Massachusetts State House.
Boston Bar Journal

Building a More Inclusive Legal Community

November 07, 2022
| Fall 2022 Vol. 66 #4

As we continue to emerge from the pandemic and collectively figure out what “normal” now means, the Boston Bar Association’s role in leading and guiding our profession has never been more vital, especially when it comes to ensuring that our members remain connected and informed.

We instituted a hybrid strategy to make certain that our programs can be available to a wider range of our members. Our extensive catalogue of BBA webinars reached more than 10,000 people this year, with thousands more continuing to download and listen on-demand through our Learn Online Library and podcast channel, allowing members to stay connected despite the challenges presented by the pandemic.

We also returned to in-person events in response to a growing interest from our members. These in-person events are providing opportunities for new lawyers seeking to connect with the legal community during the pandemic, for attorneys looking to advance their careers through relationship building, and for Sections and Forum members eager to reconnect with colleagues.

Many recent graduates and junior associates have been navigating the legal profession in almost exclusively remote settings, limiting opportunities to broaden their professional networks and establish relationships with colleagues and the legal community. This return to in-person events allowed the BBA to continue to live up to a key tenet of our mission: to foster a diverse and inclusive professional community. I recognize the importance of engaging law students and younger attorneys, especially those in traditionally underserved communities, who have been deprived of the traditional path to entry into our profession.

This October, we welcomed local law students back to the BBA for a student reception for the first time since the pandemic. Just a week later, we hosted the BBA’s inaugural Career Fair at District Hall, supporting not only some of our more underserved student communities, but also some of our potentially overlooked smaller and mid-sized sponsor firms. Forging connections between our future lawyers and experienced practitioners and encouraging networking between student peers will allow the BBA to strengthen itself from within.

It is important that, as President, I ensure the BBA supports all of its current and future members. But it is imperative that those members also support each other, peer-to-peer and mentor-to-mentee, to improve outcomes for all; this return to in-person networking and educational opportunities promotes those connections in a way that has often been limited by technology over these last few years.

Our DEI Summer Fellowship program, funded in part by the Boston Bar Foundation, also serves to promote those connections between more experienced attorneys and those entering the profession. This past summer, the program grew once again, allowing us to provide paid internships to 10 local law students. This provided not just an invaluable professional experience, but a much-needed paycheck for this group of gifted, driven law students. By breaking down some of the financial barriers into the profession, we ensure that the legal community better reflects the people it serves, and that these valuable on-the-job learning experiences are not reserved only for students in the financial position to take advantage of them.

The BBA’s Bar Exam Coaching Program also continued to support students making the initial plunge into the profession, matching bar applicants with volunteer coaches to provide guidance, support, and exam prep. In addition, the BBA hosted free online workshops providing substantive and practical advice to applicants, providing them with crucial information to help improve not just their scores, but also their overall well-being while preparing for the bar exam.

In addition to hopeful would-be attorneys, the BBA continued to support those recently entering the profession; our New Lawyers Forum hosted a robust series of career advancement webinars covering a host of topics, including establishing a professional network in today’s legal landscape, maximizing the impact of professional resources such as LinkedIn, increasing visibility as a new lawyer, and how to transition into different practice settings. Our BBA Career Center has also continued to serve as a valuable tool for job seekers to view the latest openings at area law firms, legal departments, and government agencies—complete with free resume review services. This resource has yielded an average of more than 150,000 views per month.

Moreover, we aim not only to live up to our mission to foster a diverse and inclusive professional community, but to be a respected voice and convener both within the profession and the community in which we live and work.

We have responded to legal crises as they’ve arisen, including a BBA-hosted issue briefing discussing the Martha’s Vineyard migrant situation and several educational programs centered on the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision and its ongoing ramifications. Over the last year, the BBA has been committed to using our voice to help shape the way the law is administered within the Commonwealth. We supported legislation to improve CORI sealing, advocated for greater inclusion in government via the Language Access and Inclusion Act, and our Amicus Committee filed briefs bolstering our long-standing support for access to justice.

As BBA President, I will continue to not just lead this organization, but to nurture it. We will continue to support our new lawyers and student members as they face the many challenges our current climate produces, while also being a guiding voice to the entire legal community.

I have always believed that the biggest indicator of success is not the path one takes into the profession, nor the location or size of the firm in which they practice, but rather the impact they make when they get there. The same is true for the BBA as a whole; our success is measured by the impact we make, not just on the community we serve but on the lives of those we are proud to call members. I pledge to do all I can while leading this Association to ensure the BBA’s impact on its members, the city, and the Commonwealth is positive, inclusive, and—as always—lives up to our core mission of advancing the highest standards of excellence for the legal profession.