Executive Director's Report

Getting The Word Out


The field of communications law is a dynamic, diverse practice area, draw­ing a growing number of young lawyers and law students into its fold. These practitioners find an ideal home within the ABA Fo­rum on Communications Law.

The forum, chaired this year by Jerry S. Birenz of New York City, focuses on all aspects of communications law, including newspapers, radio and television, magazine and book publishing, and common carriers such as satellite and other technologies. Home to more than 2,500 members, the forum offers a place to exchange information, network with experts, and keep abreast of changes in the law. Members receive excellent benefits, including the quarterly newsletter, Communications Lawyer, which publishes substantive articles by specialists in the field.

Year Round Resources

The forum sponsors educational programs throughout the year, as well as a major annual conference. This year’s tenth annual conference, held in January, marked the 25th anniversary of Rich­mond Newspapers v. Virginia and featured programs on how to apply the principles of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to today’s celebrity cases and the complex context of terrorism-related cases. Group workshops–a part of each annual conference to facilitate discussion on key issues–this year covered such issues as libel and privacy, ethics, the Internet, diversity, how to build a litigation coalition, and how to avoid burnout.

In addition to the annual conference, the forum presents “Representing Your Local Broadcaster,” a program at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas each April; a panel discussion spon­sored with other ABA entities at the ABA Annual Meeting; and a presenta­tion at the National Conference for the Minority Lawyer.

In 2004, the forum embarked on an initiative to increase diversity in the communications bar. The forum’s diversity committee contacted more than 285 communication companies and asked them to work with their law firm partners to make special efforts to recruit, retain and promote lawyers of color, and to identify minority lawyers who work in media law. In recognition, the forum was named to the ABA’s Goal IX 2004 Honor Roll.

Also last year, a group of young lawyers interested in communications law formed a new training and devel­opment committee of the forum. The committee now conducts the media advocacy workshop at the annual conference, formerly conducted by the Young Lawyers Division. The workshop is a hands on opportunity to gain experience in arguing moot court cases and engage in other advocacy with real-time, specific feedback from experienced professionals.

The forum’s Women in Communications Law group addresses issues of concern to female practitioners. The WICL holds meetings at the annual conference and at locations around the country, publishes its own newsletter and a directory of female practitioners, and offers a mentoring program.

Also, the forum has a new committee for members who teach media law full time or part time at the graduate or undergraduate level. The committee enables law teachers to exchange ideas and new teaching materials, and to otherwise further their interests. In the publications arena, the forum is planning a new scholarly periodical, the Journal of International Media and Entertainment Law, with the National Entertainment and Media Law Institute at the Southwestern University School of Law. The journal will provide detailed analyses of international media law issues. The first issue is expected in late 2005.

The forum’s new mentoring program for junior attorneys and law students allows them to post questions and concerns to mentors via an e-mail discussion list of experienced media law attorneys, who respond directly to the participants. Those with fewer than four years in media law, as well as law students, are eligible to join the program. Although the program is open to all lawyers and students who meet the requirements, at­torneys of color are particularly encouraged to participate.

The forum’s Web site, www.abanet.org/forums/ communication/home.html, includes links to primary sources and a means by which members can seek out and bring together amicus support in cases of interest. The forum also offers Comm Law Alert–a service that e-mails the text of key decisions in the publishing and communications field as soon as they are issued.

For more information on this thriving forum, contact its outstanding staff director, Teresa Ücok, at 312-988-5658 or via email: tucok@staff.abanet.org.

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