On Tuesday evening, mentees and mentors from the Diversity & Inclusion Section’s Group Mentoring Program braved the sweltering heat to celebrate a successful year of group mentoring at the BBA.
Steven Joseph (MA Office of the Attorney General), Caitlin Peale (Conservation Law Foundation), Chuck Walker (MA Division of Professional Licensure), Jason Savageau, and Tai Antoine.
The program brings together diverse Boston-based attorneys in mentoring groups composed of 10 new lawyer mentees and 2 seasoned mentors, for monthly meetings designed to address the common professional development challenges that all new lawyers face while fostering supportive professional relationships. If you are interested in participating in the program in the upcoming year, contact Susan Helm at [email protected] for more information or see the program handbook here.
On November 13, the Boston Bar Association will have the honor of presenting its third annual Beacon Award for Diversity and Inclusion to Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) and the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General (AG). They will be honored for their work in advancing marriage equality, a civil rights battle thathas its origins well before DOMA. But more on that in a moment.
The combined efforts of both GLAD and the AG’s Office have brought together an impressive network of lawyers to advance one of the most significant civil rights issues in recent history. What’s particularly meaningful for us is that the two honorees engaged the legal community as an advocate for greater Diversity and Inclusion both in Massachusetts and the nation.
This fight for civil rights for gay and lesbian couples in Massachusetts could be seen in a fundamental way as starting with a single pro bono case from the mid ‘80’s, Babets v. Johnston. It began with The Boston Globe breaking a story about two brothers in the foster care system placed with a gay couple, Babets and Jean. The very same day the story broke, the Dukakis administration removed the children from their home.
The couple’s sexual orientation was the sole reason the boys were removed from their home. No issues of neglect, abuse, or any sort of mistreatment were ever raised. After the children were removed, the administration approved a new DSS policy that essentially banned gays and lesbians from being foster parents.
From GLAD Website: Don Babets and David Jean (back) with
GLAD attorney and Executive Director Kevin Cathcart (r) and co-counsel Tony Doniger
Photo by Ellen Shub
Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders started the legal fight to overturn this blatantly discriminatory policy and return the boys to their home. Today, there would be lawyers lining up around the block to help fight for this family, but in 1986, GLAD found it nearly impossible to find any support in the legal community. Attorney Anthony M. Doniger, a partner at Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, P.C. – later to become President of the Boston Bar Association –stepped up to the challenge and represented the plaintiffs in the case pro bono all the way up to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. The court rejected the claim of executive privilege asserted by the Dukakis administration in order to withhold documents related to the DSS policy banning gay and lesbians from being foster parents. This ruling allowed the plaintiffs to move forward on their suit to reverse the policy. The policy was ultimately reversed back to the “best interests of the child” standard and the initial suit was settled out of court.
The Beacon Award is celebrating the great work GLAD and the AG’s office have done to promote marriage equality not only in the Commonwealth, but across the nation. Every civil rights effort begins with small steps that, like pebbles dropped in a pond, send out ripples that ultimately can have profound impact. The Babets v. Johnston case is just one of those “pebbles” dropped just over 25 years ago.
Please join us on November 13 at 6:00 at the Liberty Hotel for the Beacon Award. The event is free but we do ask that you RSVP.
In preparation for the next program year, the BBA’s Diversity & Inclusion Section Group Mentoring Program is proud to announce the Mentors for the upcoming program year. Each Mentoring group has two Mentors who work together to provide their 6-10 mentees with a welcoming environment to learn, ask questions and seek advice.
Mentors are chosen not only for their racial and ethnic diversity, but also for their legal diversity. This year our Mentors are partners in law firms, in-house counsel, government attorneys, small business owners, solo practioners, legal services attorneys and bar leaders. Following different paths they were able to reach their current positions in both their profession and legal communities. Having access to these Mentors of this caliber is what makes the BBA Group Mentoring Program a continued success.
Take it from June Duchesne, current Mentoring Committee co-chair and former mentor: “Mentors can be critical to the success of new lawyers. The mentors I had early in my career were invaluable in helping me navigate the ins and outs of our profession. I am excited that our new class of incoming mentors, all respected and experienced attorneys with a lot of talent and knowledge to share, will be able to do the same for so many young lawyers in Boston.”
June Duchesne, Co-Chair
Richard Moore, Co-Chair
The Victim Rights Law Center, Inc.
Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office
Pre-Trial Solutions, Inc.
Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General
Craig and Macauley Professional Corporation
Rosenfeld Rafik & Sullivan, P.C
Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General
The Law Office of Laura M. Unflat
Boston Medical Center-Office of the General Counsel
Massachusetts Division of Professional Licensure
For more information on the BBA’s Group Mentoring Program contact Susan Helm at [email protected].
Now moving into its 4th year, the BBA Mentoring Program has geared up to accommodate an increase in mentees eager to benefit from the program. BBA’s Diversity & Inclusion Section established the Group Mentoring Program in 2009 to promote career advancement and career satisfaction for pools of diverse new lawyers.
Beyond the Billable reached out to Mentor Mala Rafik and Mentee Cristina Serrano to get the insider’s take on the value of participating in the program. Here’s what they said:
“I feel privileged to have been a Mentor this past year. I never would have been where I am today without the generosity of lawyers in Massachusetts who took the time to meet with me early in my career to answer my endless questions about the practice of law, to introduce me to other like-minded attorneys and to just listen to my fears about succeeding in this business. The opportunity to connect with new lawyers, to share our experiences and to learn from each other was invaluable. It reminded me why what we do as lawyers is so special and rejuvenated me in a way few things have over the course of my career. It was truly a gift.” – Mala Rafik, Managing Partner, Rosenfeld & Rafik, P.C, BBA Mentor
“The BBA Group Mentoring Program has been a fantastic experience and a wonderful resource. Initially I signed up because I wanted to find mentors who could help me navigate the workplace as a new attorney. While I wasn’t quite sure what questions or concerns I had, or what I could contribute to the Program, the small group of strangers quickly became a productive sounding board and think tank. Our group discussions ranged from work-life balance and networking, to salary negotiations and career changes, to workplace drama and resume building. The mentors and fellow mentees alike ended up providing a reliable support network to discuss, inquire, complain, laugh, and share. This year’s Program may have wrapped up, but I plan on maintaining these relationships through the summer and beyond.” – Cristina Serrano, Associate, Wayne, Richard &Hurwitz LLP, BBA Mentee
Mentoring groups meet monthly for discussions about career paths, work life balance and professional challenges, and participants also gather for program-wide seminars and networking events. The 4th program year will begin in September. Mentee applications will become available in July; interested participants are encouraged to contact Susan Helm at [email protected] for more information.
Background. . .
In the beginning it was an informal initiative designed to provide unpaid internships, introducing law students to the inner workings of the courts. The brainchild of Boston Municipal Court Judge Robert Tochka, the program helped provided needed assistance to the trial courts during a time marked by funding cuts and staff layoffs.
Over time, Judge Tochka made an effort to reach out to more law students, providing them with the opportunity to volunteer their time to him, observe courtroom proceedings and enhance their legal research and writing skills. Word of the program began to spread and other BMC judges were eager to become involved.
In 2010, the BBA Diversity and Inclusion Section heard of this internship program and saw it as a unique opportunity for the BBA to use its resources to help expand and formalize this project as a modest but important step towards providing diverse law students with valuable mentoring and professional experience, and supporting the courts.
By the spring of 2011, the BBA Diversity and Inclusion Section conducted extensive outreach to career services offices at Boston law schools to recruit candidates who could benefit from semester long internships, and helped place students with judges.
Fast forward to the May 15, 2012 meeting of the BBA governing Council. . .
Following a presentation by BBA Diversity Section Co-Chair and Choate, Hall & Stewart partner, Macey Russell, the BBA Council voted to partner with the BMC to formalize this initiative for the purpose of helping to retain a diverse and inclusive population of young lawyers here in Boston.
Students are required to work 15 hours per week, with one day being in court. In addition to completing assigned tasks from their judge, they are required to work on the Massachusetts Case Summaries blog which summarizes important Massachusetts cases.
The next session will begin in the fall; applications will be accepted in August. Interested participants are encouraged to contact Susan Helm at [email protected] or 617-778-1984.