Meet Mary Ryan, the newest member of the ABA's Board of Governors
Mary Ryan never aspired to be on the ABA’s Board of Governors, despite serving in other leadership roles in the association throughout her career.
But after Kevin Curtin, the senior appellate counsel in the Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts, died suddenly in December, someone needed to step in as the board’s District 2 representative.
“Obviously, Kevin Curtin’s shoes are hard to fill,” says Ryan, a partner who primarily practices in environmental law at Nutter McClennen & Fish in Boston. “But when the opportunity arose, it was a logical step to take. I hope I will be able to make a contribution based upon my experience within the ABA and with other organizations.”
Ryan’s involvement with the ABA began when she joined the Section of Litigation’s Environmental Litigation Committee early in her career. Before and during her term as the president of the Boston Bar Association, which began in 1997, she also participated in the National Conference of Bar Presidents. She later became the BBA delegate to the House of Delegates.
Ryan served as chair of the Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services and as a member of the Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defense. She was also chair of the Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, which she describes as in her “sweet spot” since she has been on her law firm’s pro bono committee for years.
In that role, Ryan started to focus more on immigration issues. In 2014, she became the co-chair of the Working Group on Unaccompanied Minor Immigrants, an initiative established by then-president William C. Hubbard to provide more pro bono assistance to unrepresented children in the immigration system.
She served with the working group for five years, and in April 2019, joined the Commission on Immigration on its first in a series of organized pro bono trips to Harlingen, Texas. She calls her experience volunteering with the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project “eye-opening” and counts it among the most positive she’s had with the association.
“In addition to our direct work with detainees and getting to learn about their lives and what led them to uproot themselves to come to the United States, we also had the opportunity to visit family and children shelters and cross the border into Matamoros, Mexico to work with local volunteers to bring food to the migrants camped out there,” says Ryan, who became a member of the Commission on Immigration after the trip.
When Ryan joined the Board of Governors, she also joined its Profession, Public Service and Diversity Committee. For the rest of her term, she hopes all her experiences on the public-facing side of the ABA will help her act as “a voice for the critical role the ABA plays in advancing access to justice, immigration rights, diversity and inclusion.”
“Because for so many people like myself, this is the heart and soul of the ABA,” Ryan says.
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