Massachusetts State House.
Boston Bar Journal

Harnessing Legal Talent in the “City of Innovation”

October 26, 2016
| Fall 2016 Vol. 60 #5

starkey_carolby Carol A. Starkey

President’s Page

As lawyers, even while in pursuit of professional excellence, we also need support and intellectual nourishment outside of our firms or organizations – to be, and remain, successful in this competitive industry.  And for me, those resources always have been found at the BBA. That is one of the reasons that makes me so proud that you have elected me become the 95th President of the Boston Bar Association.

In addition to the rich educational programming and the ability to develop a strong network, perhaps what is most exciting about this organization is its capacity to bring some of the brightest, most powerful people in the legal industry together, regardless of where they practice or how they identify themselves, in order to help solve problems affecting all of us.

Over my nearly three decades of practice and 16 years of involvement with the BBA, I have experienced how much we can do – as lawyers – when we step outside our own individual practice silos and work together on common issues in the profession.

Being a part of this Association – and having the opportunity over the years to both mentor and be mentored – has been so enriching for me. And it’s tremendously gratifying to be able give back to the BBA and the profession that has done so much for me.

But I think everyone has seen examples of how the practice of law has changed over the years. The legal profession itself is undergoing tremendous change, and much of that change is challenging.

There are plenty of industry statistics that tell us the ceiling for upward mobility is still too low for women and minorities; we have some law firms closing their doors, while others are merging into gigantic corporate structures at the cost of a shared collegiality or community in the office that gives so many of us joy in the profession.

But at the heart of all of this volatile change there is also opportunity: the opportunity for growth and collaborative development.

I’m really proud of the way the BBA has responded to some of these changes.  Last year, during her term as President, Lisa Arrowood implemented the very successful Friday Fundamentals program. We will continue with these important programs in the year ahead.

But as we look forward, we cannot focus only on those lawyers who are just starting out, because the changes we are experiencing don’t just affect new lawyers; they affect us all. Even those who are at the peak of our practices grapple with them. From the demands of clients to the flood of new technology, the legal profession is being reshaped by the global economy, and some of us are in danger of being left behind unless we have a plan in place to adapt.

That’s why my goal this year is to harness the expertise and talent of BBA members at large, from all different practice areas, to implement bigger and broader professional development programming: Programming that connects lawyers not only across practice areas, but also with a cross section of industry. And programming that explores common tools of innovation that can be accessible to all lawyers.

We’re in the right place to do this. Boston has always been a city of innovation; we have been at the forefront of healthcare and education for decades, and now we’re leading the nation in the technology, life sciences, and venture capital sectors as well, to the extent that global companies like GE are deciding that Boston is where they need to be.

These constantly-evolving industries bring new legal issues and challenges. It’s essential that lawyers who practice in these fields stay connected with what’s happening on the front lines.

That’s why I’m thrilled to be leading the charge as the BBA develops a series of conferences – such as the BBA Life Sciences Conference on November 10th – which will explore the interplay between the life sciences sector and the law, and bring lawyers and industry together, from biotech startups to pharmaceutical companies.

We’re planning this in other areas, too – like Venture Capital, Higher Education, and Privacy. This is one of the greatest strengths of the BBA: the ability to provide these unique opportunities for practitioners to meet and exchange ideas with industry leaders.

As a Bar Association, we can empower lawyers from all walks of life to be who they are, to innovate and do significant for their own practice, and for the profession at large. And the only way we can continue to do that now is if we are together, see the value in one another, and learn from one another.  If we do that, we can turn some of these real challenges in our profession into real opportunities.

I hope you share my enthusiasm for all that’s ahead, and I look forward to seeing all of you there along the way.