Board of Governors candidates share their motivations to serve
Ahead of the 2021 ABA Annual Meeting, we asked candidates for the Board of Governors the same three questions: What positive experiences have you had with the ABA? What would you like to accomplish during your term? And finally, why would you encourage other lawyers and judges to join the association?
Thomas G. Wilkinson Jr.
Member of Cozen O’Connor in Philadelphia. Member of the House of Delegates. Past member of the Standing Committee on Professionalism and Standing Committee on International Trade in Legal Services. Member of the Section of Litigation Ethics and Professionalism Committee. Past president of the Pennsylvania Bar Association and Pennsylvania Bar Institute. Co-chair of the PBA Bylaws Committee and Civility in the Profession Committee. Member of the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers. Received JD from Villanova University School of Law in 1981.
Positive experience with the ABA: “I particularly enjoyed serving as a member of the Standing Committee on Professionalism. Promoting civility and professionalism in the practice of law has been a major part of my professional career … We worked on the new rule that would permit modest gifts to pro bono clients, and we worked on a number of excellent CLE programs. We continued to promote Rule 8.4(g), prohibiting harassment and discrimination in the practice of law. I’m now pursuing the adoption of Rule 1.8(e), the rule allowing modest gifts to pro bono clients, in the state of Pennsylvania.”
Plans for term: “We always want to improve the member experience and the member benefit package, so as to demonstrate the value proposition of ABA membership. We want to show that the many benefits of membership are excellent and well justified for lawyers in any practice setting.”
Reason to join: “The ABA has unique reach, amazing depth of expertise with practitioners not just across the country but also abroad. You can develop tremendous personal relationships and learn a great deal that can be beneficial to your law practice, that is not necessarily available in other state and local organizations. There is a niche for everyone. You can find a place that fits nicely with whatever area of practice you’re focused on and whatever you’re passionate about.”
Jennifer (Ginger) Busby
Partner at Burr & Forman in Birmingham, Alabama. Member of the House of Delegates, currently serving on the Steering Committee of the Nominating Committee. Past chair of the Section Officers Conference and Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section. Former director of the TIPS Leadership Academy and National Trial Academy. Chair of the Alabama State Bar Litigation Section. Received JD from Samford University Cumberland School of Law in 1990.
Positive experience with the ABA: “The ABA gives you a broad spectrum of different views of people across the United States. You get to meet all types of professionals, not just lawyers, and you learn a lot about how people perceive the law and how they encourage following the law. It is the professional organization that all lawyers should be involved in.”
Plans for term: “I’ve been involved in different aspects of the ABA for a number of years, and I think that the Board of Governors has the opportunity and frankly the requirement to help facilitate where the organization should be going and where it should focus. When you become a member of the Board, you have an obligation to really look at all of the issues facing the association. We need to make sure we are focusing on serving the members and that we’re not only financially responsible, but that we’re content-responsible.”
Reason to join: “When I started in law school, in the ABA, my feeling about the American Bar Association was it was the professional organization for lawyers, much like the American Medical Association would be for doctors. While we may not do as good of a job now as I think we did all those years ago in communicating that aspect of the American Bar Association, it is the professional organization in America that you should belong to. It helps you not only invest in your intellect, but it helps you invest in your ability to serve and it helps you invest in your ability to understand different aspects of how the law works in many parts of your life. You need to understand the broad view of the law and access to justice.”
Grant C. Killoran
Shareholder at O’Neil, Cannon, Hollman, DeJong & Laing in Milwaukee. Past member of the House of Delegates. State membership co-chair for Wisconsin. Past co-chair of the Section of Litigation’s Health Law Litigation Committee and current editor of its newsletter. Past member of the State Bar of Wisconsin Multidisciplinary Practice Committee and Milwaukee Bar Association Judicial Selection Committee. Life fellow of the American Bar Foundation and state co-chair for Wisconsin. Received JD from University of Minnesota Law School in 1989.
Positive experience with the ABA: “The ABA has allowed me to get to know ABA members from around the country and to talk with them about issues in each of their respective geographic areas involving the practice of law. Most of my work is litigation-related or health care litigation-related, and I am able to talk with other attorneys about what’s going on with those areas in their parts of the county. Litigators like to tell war stories. They like to know what’s going on with judges. They like to tell stories about cases and legal developments. That sort of interaction with lawyers within the ABA has been quite interesting from both a personal and a practice standpoint.”
Plans for term: “I want to represent the attorneys of my district so they are involved in helping set ABA policy. The Wisconsin delegation to the ABA House of Delegates has an obligation to report back to the Wisconsin state bar after the ABA midyear and annual meetings to let state bar leadership know what’s going on within the ABA. I would like to give state and local bar leaders similar information about the ABA so they can be aware of the advantages and opportunities the ABA offers that might be of interest or help to their members.”
Reason to join: “To me, the importance of joining the ABA goes back to the first things I mentioned: information and community. The ABA is the primary association for our profession. It provides access to more information about our profession than any other source. That information has been exceedingly helpful to me during my career. That information also allows attorneys to consider the policy implications of what we as lawyers do. Again, I am a civil litigator. I don’t get into too many constitutional law disputes, and I am not usually on the cutting-edge of social justice issues. But I want to know about them. Many attorneys are interested in those issues, too, or have practices that touch upon those issues.”
Elizabeth K. Meyers
Managing attorney of Elizabeth K. Meyers & Associates in Santa Ana, California, and staff counsel for American International Group Inc. Past member of the House of Delegates. Member of the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession. State membership co-chair for Northern California. Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division 2020-2021 Diversity Fellow. Vice-chair of GPSolo Real Estate Committee. Fellow of the American Bar Foundation. Received JD from Lewis & Clark Law School in 2002.
Positive experience with the ABA: “Just being a part of the House, especially early on. That being my very first introduction to the ABA really resonated with me. Sitting in that room, being able to create the resolutions, the model rules, being able to be a part of that development, that debate, really got me hooked. Being part of that process of improving our legal profession, not only as current events occur but also with equality and diversity. I’m a Hispanic woman. I’m a proud Latina, and diversity issues have been something I have championed my entire life throughout my career.”
Plans for term: “I am pretty excited to be starting my term under Reggie Turner, who was the chair of the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession. I definitely want to see more diversity and equality. I can’t say that I am young, but I am probably on the younger end of the spectrum, so I also want to show during my tenure on the Board of Governors that I have a voice. I don’t plan on just sitting back and listening. I plan on contributing. I plan on providing my ideas, which are going to be based on my experience, my gender and my ethnicity.”
Reason to join: “I find it to be such a valuable organization, and it’s such a great place for lawyers to meet other lawyers. It’s an opportunity to meet people you would have not met otherwise. I have friends from other states now. I have connections in different practice areas. They are passionate about their practice, about the profession as a whole and about our access to justice, civil rights and things that not only help lawyers but the community, the world. They are rules and laws that shape our society, and I feel humbled for the opportunity to be part of that.”
Seymour W. James Jr.
Partner at Barket Epstein Kearon Aldea & LoTurco in New York. Former attorney-in-chief of the Legal Aid Society. Member of the House of Delegates. Past member of the Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary and Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defense. Past president of the New York State Bar Association and current co-chair of its Task Force on the Parole System. Member of the New York State Justice Task Force. Received JD from Boston University School of Law in 1974.
Positive experience with the ABA: “The most positive experience was my experience working with the Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary. I thought that was really an important role for the ABA to have, and I was very pleased and honored to be a part of it. We, the ABA, were able to evaluate the potential nominees before they were nominated, and we were actually determining whether we felt they were qualified. I thought that everyone on the committee was really dedicated to the work. It was a lot of work, but when we had a deadline, we always met it.”
Plans for term: “Obviously, we have to look at the financial structure and figure out what we need to do. I really have to explore that because I am not as familiar with it as I need to be. I’d like to help foster greater diversity and inclusion throughout the association, as well as in the legal profession, and continue the association’s focus on access to justice.”
Reason to join: “The ABA really is the voice of the profession. We want to be heard as attorneys, and your voice can be heard through the ABA. You can help to formulate policies, establish priorities by being active in the ABA. There are so many issues currently facing our country. The rule of law is important. Racial justice, I think is of paramount importance right now. Equal rights, voting rights. The ABA has to have a voice in all of those areas, and we as lawyers should be contributing to that.”
Judge John Preston Bailey
Judge with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia in Wheeling, serving as chief judge from 2008-2015. Member of the House of Delegates. Past member of the Standing Committee on Constitution and Bylaws. Member of the Judicial Conference of the United States. President of the West Virginia State Bar from 2003-2004 and the West Virginia Bar Association in 1992. Fellow of the American Bar Foundation. Received JD from West Virginia University College of Law in 1976.
Positive experience with the ABA: “Of course, as with many groups like this, the most positive aspect is the people you meet, good people from all over the country. It’s really nice, the friendships and getting to know people and finding out different points of view on matters.”
Plans for term: “Obviously, the biggest issue is membership and the financial standing of the ABA. I think the way we’ve got to [address] that is demonstrate to the individual lawyer that membership has value. We do need to focus perhaps more on those things that benefit the regular rank-and-file lawyer to show him or her that value.”
Reason to join: “We have some great sections, and I think that is one of the real selling points. People now especially in the firms tend to focus. The sections have focus, and I think we need to stress that people can come and get benefit from membership in those sections, which have various fields of interest.”
Judge Michael J. Oths
Magistrate judge with chambers in Boise, Idaho, since 2003. Previously served as bar counsel for the Idaho State Bar from 1986-2003. Member of the House of Delegates. Member of the Standing Committee on Professional Regulation. Past president of the National Organization of Bar Counsel. Past president of the Idaho State Bar. Received JD from the University of Oregon School of Law in 1982.
Positive experience with the ABA: “My dad was an active member of the ABA and our family vacations were always state bar or ABA meetings. My first ABA meeting was in New York City in 1964 when I was 6 years old … One of the positive experiences is being around other lawyers. As I said, my dad was one of those people who enjoyed the company and comradeship of other lawyers, and I grew up the same way. The opportunity a couple of times a year to get together with folks is important.”
Plans for term: “The profession and the ABA specifically have been challenged by recent world events so learning how to adapt to that is going to be important. I know the ABA in the couple of years previous to this has been rethinking its dues structure and ways to encourage more lawyers to get involved. I have been a judge for a fair amount of time now, and I have always encouraged getting judges involved in the bar. So, that’s important to me, to try to help continue the integration of lawyers and judges being on the same page.”
Reason to join: “We all learn from each other. My dad was a lawyer in a small town in Ohio where I grew up. He said one of the greatest advantages of getting to meet all these great lawyers from other parts of the country, and at the state bar level, from other parts of the state, is you’ve got a network of people who know their way around different problems. If I have an issue in another part of the country or another part of law that I don’t do so much, now I have relationships with people elsewhere who I feel comfortable calling. That’s an important reason to be involved.”
Chief Judge James E. Lockemy
First Native American chief judge of the South Carolina Court of Appeals in Columbia. Member of the House of Delegates. Past chair of the Judicial Division’s Appellate Judges Conference and co-chair of the Judges’ Journal editorial board. Past chair of the Appellate Judges Education Institute and member of the Standing Committee on the American Judicial System. Retired U.S. Army National Guard colonel, serving more than 30 years. PhD candidate in history at the University of South Carolina. Received JD from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1974.
Positive experience with the ABA: “Realizing that lawyers and judges throughout this country have similar concerns and desires to serve the rule of law. It is such an uplifting experience to see so many people doing so many things because of their commitment to the law and their belief that it is the law and the guarantee of fairness under the law that makes this country different from so many others. When one thinks of America, it is that adherence to the rule of law that supports our foundation of freedom. In the ABA, you have thousands of volunteers from all across this country that spend many hours in activities dedicated to those freedoms that can only stay strong through the rule of law.”
Plans for term: “What I’ve noticed in the 25 years I’ve been involved in the ABA is how many hours of dedicated volunteer service lawyers and judges give to our association. I want to make sure members realize how much we appreciate that, how important it is, and that it doesn’t go unnoticed. I know it’s noticed now, but I want to increase that notice. And for people to not just give it lip service, but to go to the various meetings, some of the conference meetings, the meetings of the smaller committees, to learn. I want to incorporate thoughts from throughout the ABA into the governing body of our organization.”
Reason to join: “If you want more than just a job and you want to serve your profession, then you should be involved in your professional organization. And if you mean it when you take that oath, and if you want to fulfill that oath, the best way is to become a member of the professional organization in our nation. In my view, that is the American Bar Association: open to all, ready to serve all and ready to enhance the rule of the law. The rule of law in our nation is just as important as the protections we’re provided by our military and our first responders. They protect us so wonderfully, but so do the lawyers of this nation.”
Maureen A. O’Rourke
Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar
Associate provost for faculty affairs, dean emerita and professor at Boston University School of Law. Past member of the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, serving as chair from 2017-2018. Member of the AccessLex Institute Board of Directors and Marist College Board of Trustees. Member of the American Law Institute. Recipient of Boston University’s Metcalf Award for Excellence in Teaching, the university’s highest teaching honor, in 2000. Received JD from Yale Law School in 1990.
Positive experience with the ABA: “The Section of Legal Education is the accrediting agency for U.S. law schools. I would say that I have had really good experiences with the general counsel’s office. Jarisse Sanborn was terrific in helping us maneuver through our own legal issues and working with her was a great experience. And then, just getting to know some of the people both at the section office and in the broader ABA. It’s a hard time for all membership organizations, but they really appreciate that the ABA has an important role to play, and they bring a lot of devotion to their jobs.”
Plans for term: “I hope I can be a source of information about the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar and work with the Board to help the ABA through what I think is a difficult budgetary time for everyone. And, thinking about what the future of the profession is, from pipeline programs early on in education all the way through law school, through the practice, and how the ABA can play a role at all of those stages, is what I’d be really interested in working on. There are big challenges in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion, and so seeing what we can do to broaden the pipeline of underrepresented groups into the profession is at the top of the list of priorities.”
Reason to join: “The sections are terrific resources. I teach in the area of commercial law and the Business Law Section’s publications have been tremendous resources for me over the years. That’s kind of the ‘what’s in it for me’ answer. There is a broader answer, which is we are a nation of laws. In the recent past, we have seen how important the role of lawyers, judges, the overarching constitutional system is. The ABA plays an important role in ensuring the continuity of our system of government. Being a part of that effort, being a part of something that is bigger than your own self-interest, is something that should resonate with every lawyer.”
Leonard H. Gilbert
Senior Lawyers Division
Partner at Holland & Knight in Tampa, Florida. Past member of the House of Delegates. Past member of the Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary and Standing Committee on Bar Activities and Services. Past chair of the General Practice Section and member of the Business Law Section and Senior Lawyers Division Councils. Past president of the Florida Bar. Past member of the American Bar Foundation Board of Directors and chair of the ABF Fellows. Secretary of the International Insolvency Institute. Past co-chair of the International Bar Association Insolvency Section. Received LLB from Harvard Law School in 1961.
Positive experience with the ABA: “I’ve met some of the best people I have ever known through the ABA. The first meeting I went to was what was called a regional meeting of the Junior Bar. That was the predecessor of the Young Lawyers Division. It was in Atlanta, and the future leaders of the ABA were there. It was the kickoff to my being interested in what the organized bar was doing–first learning what it was about and then what it was doing and what kind of a role I could play … My service on the ABA’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary has been the most enjoyable and most valuable for me. It makes the greatest contribution to our society.”
Plans for term: “The ABA has been facing a decline in membership for some time, which is really too bad. I know the existing boards have been working on that. I have been reading the minutes of the meetings. Whatever we can do to turn that around would be helpful. Also, I think because of the practice I’ve been in over the years, involved on the financial side, that maybe I can be helpful to the ABA on its financial side.”
Reason to join: “You learn a lot about the profession through the ABA. The interaction with lawyers from different walks of life, from different practices, from different parts of the country is an extremely valuable experience. It certainly was for me. To this day, if I need help from a lawyer in another part of the country, whether it’s in Alaska or Hawaii or Bangor or Atlanta, I reach for the Redbook, as I know there will be someone in the ABA who can help. It has been extremely helpful in my practice and indeed helpful to others in my firm who once in a while send an email asking, ‘Do you know someone who can help us in a remote location?’ I guarantee I can find somebody in about 30 minutes.”
Richard M. Lipton
Section of Taxation
Senior counsel at Baker McKenzie in Dallas. Member of the House of Delegates since 2005. Past chair of the Section of Taxation. Past president and current fellow of the American College of Tax Counsel. Past member of the Internal Revenue Service Advisory Council. Past chair of the Chicago Bar Association Federal Taxation Committee. Adjunct professor at the University of Chicago Law School. Received JD from the University of Chicago Law School in 1977.
Positive experience with the ABA: “My experience with the ABA has been primarily in the tax section. That’s where I got my start in the early 1980s, and I had the privilege of being the chair of the section in 2001-2002. I view that as the highlight of my ABA experience.”
Plans for term: “I hope to be able to focus, like other people, on fiscal responsibility. I heavily focused on that while I was a member of the tax section and while I was the chair of the tax section. I think that the fiscal house has to be in order in order for the association to succeed … I also want to work on the relationship between the sections and the association and making that work as well as possible. That’s probably a higher priority for me than the overall concept of fiscal matters, because to the extent I will focus anywhere, it will be in the area of the sections.”
Reason to join: “I encourage every tax lawyer to join the ABA because it really is the key focus for the tax practice in the United States.”
Young Lawyers Division
Director of specialty compliance and ethics at Walmart Inc. in Bentonville, Arkansas. Chair of the Legal Opportunity Scholarship Committee. Liaison to the Business Law Section from the Young Lawyers Division. Immediate-past YLD assembly speaker. Past Business Law Fellow and YLD Scholar. Member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. and The Links Incorporated. Received JD from North Carolina Central University School of Law in 2012.
Positive experience with the ABA: “The best experience is the relationships I’ve built in the association with lifelong friends who have been there with me, professionally and personally. Those relationships have been vital to my success as a young lawyer. It’s important to realize that there is more to life than work and when you build those friendships and you’re able to talk about other things besides the profession and the practice of law, that’s inspiring.”
Plans for term: “It’s going to be vital that we make sure, especially during this pandemic and everything going on right now in the country, that the association is an inviting place, a safe place and to continue those conversations regarding the practice of law, regarding race, regarding civil liberties. That is something I am really going to focus on. I want to make sure the association doesn’t stay stagnant. During this pandemic, a lot of organizations either flopped because they did not evolve with the times or they really did thrive. Just continuing to make sure the association thrives is something I’m definitely looking forward to.”
Reason to join: “This has been a great tool from a development standpoint. When I went in-house with AMC Theatres as a real estate attorney, I was able to especially in the Business Law Section connect with other in-house attorneys, connect with other young lawyer in-house attorneys. It was very helpful to have those conversations. As a young lawyer, it has helped me in my career to develop my brand and helped me evolve as a real estate attorney. I am no longer at AMC, nor is my practice area real estate. Now I’m at Walmart and I’m on the business side, but it has helped tremendously.”
Amy Lin Meyerson
Goal III Minority Member-at-Large
Owner of the Law Office of Amy Lin Meyerson in Weston, Connecticut. President of the Connecticut Bar Association. Member of the House of Delegates, serving on its Committee on Scope and Correlation of Work. Deputy chair of Representatives and Observers to the United Nations Committee. Past chair of the Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division. Past president of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association. Founder/past president of the Connecticut Asian Pacific American Bar Association. Received JD from University of Connecticut School of Law in 1994.
Positive experience with the ABA: “The overarching positive experience is all the connections and friendships I’ve been able to make throughout the globe, not only just in the U.S. I’m currently serving as the ABA’s deputy alternate representative to the United Nations and was fortunate to join the ABA’s UN representatives and observers in 2016, the year right after the UN adopted its Sustainable Development Goals. We’ve been working on promoting the SDGs, particularly goal 16 on access to justice, peace and strong institutions, and also goal 5 on gender equality, and have opportunities to participate and develop relationships with people from other countries.”
Plans for term: “I’m really excited about working on the Board of Governors to champion the ABA’s causes but also to make sure that the health and vitality of our members is secure. Looking at the Sustainable Development Goals and also the environmental and social governance goals that you see a lot with businesses, I would like to continue to promote those and hope to help the association embrace more sustainable and inclusive initiatives, not only for the economic health, but also for a greater social impact.”
Reason to join: “There are three main reasons I’ve always been a champion of bar participation and bar service. The first is to champion our communities, not only to advocate for attorneys, for issues of concern to us and our practice settings, but to champion our communities and the legal issues they’re facing … Another reason is to broaden networks. Often, one of the first things that entices young lawyers is to be able to network and build out their practice for business development purposes. You can broaden your network, get mentors, make other contacts. The final piece of it is the access to justice piece–advancing justice that includes protecting our democracy, promoting the rule of law and working to give everyone access to justice.”
This story was originally published in the June/July 2021 issue of the ABA Journal under the headline: “Meet the Nominees: Board of Governors candidates share their motivations to serve.”