SOUTH SHORE INSIDER: Milton attorney John Regan, new president of Boston Bar Association
Milton attorney brings agenda to his new role
Gary Higgins/The Patriot Ledger
John Regan of Milton is serving a one-year term as the new president of the Boston Bar Association.
By Brent Lang
The Patriot Ledger
Posted Oct 28, 2009 @ 01:51 AM
Last update Oct 28, 2009 @ 01:59 AM
John Regan has had a long career as an attorney specializing in intellectual property litigation. Though he has a demanding schedule as a partner at the Boston office of the law firm WilmerHale, Regan last month began devoting a substantial chunk of time to his one-year term as the new president of the Boston Bar Association.
The 9,500-member association emphasizes community service and increasing access to legal services. Those are values that Regan, 59, a Milton resident, exemplifies through his personal philanthropy and professional affiliations. In addition to his current role at the helm of the association, Regan co-chairs WilmerHale’s pro bono and community service committee, managing the contributions of more than 1,000 lawyers spread across 13 offices worldwide.
Why did you volunteer to be president of the Boston Bar Association?
I’ve never volunteered to do anything at the BBA. I’ve always been asked. A lawyer who was then president called me and asked me if I’d get in line for this. I gave all the usual reasons why I couldn’t do it and then was ultimately persuaded why I should do it.
What is the most important role that the association serves?
The BBA is a convener. If I don’t know somebody, I can say to the BBA staff, I need somebody who has this particular skill set. They would know exactly who to ask, because of their experience. When you get the right people in the room and they come with that attitude about getting the job done, and understanding that they have a defined task, things just get done.
How is the Boston Bar Association working to encourage greater diversity in the legal profession?
There was a task force that was created. They put together a plan to try to address this challenge, which is complex. There’s the question of when people actually become lawyers how do you mentor them and bring them into the network. Then, when they are employed, how do they move between positions, between the public and the private sector or between firms of different sizes.
It led us into a whole exciting relationship with what we call six affinity bar associations. The BBA is one of any number of bar associations in Massachusetts, but there are a series of bar associations that are organized around a racial or ethnic identity. The Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association, the Massachusetts Black Women Lawyers Association, the Asian American Lawyers Association. The South Asian lawyers, the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, lawyers, the Hispanic lawyers, they have groups.
What we’ve done is create a section called the diversity inclusion section. They’ve invited the six presidents of those diversity bar associations to be on the steering committee. It’s a new way of thinking about things as opposed to everybody operating in their own orbits and periodically getting together.
What is the Civil Gideon Initiative?
It’s called Civil Gideon because there was a famous Supreme Court case called Gideon v. Wainwright, in which the court decided if someone was accused of a certain level of a crime, you were constitutionally entitled to have a lawyer represent you. The idea of Civil Gideon is that there are certain essential human needs like custody of your children, housing, for which people should have a lawyer.
There is a question about whether it makes a difference, about whether somebody who walks in and is a sympathetic tenant ultimately winds up with the same result. So with others, the Boston Bar Association put together a proposal which received funding on the order of $300,000 from the Boston Bar Foundation, the Massachusetts Bar Foundation, and the Boston Foundation, to do pilot programs in the Quincy District Court and the Lynn District Court. We have legal service agencies collecting data on outcomes in eviction cases for tenants who had lawyers and tenants who didn’t. Conceptually it started two years ago. I think that they expect to have the data some time early next year.
Why do you think pro bono and volunteer work is important for lawyers?
I think most people you would talk to would say that going off and doing that lets you come back to the billable work energized. I’ve been in the legal profession for awhile. I think at some point you have to give something back to the system.