Thank you

Issue July/August 2016 By Robert W. Harnais

They say time flies when you're having fun. That's never been truer than during my year as the president of the Massachusetts Bar Association.

Since I took the gavel in September, I have had the opportunity to travel around the state and meet many of our members at various MBA functions. We've shared many stories and more than a few laughs. While it's been a busy year, it's moments like those that have made this experience truly rewarding and unforgettable.

I was lucky enough to be able to enter into this profession by attending New England Law | Boston nights while working days, (thank you Larry and Dean O'Brien). I never envisioned myself as the president of the MBA. So I began my term as a genuinely humbled, small general practitioner out of Quincy. I was proud of being the first Hispanic president of our organization, and I wanted to emphasize the collegiality in our profession that has helped make my own career in the law so enjoyable and satisfying. Our success was made possible this year by the many amazing people I got to work with along the way. I want to thank my fellow officers - Jeff, Chris, Chris and John - for lending their ears, their time and even their jokes to me during this journey. And thank you to Marty Healy and the great staff of the MBA for making sure I didn't mess this up (much). It has been one of the great honors of my life to represent the MBA for the past year. I couldn't have done it without all of you.

One of the things I take away from this past year is a renewed respect and affection for the law as it is practiced in our state. From Cape Cod to Cape Ann to Mount Greylock to Stockbridge and Sturbridge and all points in between, our members represent the highest ideals of the profession. Your erudition and earnestness were clearly evident in my meetings with you at the various events. From every interaction with you I learned so much about our profession - and even some very practical tips that I will take with me as I continue my own practice.

Access to justice is one of the main planks of a democracy. Without it, all the other grand ideals are deflated. You are the people who maintain this access and make it available to citizens of all walks in our commonwealth. Every day in our courthouses and legal offices, members of the MBA carry out what may seem to be small tasks, but they are enormously important. It is not a stretch to recognize you as unsung heroes, and I am grateful for the opportunity this year has given me to meet more of you in person.

Obviously, the adversarial system in which we work can lead to contentiousness. It has always been that way, and always will be. But in my year as president, I have tried to emphasize the idea of not dwelling on it. Instead, make stronger efforts to socialize, enjoy one another's company and place more focus on the areas we share in common. We're all busy. I understand. But take the opportunities when they're there. And make opportunities even when they're not there. We'll be a stronger profession for it.

For those of us working in the criminal arena, I have tried to highlight some ways in which we can help society deal with one of the greatest problems of our time: the opioid crisis. It is a problem that cuts across all demographics. It plays no favorites. It causes pain and kills indiscriminately. When we are working with clients who are addicted, we must use all our talents - and wisdom - to do what it is in our clients' best interests. Such situations can be extremely complex, but I know of no one better suited to be so closely involved than the members of the MBA. I am so proud of the work done by the volunteers on our Section 35 program. Because of you, the MBA has filled a void and brought hope to families across the commonwealth.

Speaking of families, I would be nothing without mine. I cannot wait to spend more time with them - and I hope the feeling is still mutual! But seriously, despite the extra meetings and travel this job brings, I am so grateful for my wife and kids, who were there for me unconditionally. Thank you for putting up with me. You know, I've learned a lot and received support from mentors, law partners, my fellow officers and friends. But my family has always been the greatest teacher and cheerleader, and I've never felt that love more than this year. I am truly blessed. Especially with the arrival of my new granddaughter Evie, I can't wait to be able to enjoy her and fill her up with sugar before sending her home (that's going to be fun to watch).

When my term in office ends on August 31, I will step down with the fondest of memories - and, to be honest, what must be a world record for most chickens eaten (who knew there could be so many different recipes for conference-center chicken in one state? At one point I think I coughed up a feather).

But most of all, I will take away the strong conviction that the MBA is the greatest bar association on the planet and one whose future looks very, very bright.

My respect for the Massachusetts Bar Association and its members has never been greater. I urge each and every one of you to participate in and contribute to the MBA's ability to do good so either get a mentor or become a mentor. Thank you for an unbelievable year, and keep up the great work!

Thanks Pete!