorfield Storey would be proud to see the growth we have experienced in uniting the diversity of the bar.

The Massachusetts Bar Association is unique in its partnerships with bar associations across the commonwealth. Not all may realize that our statewide bar associations maintain an important voice in the governance of the Massachusetts Bar Association. The spectrum of bar association representation, as exemplified in our House of Delegates, unites us in the law through the diversity of our backgrounds. Together, we support our individuality as well as our commonality.

Our programming for this year reflects the Massachusetts Bar Association's commitment to unity in the law. Through our sections, committees and task forces, we have dedicated ourselves to ensuring diversity in the profession, judicial independence, civility in the practice of law, the transition of lawyers through the various stages of their lives, civics in education and the development of programming for new lawyers. Through our Bar Leadership Institute, scheduled for Sept. 29, we have invited the leaders of bar associations from across the commonwealth to participate in a dialogue promoting bar association activity in a broad range of programs.

All of our programs are of extraordinary merit. I would like to highlight, however, our initiative to enhance civic education in our public schools. The importance of such teachings is clear. Our public schools will benefit from assistance from the bar in providing such education. Accordingly, I am establishing the Massachusetts Bar Association Committee on Civics in Education. The committee will work to promote and ensure the availability of civics education in our public schools and communities at large. In working with the courts and bar associations across the commonwealth, we will serve our communities to ensure their understanding of the role of the law in our lives.

As we embark on a new bar year, it is my distinct pleasure to serve as your president. As we become better acquainted, I am certain you will learn that, for me, unity in the law is more than a theme for the year, it is a way of life. Please join us, as together, we are united in the law.