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Upward and Onward: ABA Initiatives Continue to Educate and Inspire

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Prior to my ABA presidency, I was privileged to attend the 20th anniversary of the ABA’s Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project, which represents thousands of detained immigrants seeking to stay in this country.

In Harlingen, Texas, I had an awakening, a defining experience in my professional career. A young man seeking asylum spoke frankly to me about the ProBAR lawyer volunteers. He said, “You must understand that for us, these men and women are not lawyers; they are angels.” His words crystallized the essence of volunteer service that characterizes the ABA and the organized bar.

Time and time again as president, I have been reminded that it is a privilege to be a lawyer and a member of the ABA. Our association accomplishments have strengthened our profession, advanced the rule of law and enhanced access to justice through volunteer service and leadership.

As my term draws to a close, it is timely to reflect on all we have achieved together. Our efforts to awaken the legal profession, legislators and the broader public through a proactive advocacy campaign about the ongoing underfunding crisis in our courts continued. We co-hosted a national symposium and a general counsel summit. We reached out to new partners, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to enhance our efforts to preserve the justice system. We spoke at every opportunity, authored more than 50 op-eds and letters to the editor, created a new website, and developed a tool kit for state bar leaders. Our Law Day theme, “No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom,” effectively carried our message around the country.

But it is not only our courts that are in need. Too many Americans are hurting financially and unable to obtain legal representation. For the first time, we had 50-state participation at ABA Day, our annual lobbying event on Capitol Hill. This year’s effort focused on additional support for the Legal Services Corp., the Violence Against Women Act and the “Intercept Act” for our state courts.

We also sponsored our first-ever National Pro Bono Summit in Washington, D.C., where we explored ways to expand pro bono representation. We highlighted the outstanding volunteerism of lawyers through the new Lawyers Giving Back section of the ABA Journal. Law professors around the country report that they use these pages to teach professionalism to their students.


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