East, west -- we're all MBA

Issue October 2015 By Robert W. Harnais

I recently had the opportunity to visit the western part of our state to meet with lawyers and budding lawyers, and I came away with filled with optimism.

I was honored to speak briefly to members of the Hampshire and Hampden county bar associations, and I also addressed a group at Western New England Law School in Springfield. Later this month, on Oct. 21, I'm looking forward to returning to Springfield when I participate with other MBA volunteers on our next Western Massachusetts Dial-A-Lawyer program.

As I mentioned in my inaugural column as the new president of the Massachusetts Bar Association, one of my interests is in trying to help restore the professional congeniality that I've always valued so much in my own interaction with fellow lawyers. While our system is adversarial, we can still be civil to one another.

In my visits to western Massachusetts, my sense was that the lawyers I met there enjoy a strong sense of camaraderie and collegiality. And to my way of thinking, that's the way it should be. One brotherhood/sisterhood under the law.

We all work in the same system under similar pressures and with similar concerns. The high quality of lawyers and standards of practice are what makes this state such a great place to work in the law. We couldn't do it without each other.

I want to reiterate my call to all of you to make your voice heard regarding issues the MBA should be pressing. From Pittsfield to Provincetown and all points between, we are stronger as one unified bar.

The more people we hear from, the more representative an organization we can be. It would be great to receive input and ideas from every different part of the state, and perhaps we can share some of them in a community bulletin board, either here in this journal or on our website at That is something I would gladly support.

We are guilty to some extent of operating in our silos, and in some cases, people have preconceptions of what others are like in other regions of our state. But, of course, stereotyping is usually a mistake. I've traveled to all corners of the commonwealth, and I can assure you there is indoor plumbing, electricity -- and good lawyers -- everywhere in Massachusetts. And even in cases where there are real differences, we can learn from them and use them to positive effect.

In the coming months, I'll be talking to you more about some of the issues we as an organization want to pursue legislatively and things we want to try to accomplish through policy. In the meantime, I'm going to try to talk to as many people as possible to get a strong sense of what's going through their minds.

All of us, no matter where we live and where we work, are providing a great service to the people of this commonwealth. They place their trust in us, and they deserve the best representation possible. I am confident that we do that as well as any state in the union. But we can always be even better. One mark of a great lawyer is someone who is always striving to improve. And that's what we should be doing as a bar association, as well.

Communication is the key. Boston lawyers, Cape lawyers, Springfield lawyers, Salem lawyers, wherever you practice in Massachusetts -- we're all one MBA. I urge you to reach out to us and let us know what you think.

I look forward to hearing from you!