Letter From The President Of The Boston Bar Association

2007-01-01 01:00

To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel :

I recently had the honor of serving as Principal for the Day at the Patrick J. Kennedy Elementary School in East Boston. Several weeks later, I spoke at the new lawyers' bar admission ceremony at Faneuil Hall, where about 200 new lawyers were admitted to the bar. I will long remember those very different days.

At the Kennedy Elementary School, about 70 percent of the students are Latino, 20 percent African-American. At the Faneuil Hall ceremony, I counted the faces of new lawyers of color on two hands.

At the Kennedy Elementary School, the school principal said about half of the Latino students do not have English sufficient language skills to keep up with their classmates, even though many parents report that their children speak English. Most of those parents don't speak English at all, and the few language skills their kids have picked up seem like proficiency to them.

At the Faneuil Hall ceremonies, I spoke to the new lawyers about their future commitment to the bar and the obligations imposed upon them by the lawyers' oath. The fifth graders didn't ask me about ethics or the constitution when I was introduced as a Boston lawyer. Their first question was, 'So how much do you make?'

The questions on my mind are these: will any of those kids have the opportunity to pledge themselves in service to our bar? What can be done to increase the odds that even one of them will take a seat in Faneuil Hall 15 years from now?

It seems like a daunting task, but there is no shortage of effort. The Boston Bar Association's (BBA) Children and Youth Outreach Project combines many efforts linking lawyers to young people in Boston. We support ties between Boston lawyers and Boston youth by sponsoring projects like the BBA Summer Jobs Program and the BBA Law Day in the Schools, an annual one-day event during which our members visit K through 12 grade classrooms.

We collaborate with many community-based organizations. With Citizens Schools, we sponsor the Eighth Grade Academy, in which law firms host teams of students twice a month and lawyers serve as writing coaches and mentors. Our members participate in the Mayor's Youth Council, mentoring teen community leaders.

Our Diversity Leadership Group began meeting in December, with a goal of recommending targeted diversity efforts upon which the BBA can focus its energies. As our Children and Youth Outreach Project demonstrates, there is no shortage of ideas, and we need not invent new ones.

When future bar presidents speak at Faneuil Hall, I hope they won't have to count the faces of color in the crowd, and I hope there will be cheers for at least one alumnus of the Patrick J. Kennedy Elementary School for whom I served as Principal for the Day.


Jack Cinquegrana