Letter From The President Of The Boston Bar Association

2006-10-01 00:00

To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel:

I had the honor of beginning my service as the 85th President of the Boston Bar Association by accepting an award in its behalf. In August, the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Bar Activities and Services awarded the BBA its 2006 Partnership Award. This award recognizes our 'pipeline' activities, which are devoted to increasing the participation of lawyers of color in the organized bar and attracting students of color to our profession. Among the activities recognized by the ABA are the 'Law Day in the Schools' program and the BBA Summer Jobs Program. For this honor we owe thanks to our members and staff who have created and maintained these programs, including the Diversity Committee led by J.D. Smeallie, the Children and Youth Outreach Project led by Catherine Reuben, and the BBA's Director of Community Affairs Paul Dullea.

We are inspired by this award, but we know that creating a more diverse bar in Boston is a work in progress. We live in and around a city whose population is more than 50 percent people of color. We have one of the greatest concentrations of law schools in the nation, whose students are more than 20 percent people of color. Yet lawyers of color make up only about 11 percent of our associates, and the partnerships of our firms remain about 97 percent white.While we persist in our efforts to recruit minorities into the profession, we must do better, and better still at facilitating their advancement into leadership positions in our firms.

Statistics certainly don't tell the whole story, but if we truly value this goal we must measure our progress.According to the National Association for Law Placement,attorneys of color increased from 3.55 percent of law firm partners nationwide in 2001 to 4.63 percent in 2005.Associates of color grew from 13.7 percent to 15.62 percent. During the same period in Boston, law firm partners were 2.47 percent lawyers of color in 2001 and 3.07 percent in 2005, while associates of color were 10.11 percent in 2001 and 10.98 percent in 2006.

Beginning this year, President-Elect Tony Doniger and I hope to bring the BBA's efforts to a new level, committing the Association to serve as the convener of a diversity leadership committee representing law firms, government, and academia. We will ask the committee to work with the Boston Lawyers Group, area law schools, minority bar associations, and law firm and business leaders to recommend and implement new methods to effect the advancement and retention of lawyers of color in the profession in Boston.

As part of its mission the committee will assess current barriers to recruitment and advancement and study the efforts of other metropolitan bar associations and the ABA, which include minority scholarship programs, the setting of goals and timetables, additional pipeline programs, mentoring programs, and the creation of permanent offices for diversity. We expect that articulating and implementing the recommendations of this group will be a multi-year effort.

We see this as part of a commitment first articulated by Ned Leibensperger, to create a more effective role for the BBA in civic leadership. The BBA has over 9,000 members who represent an important sector of Boston's economy.Assuring diversity among our ranks is essential in making Boston a world-class city, to maximize our ability to draw talented people and convince them to stay and contribute to this community.

We recognize that we add our voice to the ongoing efforts of many other legal and business organizations. In some respects we merely respond to well-settled ideals, such as the Call to Action endorsed by many corporate leaders, and we need not aspire to the invention of new means and methods. We can provide leadership by expanding the programs recognized by the Partnership Award and implementing what has worked elsewhere, crafting the ideas of others to our particular needs. Most importantly, we intend to measure our successes and examine our failures, in order to emphasize the importance of even incremental progress.

At the same time, we continue to pursue our core mission to promote professional excellence, access to justice, and community service. Thanks to our forty section co-chairs and 150 committee co-chairs, the BBA continues to be heard on a host of specific issues ranging from permitting reform to sentencing legislation, defense of the attorney-client privilege to funding for legal services and indigent criminal defense. Our staff, led by Executive Director Rich Page, has never been stronger.

Thank you for the privilege of being a part of these efforts in 2006-2007.


Jack Cinquegrana