Highlights of BBA History: A Timeline to a More Inclusive and Diverse Community


BBA President Haskell Cohn Forms Special Committee to Assist Minority Students and Works to Expand Affordable Housing

President Haskell Cohn creates a special committee that grants scholarships to minority students at the city's six law schools. President Cohn is the driving force behind a BBA effort to help expand affordable housing in Boston.


BBA Appoints Committee on Desegregation

The BBA forms a Committee on School Desegregation in response to Massachusetts Judge Arthur Garrity's decision in Morgan v. Hennigan. The Committee publishes a book to promote public understanding of the decision’s controversial busing plan.


BBA Honors Judge W. Arthur Garrity with Public Service Award

The BBA gives a Public Service Award to U.S. District Judge W. Arthur Garrity for his support of school desegregation.


BBA Works to End Discrimination Based on Ethnicity, Gender, and Race

Under the leadership of Gene Dahmen, first female president of the BBA -

  • The BBA promotes outreach to minority attorneys by creating The Committee on Minorities in the Profession.

  • The BBA publishes a landmark study, The Role of Gender in the Practice of Law.

  • The BBA participates in the Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Bias in the Courts. Recommendations from this group include permitting multi-lingual attorneys to serve in more than one county, increasing funding for translator services, preparing a directory of multi-lingual attorneys, and increasing minority representation on juries.


BBA Reaches Out to Affinity Bar Associations

Rudolph Pierce, the BBA’s first black president, approves a proposal to offer members of four affinity bar associations a credit on BBA dues to increase minority participation in the BBA and help eradicate economic barriers for lawyers of color.

BBA Endorses the Gay Rights Act

Two years after it first approves the Gay Rights Act, the BBA offers its formal endorsement of the bill which prohibits unlawful discrimination on the basis of sexual preference in Massachusetts.


BBA Launches Summer Jobs Program: An Important Pipeline Initiative

The Summer Jobs Program, a collaboration with the Boston Public Schools and the Boston Private Industry Council, is an eight week, paid internship program that allows law firms, offices, and legal departments to invest in Boston's future. This program introduces diverse urban youths to the legal profession. Yearly participation in the program has more than tripled since its inception, serving more than 600 students since the start of the program.


BBA Reaches Out to the Massachusetts Lesbian and Gay Bar Association

The BBA Council unanimously approves a policy reducing its membership fees for Massachusetts Lesbian and Gay Bar Association members according to the same fee schedule offered to members of other affinity bar associations.


The BBA Organizes Strategies for Success for Summer Associates

The BBA's Strategies for Success is an annual event that brings together a large group of diverse associates to discuss  business strategies,  the challenges of starting a career, and the importance of enhancing job skills.  Many Strategies for Success panelists go on to hold leadership positions at the BBA, in government, and in the community. This program attracts nearly 120 attendees in July 2013. Read some feedback from participants here.


BBA Files Amicus Brief in Goodridge

The BBA files an amicus brief in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health in support of same-sex marriage as a civil rights issue, stating that discrimination against gays and lesbians is unacceptable and unconstitutional. Depriving same-sex couples the right to marry violates their equal protection under the law and denies them the rights, benefits, and privileges afforded to opposite-sex married couples.


BBA Adopts a Diversity Statement

Under the leadership of Renee Landers, its first black female president, the BBA adopts a diversity statement. The statement reaffirms the BBA's commitment to achieving true diversity in all aspects of the legal community by striving to:

  • be inclusive of all people regardless of gender, race, ethnic origin and heritage, religion, class, sexual preference, age, or disability in all BBA activities and as BBA members and staff
  • involve lawyers in community projects and partner with professional lawyers' organizations that share the BBA's commitment to eliminating barriers and increasing diversity in the Boston legal community.

BBA Files Amicus Brief in Grutter

The BBA submits an amicus brief in Grutter v. Bollinger, opposing the abolition of race-conscious admissions policies that harm efforts to diversify the legal profession. Maintaining race-conscious admissions at  higher education institutions, particularly law schools, is necessary to promote a fair and representative judicial system and serve a multi-national client base.


BBA Signs onto Amicus Brief in Green

The BBA signs onto an amicus brief in a mandamus petition before the First Circuit in US v. Green on the matter of jury selection and the importance of representative juries. The brief recommends creating an equal opportunity for all residents by ensuring each neighborhood receives a proportionate number of valid summonses.


BBA Receives American Bar Association (ABA) Partnership Award

The BBA receives the ABA Partnership Award for its commitment to advancing diversity in the legal field.


BBA Forms Diversity Leadership Task Force

BBA President Jack Cinquegrana forms the Diversity Leadership Task Force, charged with creating and endorsing a plan for the recruitment, retention, and advancement of a diverse community of lawyers in Boston. The Task Force addresses the issues of creating a pipeline of diverse law students, mentoring young lawyers, tracking their career trajectory, and instilling in them a commitment to clients and best practices.

As a result, the BBA creates the Diversity & Inclusion Section. This Section provides oversight of activities and programs pursuant to the Diversity Leadership Task Force's recommendations and manages other BBA diversity initiatives. The Section also focuses on race, ethnicity, gender, and LGBT issues in the profession.


BBA Supports Equal Rights for Transgender Individuals

The BBA supports legislation that includes gender identity in Massachusetts anti-discrimination laws and continues to advocate for equal rights for transgender people. The Transgender Equal Rights Act is signed into law in 2012.


BBA Creates Mentoring Program

The BBA Mentoring Program aims to build networks for minority lawyers by fostering lasting relationships between seasoned attorneys in Greater Boston and a diverse group of promising new attorneys. Mentors have provided guidance to nearly 200 new lawyers since the start of the program.


BBA Creates the Beacon Award for Diversity and Inclusion

The BBA's Beacon Award recognizes outstanding efforts in diversity and inclusion by honoring an individual, organization, group, or firm that demonstrates exceptional leadership in creating a more diverse and inclusive legal profession in Boston.

  • 2010 MassMutual receives the BBA's inaugural Beacon Award for its commitment to diversity programs, reflected in its perfect score in the 2010 Corporate Equality Index.
  • 2011 Northeastern University School of Law receives the second annual Beacon Award for its diverse student body and faculty and renowned commitment to public service.
  • 2012 The Massachusetts Attorney General's Office and Gay & Lesbian Advocates &Defenders (GLAD) receive the third annual Beacon Award for their work to defeat the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
  • 2013 Paul W. Lee receives the fourth annual Beacon Award for his career-long dedication to diversity in the profession, including founding the Asian American Lawyers Association of Massachusetts.

BBA Institutionalizes Partnership with Six Local Affinity Bar Associations

The BBA opens up its 16 Beacon Street headquarters to provide a permanent home, including office space and mail boxes, for the following six affinity bar associations-

  • Asian American Lawyers Association (AALAM)
  • Massachusetts Association of Hispanic Attorneys (MAHA)
  • Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association (MBLA)
  • Massachusetts Black Women Attorneys (MBWA)
  • South Asian Bar Association Greater Boston (SABA GB)
  • Massachusetts LGBTQ Bar Association

This partnership includes access to BBA staff and resources. Additionally, the president of each association serves on the Diversity & Inclusion Section Steering Committee.


BBA Files Amicus Brief in Gill

The BBA signs on to an amicus brief in Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, et al. No. 10-2204, and Nancy Gill et al v. Office of Personnel Management et al., No. 10-2207, subjecting classifications based on sexual orientation to heightened scrutiny. The BBA remains committed to ensuring that the Constitution's guarantees of equal protection effectively protect all people from invidious discrimination, whether on account of race, gender, national origin, religion, alienage, or sexual orientation.


BBA Files Amicus Brief in Fisher

The BBA files an amicus brief in Fisher v. University of Texas, et. al. recognizing that diversity within the legal profession cannot be achieved without diverse representation at both undergraduate institutions and law schools. Read more here.

BBA Collaborates with Boston Municipal Court on Judicial Internship Program

The BBA's Diversity & Inclusion Section's Pipeline and Recruitment Committee oversees a judicial law internship program at the Boston Municipal Court. This program provides students who may not have other legal internships with the opportunity to work directly with a judge, observe courtroom proceedings, and enhance their legal research and writing skills. The program increases diversity in the local legal community by expanding the pipeline from local law schools to Boston-area firms.


BBA Files Amicus Briefs in Windsor and Perry

The BBA underscores its support for marriage equality and joins a coalition of bar associations, civil and human rights groups, and public interest and legal services organizations in signing onto amicus briefs in United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry.

In June 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States rules for marriage equality in both cases. The Windsor decision affirms that same sex married couples living in states recognizing marriage equality are entitled to receive the same federal benefits as any other married couple. Additionally, the Perry decision has the practical impact of permitting same sex couples in the state of California to resume getting married.


BBA Presents Governor Deval Patrick with Beacon Award

BBA presents Governor Deval Patrick with Beacon Award


BBA Files Amicus Briefs in Fisher V. University of Texas

BBA submits amicus brief in Fisher v. University of Texas, arguing that state efforts to promote diversity in education serve a compelling governmental interest that is directly relevant to the goals of the legal profession, because under-representation of lawyers of color harms the legal profession and society as a whole.


BBA Expands Diversity & Inclusion Internship Programs

BBA expands Diversity & Inclusion internship programs to include placements in state government agencies.

Endorsement of ABA Resolution 113

In November 2016, the BBA Council votes to formally support ABA Resolution 113, which calls on providers of legal services to expand and create opportunities for diverse attorneys, and urges clients to assist in that effort. The Council creates a working group to consider issues related to implementation of the Resolution and the accompanying general counsel commitment letter and Model Diversity Survey.

Beacon Fund for Diversity & Inclusion Established at the Boston Bar Foundation

In February the Boston Bar Foundation Board of Trustees votes to establish the Beacon Fund to support the diversity & inclusion projects of the BBA. The fund’s launch is made possible through a generous donation from EMC Corporation.


7th Annual Beacon Award for Diversity and Inclusion

In March 2017, the BBA welcomes Paulette Brown, a partner at Locke Lord and immediate past President of the American Bar Association (ABA), at the Taj Boston to accept the Beacon Award for Diversity & Inclusion. Before the award ceremony, Ms. Brown joins the BBA’s working group on ABA Resolution 113 for a discussion about the implementation of the Resolution and Model Diversity Survey.

8th Annual Beacon Award for Diversity & Inclusion

With a change in location to the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center, the revamped Beacon Award celebration presents three inspiring awards:

  • Voice of Change: Brent Henry of Mintz, former Vice President and General Counsel at Partners HealthCare
    This award recognizes a luminary leader in the legal community who has forged a new path and has played an extensive role in advancing diversity and inclusion within the profession.
  • Corporate Champion: Biogen
    This award recognizes an in-house legal department that has been a leader in internal and/or external projects and practices that promote a more diverse and inclusive legal profession.
  • Empowerment Award: Iván Espinoza-Madrigal of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice
    This award recognizes a powerful advocate who works to create systemic change in the wider community, advancing civil rights, access to justice, and/or diversity and inclusion, and amplifying the voices of underrepresented groups.

Partnership with Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association on Building the Legacy Scholarship Fund

In November the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association launches the MBLA Building the Legacy Scholarship Fund, created through a fiscal sponsorship partnership with the Boston Bar Foundation. At its 45th Anniversary Gala in March 2018, the MBLA awards scholarships to four students, and announces that the scholarship fund has raised more than $20,000 since its inception.


Yes on 3 Campaign

In January 2018, the BBA signs on to the Freedom for All Massachusetts coalition to uphold transgender rights in places of public accommodation, in the face of a threat to those rights from a ballot initiative. In the months leading up to Election Day, the BBA works with partners, including the Massachusetts LGBTQ Bar Association, to mobilize the bar in support of transgender rights. In November, the non-discrimination protections are upheld with close to 70% of the vote, making Massachusetts the first state in the nation to uphold protections for transgender people at the ballot box.

Affinity Bar Partnership with Hispanic National Bar Association, Region I

In November, the BBA and the Hispanic National Bar Association, Region I, create a formal affinity bar relationship. The HNBA is the BBA’s seventh affinity bar partner.

9th Annual Beacon Award for Diversity & Inclusion

In December the BBA honors Macey Russell of Choate with the Voice of Change Award; Vertex with the Corporate Champion Award; and the Yes on 3 campaign with the Empowerment Award, at a sold-out celebration at the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center.


BBA Launches Diversity & Inclusion Summer Fellowship Program

The BBA partners with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to provide a paid fellowship opportunity to two law students who demonstrate a commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion within the legal profession, to gain practical experience, develop legal research and writing skills, and expand their professional networks. Funding for these positions is made possible by the Boston Bar Foundation.