Letter From The President Of The Boston Bar Association

2004-11-01 00:00

To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel:

"A teacher affects eternity. He can never tell where his influence stops."

- Henry Brooks Adams.

Lawyers are, at heart, teachers. We teach our clients about the law and the strengths and weaknesses of their cases. We teach associates how to be effective advocates and counselors. We teach judges about how the law applies to the facts of our case through our briefs and arguments. Judges teach lawyers and the public about the law through their rulings. Teaching is a fundamental skill of a good lawyer.

We can and should use our skills to teach Boston public school children. The Children's Outreach Program is one of the Boston Bar Association's crown jewels, and is one of the BBA's programs of which I am most proud. Over the past several years, we have forged a strong bond with the Boston public schools through the efforts of many of my predecessors and the BBA staff working with Mayor Thomas Menino, Superintendent of Schools Thomas Payzant and Chief of Staff Merita A. Hopkins. I want to build on this relationship, and I would like your help.

One of my projects this year is to develop a curriculum for high school students on the proper use of credit and other financial issues, which the BBA will take to Boston's public schools. I am so pleased that Chief Judge Joan N. Feeney of the United States Bankruptcy Court and Janet E. Bostwick have agreed to co-chair the Task Force for Financial Literacy for Children.This Task Force, which combines my commitment to the Children's Outreach Program with my interest in bankruptcy law and the appropriate use of credit, will have a program ready to bring to schools in the spring of 2005.

Why am I so committed to the Children's Outreach Program?Because I know from personal experience that taking the time to mentor a young student can change his or her life. My small firm has participated in the Summer Jobs Program for the past six years.For the past five summers, we have employed the same student, Yandei Andrews. Yandei, who was 14 when she first worked for us, is now a sophomore at Boston College pursuing her dream to become a doctor. We have seen Yandei grow from a shy teenager to a confident, mature young woman. While my law partner, Chris Roach, and I can take credit for only a small part of Yandei's growth, I know that she was helped by working in a professional setting where she was given increasing responsibilities and treated with respect. I also know everyone in my office has benefited tremendously, both personally and professionally, from having Yandei with us.

As you read this, you may be thinking "this sounds like a laudable goal, but I can't take time out of my day to take on the responsibility for a student." But you can . The BBA has a menu of opportunities, and there is a program on that menu that will be right for you.

You can go to a school on a career day and be a member of a panel to speak about your job. The time commitment for participating on such a panel is three hours. You can be an e-mail penpal for a student without leaving your desk. The time commitment is an hour a week for eight weeks. You can allow an elementary student to shadow you on your job; the time commitment is five hours. You can teach a class on Law Day; the time commitment is three hours.

If you have more time, you can read to a first grader once a week during the lunch hour, through the Power Lunch Program. You can serve as a writing coach and mentor for a student through the Eighth Grade Academy. You can tutor a student who is preparing for the MCAS exam. Several of our sponsor firms have developed partnerships with individual schools, where they tutor and teach students.And don't forget the BBA Summer Jobs Program. Giving a student a job for the summer helps the community, the student and your firm. The opportunities are endless.

We are an incredibly privileged profession. Because we are so privileged, I believe we have an obligation to give back.What better way to give back than to share our talents and skills by teaching students in Boston's public schools.

My interest in giving back is not purely altruistic. I truly believe that if you get out from behind your desk to help someone else, particularly a student, you will find greater satisfaction in your job. Simply put, you will feel better about yourself and your profession.

Please join me and the hundreds of BBA members already volunteering in the Boston public schools in working to change the life of a young student. I promise, you will be happy you did.


M. Ellen Carpenter