ABA Midyear Meeting

ABA President Paulette Brown: 'A law degree is more than just a piece of paper. It is power'


Paulette Brown

ABA President Paulette Brown addresses the ABA House of Delegates at the midyear meeting. Photo by Earnie Grafton.

It has been 189 days since Paulette Brown took the office of ABA president. At that time, she said, she promised the ABA would be “social engineers for justice.”

On Monday morning, Brown, of Locke Lord in Morristown, New Jersey, told the House of Delegates about the many things the ABA has done toward that goal in the past six months. That includes work in pro bono legal services, encouraging diversity in the legal profession, learning to recognize implicit bias and improving services to ABA members.

As president, Brown started the ABA’s Diversity & Inclusion 360 Commission to find ways to advance diversity in the profession over the next decade. That work has taken her to Boys & Girls Clubs all over the United States, she said—including one in New Orleans where a 7-year-old demanded to know what lawyers do when they don’t believe in a case. At the midyear meeting on Saturday, Brown was shadowed by several young adults from a local club.

Brown unveiled another diversity effort directly after her speech: a short video on implicit bias among judges. Hidden Injustice: Bias on the Bench discusses how implicit bias—bias that’s subconscious—can affect even those who believe they should be bias-free, and what judges can do to address it.

Brown also highlighted And Justice for All: An ABA Day of Service, an event held Oct. 30 to recognize and perform pro bono services for the poor, disabled, veterans, seniors and victims of domestic violence.

“The ABA showed the world that a law degree is more than just a piece of paper. It is power,” she said. “And we put that power to great use.”

In the remaining 183 days of her presidency, Brown pledged to continue that work—and to visit all 50 states, a goal she’s already more than halfway through. To laughter, she mentioned that some have asked her when she sleeps. In response, she quoted the poet Robert Frost: “Miles go to before I sleep.”

Video: President Brown highlights achievements in her first 189 days at the helm of the association.


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